Many books have been written about how you can become an effective leader. One of the best is Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey presents a principle-centered approach to solving personal and professional problems based on seven habits. Each is applicable to your professional life; however, we’ll focus on the three that will help you become a more effective leader.
Put First Things First
As a leader, you have multiple responsibilities and priorities competing for your time. It’s hard to know what’s most important. For example, you may be torn between coaching your team and developing a strategic plan to increase sales. How often do you think or say, “there’s just not enough time in the day?”
Covey tells us that it’s okay not to do everything that comes along. Putting first things first goes beyond basic time management. First things are those things you and your organization believe are the most worthwhile. When you put first things first, you are managing your time and activities according to your company’s top priorities. Most likely those priorities are expressed in your company’s vision and values. For example, if one of your company’s values is having well trained and highly engaged employees, then you might want to schedule weekly or bi-weekly coaching sessions with your team. Use the Leveraging Time Battle Card to assist you in preserving your time.
Some people think that success in business means someone else is failing, or “if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose.” In this competitive view of business, there’s only so much pie to go around. Each player in the game tries to get a bigger piece of the pie at the expense of the other players.
Win-win views life and business as a cooperative arena where we all get our fair share of the pie. But how does win-win make you a more effective leader? When you embrace the win-win philosophy, your agreements and solutions are mutually beneficial. You develop a reputation as someone who balances the needs of your organization with the needs of those who work with and follow you. To have a win-win attitude, you must express your ideas with courage but consider the ideas and feelings of everyone else. You must also believe there is plenty for everyone and act upon that belief.
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Communication is one of the most important skills an effective leader has. Why then do people so often entirely miss the meaning of what others are saying? It’s because most of us seek to be understood before seeking to understand others. We listen with the intent to reply. We filter everything through our own frame of reference and decide before the other person finishes speaking what they’re trying to say.
To be an effective leader, you must attentively listen to what the other person is saying without judging or preparing your response. Ask questions to check your understanding of what they’re saying. Only then should you think about and form your response. Seeking first to understand will make you a better communicator and a more effective leader.
Effective leaders aren’t born; they’re made through hard work. Take the time to learn and practice these three habits to become the leader you want to be.
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Founder of RedRock Leadership