Monday, October 20, 2014

Leadership Development: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This post is part of a series on leadership development.

I am currently participating in a Leadership Development Program (LDP) as part of my work at Franklin University. As part of this program, I attended a presentation by Dr. Karen Miner-Romanoff, the Dean of the College of Health and Public Administration at Franklin.

Karen Miner-Romanoff teaching 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at Franklin's Leadership Development Program.

Dr. Miner-Romanoff's presentation was focused on Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of highly effective people, a set of principles for achieving balance and success in life. One thing I thought was particularly cool about her approach was that she reviewed the essays written by people in the LDP Leadership attributes from our essays - she used our quotes throughout the presentation.

I have read the book and listened to many presentations of these habits over the years and have been very impressed with their depth and quality. I've found that nearly every quality self-help or success work eventually emphasizes one or more of these habits. I usually think of these as simply tools for personal success, but when they are analyzed they truly are tools for leadership. 

I'll flesh out my notes taken during the presentation and will give some reflective thoughts as I go. My own thoughts and ideas will likely intermingle with those presented in the meeting.

Habit 1: Be Proactive
To be proactive is to take responsibility for your actions, to choose to respond to situations positively. 
You have a great deal of control in your life, and you are proactive when you focus your energy on the things you can control. As you develop awareness of where to focus your energy, you increase your personal power to achieve success and happiness in life. You have the capacity to choose happiness, courage, joy, and success. You have the capacity to choose life, health, and contentment.

Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind
To begin with the end in mind means to look forward to the end of your life and identify exactly what you would like to accomplish in your life. Ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to be? Where do I want to go? What do I want my relationship to look like with my family? With my church and community? With my employer and coworkers? When I die, what do I want people to say about me at my funeral? 

As Karen presented, I wrote that I would like people to believe the following about me when the describe who I am at the end of my life: "He loved everyone. He was kind and gave everything he had to others. He worked to make people's lives better. He was a good daddy, a kind husband, an honest worker. He loved God and served Him with all his heart."

Habit 3: Put First Things First
When you put first things first, you spend your time and energy on the things that will help you reach the outcomes you desire in life. You actively choose to engage in productive tasks, and you choose not to engage in tasks that do not achieve your goals. You must prioritize and focus on one task at a time, the most important task for the day and the moment.

For me, I use the following method for prioritizing my time at work:
  1. At my work desk, I post my performance goals for as agreed upon by me and my supervisor. I refer to these as I plan my day, my week, and my month.
  2. I open a Word document and create a list of the priority actions to accomplish that day. I do my best to ensure these actions will help me accomplish the goals I committed to. 
  3. I prioritize this list and have the most important priority on the top of the list, and I do everything I can to focus all my attention on the top task until it is finished. This can be very difficult, but I have found that it keeps me focused on accomplishment.
I also put first things first by setting aside time for each of my areas of responsibility on my calendar. In a typical workday, I have about 30 minutes set aside for exercise, 30 for reading, 9 hours for work, 1 hour for commuting, and 4 hours for family. I also set aside Saturdays for family and housework and Sundays for service in my church.

Habits 1-3 can be seen as personal habits, those which deal directly with the individual and how he or she lives life. Habits 4-6 can be seen as interpersonal habits, which focus on how we interact with and relate to the people around us.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win
When you think win/win, you enter your discussions with others assuming that all parties involved can achieve success. This approach can be difficult for some people - some have an "I must win" attitude, and others have a "I always lose" attitude. Which are you? Do you go for the win? Do you assume you will lose? Or do you think that having everyone come out winning is an option?

The win/win approach enables collaboration and creativity between parties. If everyone assumes the same goal and receives benefit from working toward the goal together, it is more likely to be achieved.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
When you seek to first understand another's perspective and needs, you do your best to find out what it is that that person would like to happen in a given situation. This requires active listening, asking good questions and verifying that you fully understand the other individual. It requires that you actually care about the person and want to understand them and their needs. It requires a lot of empathy and takes a great deal of energy to accomplish. However, the long-term success of your work will be much more powerful if you take this approach.

You also need to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively so that the other individual can easily understand your position. This requires clarity of thought and patience in explaining your position.

Habit 6: Synergize 
When you synergize, you are using the strengths of all parties to create the most powerful, effective strategy possible. Synergy implies that working together effectively actually produces more than could be produced separately. Part of this is recognition of  the foundations built by others which provide you with the opportunities and blessings you enjoy.  

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
When you sharpen the saw, you are renewing and improving yourself. This can be done through exercise, sleep, good nutrition, prayer, meditation, scripture study, and professional development. You are, essentially, making yourself the most useful instrument possible so that you can accomplish your purposes more effectively. This requires a commitment to development, personal growth, and self-improvement. The great quote from one of the student essays is "When you are through changing, you're through!" You must become a lifelong learner.

If you want to achieve your personal goals, you've got to do what it takes to prepare yourself to succeed. You are the resource through which you engage in your life.

Self-Evaluation
I've evaluated myself on each of these habits below.

Habit
Self-rating 
 (1 is poor, 5 is excellent)
Notes and Commitments
Habit 1: Be Proactive
4
I have worked hard to develop my ability to take responsibility for my life. I still struggle in some areas, and I will continue to improve by eliminating blaming from my thought pattern.
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind
5
I am extremely goal-oriented and am constantly thinking about the future and the outcomes I desire. I will review some of my life goals again and will revisit my personal mission statement to see how I am doing on meeting my goals
Habit 3: Put First Things First
3
I do alright with this habit. I do very well in my work to accomplish my goals, but I could spend more time thinking about and doing things for my family. I will make a goal to do something more for my wife every week.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
4
I feel like this comes naturally to me. I have a continuous desire to help other people succeed in their goals. I am constantly looking for a way to help them succeed. When I facilitate meetings, I do my best to capture the perspectives of others and synthesize them into a way to move forward. I believe I could do better at this habit in my communications with my family members and commit to thinking in this manner more at home.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
3
I try hard to listen to the perspective of others and I think I have gotten pretty good at it. Still, I find myself becoming impatient, at times. I will increase my focus on understanding by using active questions more effectively.
Habit 6: Synergize
3
 I do what I can do synergize, but I worry that I sometimes miss opportunities because I am too focused on my own work and on accomplishing my goals. I will improve by spending time with others more at work and will go out to lunch with a coworker at least 1x a week.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
4
 I spend a lot of my time developing myself through reading, exercise, and prayer. However, I tend to neglect the importance of simply relaxing and having down time. I will improve by relaxing more and by spending more down time with my family. I will also spend time in nature at least 1x a month.

Thanks to Dr. Karen Miner-Romanoff for her thought-provoking presentation. I appreciate the refresher on these habits and hope to apply them more fully in my own life.

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