Beginning With the End in Mind

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am reading Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. The habits and ideas he writes about are so simple, but yet profound. Tonight I read more about the 2nd Habit, beginning with the end in mind. In this chapter, Covey encourages his reader to write mission statements and to follow the mission statement every day so that one does not stray from the principles that s/he values. Good advice.

The nugget I read tonight was about company mission statement. He gives an example of a hotel he visited that had impeccable service, down to the last employee. What he found was that the mission statement for the hotel was in the center of the statement, but there were spokes branching from the center that included a mission statement from every single employee. These statements were not written from behind mahogany desks, but from the pens of the employees themselves.

A lesson to learn from this is that people do what they themselves are invested in and believe in.

One of the fundamental problems in organizations, including families, is that people are not committed to the determinations of other people for their lives. They simply don’t buy into them. ….No involvement, no commitment(p. 143).

I couldn’t agree more. I was self-employed for 20 years. And as such, I was completely involved, therefore, completely committed. Now that I am employed by an institution, I had to find my spot, where my involvement was real, and where my presence mattered. Friday, for the first time in a long time, I came home excited to finish what I didn’t have time to finish during the work day. The difference? My involvement was significant. I bought in. It was a very good day.

What did I learn and how does it relate to leadership? Involve the people around you, work with them to write their mission statement.


Studying Leadership Skills

I’m reading the best selling book by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. It’s been on my bookshelf for years and I  obviously read much of it because I can see faint highlighting in yellow. I don’t think I finished it though. And I certainly didn’t put the ideas to action. This is something I plan to change.

I’m reading Covey’s book because I am studying emotional and social intelligence and I am trying to understand leadership as I look at many different perspectives. As I look around me, I see “leaders” who are not leaders at all. They are managers, at best. I like how Covey puts it:

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

You can quickly grasp the difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong Jungle!” (p. 100)

I definitely see the difference, now can I make a difference? To help me with this process, I study and take notes on the leadership skills I would like to emulate. For instance, recently I wrote to a very busy person who is the chair of a job search. She took the time to write me back and I know she must get hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. I can see already that she has climbed the tallest tree.

I write down skills I would like to emulate and they are in a notebook for me to review on a regular basis. For the situation above, I wrote: Be kind to those who ask something simple of you. Even if you are busy, your kind response can make their day. Applicants sometimes just want to know where they stand and the only way to find out is to ask you.

A couple of weeks ago a person in the position of leadership went around the table and said something about each person under her authority. I think the idea was to say something kind that would build the person up and make them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately this individual didn’t spend the time to get to know everyone under her authority (around 20 individuals) but the ones she spoke of whom she did spend time with, were very touched. I thought that was a very effective leadership skill. I wrote it down. I will review it and I will remember it.

And I’m just getting started.