Conway Daily Sun, March 24,2009
By Michael Kline
Sometimes the simplest thing in the world hits you as the solution to your biggest problem. I love that! I keep thinking about new applications for Steven Covey’s landmark book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Initially, I thought of it as another self-help manual - good in theory but near impossible in real life. I was young and foolish when I first read it; now that I’m old and foolish, it’s a much more enjoyable read. I’ve studied the book repeatedly, I’ve listened to the audio version repeatedly, I watched the videos and taught the lessons dozens of times. I still find new applications every time I think about the habits. I’m going to share with you some business insights from the 7 habits with the hope that you will want to learn them and create a program to improve your business.
Be forewarned, like learning a philosophy or a religion this is a journey, not a destination. It’s deeply rooted in principles so it remains solid no matter how our situations change. You can apply the habits to your health, family, job, or closest personal relationship, but this is a business column, so that’s where we’re headed today. Lately, I’ve been writing new workshops for small businesses and in my research I’ve been attending seminars like a Power Point slide-show junkie. It’s no wonder so many people think seminars don’t work when they keep teaching manipulative tricks to get people to do what you want. In the process I’m realizing that while you do need to learn the rules of the game, you don’t need personality trait-type “techniques” for sales training, customer service or managing people.
In sales training, there’s a process – some call it 5 steps, others 7 steps, but all agree the most important element of the process is listening to the customer; this is also called a needs analysis, but Covey calls it habit #5 “Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood”. Imagine if that was a habit - how helpful you would be to your customers in the sales process. Imagine in customer service, how surprised and happy a customer would be if seeking to understand them was the norm amongst your employees. The lacking of this habit is the source of so much poor service and indifference we feel at retail stores, restaurants or even so-called service businesses, and don’t even get me started on the customer service call-centers. In a recent seminar on supervisory skills, every situation that students presented could have been addressed using one of the 7 Habits, or prevented entirely by practicing and teaching all the habits in the workplace. On the topics of personal responsibility, surviving a recession, dealing with limitations around you – apply Habit #1 Be Proactive/Take Responsibility”. On goal setting, business planning or project management – Habit #2 “Begin with the end in mind”. Time management –Habit #3 “Putting First Things First”. Dealing with difficult people, or negotiating with suppliers, Habit #4 “Think Win-Win”. Any situation that suggests a compromise – refuse to compromise – that’s where no one gets what they want. Habit #6 “Synergy” in where you work together to find a new, third solution better than either party initially sought. Increase productivity, stop burn-out, improve morale, reduce turn-over and absenteeism – Habit #7 Sharpen the Saw.
Properly implemented, a comprehensive company culture initiative based on the 7 Habits could dramatically change your company and everyone in it. Having worked in a company that did this, I can personally attest to its effectiveness. I’ve never seen the buy-in of any other program like we saw from this initiative, because it values and empowers everyone, builds trust and turns the phrase about people being our best asset from lip-service to reality. Now, if you’re not a fan of singing kum ba yuh and hoping for the best, then you’re wondering how this works in real life. So glad you asked!
To bridge the gap between theory and application, I integrate these habits into my strategic planning and management system. This initiative fits perfectly with the management methodology discussed in my last column. If you missed past columns discussing the mechanical side of the management system, visit my website www.klineseminars.com and click on “articles” or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, thoughts or requests for help.