Date: 04/03/2015 | By: Kevin Brent

In this series of blogs you will discover a step by step approach for how to become a highly effective leader.  You will learn principles and ways of thinking that, if you make into habits, will set you on the path to business success.

Kevin Brent is the founder of BizSmart Select, a group of selected businesses providing down to earth practical support and access to grant funding for business owners.  Membership is by invitation only.  We invite businesses we know personally and who share our values in supporting businesses.  The individuals are all small and medium sized businesses owners themselves.  Clients and members can then benefit from their trusted specialist support through monthly ‘lunch and learn’ webinars, discussion forums and direct relationships with the aim of supporting business owners in growing their businesses.

This blog is the second in a series of leadership blogs examining the leadership habits of highly effective people. The principles are based on the best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey and his ideas struck a chord with me many years ago.

In the first blog, we covered the importance of paradigms – the ways in which we see and understand the world around us.   We learnt that our attitude and our behaviour are a function of how we see the situation.  It isn’t what happens to us that affects our behaviour, it is our interpretation of what happens – our behaviour is a function of how we see the situation.  We do not have to react to a situation, we can chose how we respond depending on how we see it.  If you missed the first blog you can find it here

Now we understand about the importance of paradigms we next need to understand about habits – and this is the focus for this blog.

So what is a habit?  The kind of habits we are interested in here are habits of effectiveness.   They are based on principles or values that most rational people would accept as making sense.  But having a value or principle alone is not enough to make it a habit – to do that we need to make it something we live by.  So Stephen Coveys’ definition of a habit is a principle or value that we have taken on board and adopted into our lives – or to use his word ‘internalised’.

At BizSmart, one of the first things we explore with our clients are their core values for the business – or if you like their core principles.  These core values are fundamental principles that the owner and business believe in and that they believe their business does and should stand for.  They are values that should stand the test of time, that would hold true for the business even if they became a competitive disadvantage temporarily and they are values that we would expect new and existing employees to demonstrate if they want to continue to play a role in the business.

So, for example, it may be that a core value of the business is to value the customer, to provide a superior customer experience.  Having this as a core value is great as far as it goes – but unless the business finds ways to adopt this value (and make it a ‘habit’) within and across the organisation, then it remains as a nice sentiment written on a piece of paper or displayed on a website somewhere.

I often give the example of one of my clients who stated superior customer experience as one of their core values and yet when I asked how they measure customer experience they told me that they didn’t!  How can you truly adopt customer experience as a core value without knowing what customers think of you?!  How can you provide a superior customer experience without asking the customer what they want?  Clearly this value was more ‘aspirational’ than ingrained and had not become a habit within the organisation.  So how do we go about making a core value or principle into a habit?

In order to adopt it and make a value into a habit, we need to know what to do to adopt it, we need to know how to do it, and we need to accept and understand why we should do it and want to do it.  So creating a habit is the overlapping of three circles – the overlapping of Knowledge (the what to do), Skill (the how to do) and Attitude (the why or want to do).  To become a habit, we need all three.  If anyone of the three is missing then it will not become a habit that we ingrain in the business.

So in my example above, the client may want to treat the customer with value, they may know how to do it in general, but may not know what to do to adopt it effectively across the business – so they lack the knowledge.  It might be that even if we work out what to do and how to do it,  that not all of the team will want to do it – perhaps because they don’t feel they are treated in that way themselves by the company!  So the question then becomes how do we ensure all of the employees dealing with customers understand the importance and want to give the customer a superior experience.

In my first blog in this series I gave the example of my difficulty communicating with my teenage son during his run up to the GCSEs.  I certainly wanted to reach him, I think I knew what to do but I lacked the skill (or the how) to understand things from his perspective and to communicate properly with him.  I knew that telling him my views was not the right way, I knew I had to try to get him to open up so that I could see things from his perspective, but I didn’t know how.  Every time I tried to talk with him I would get frustrated and cross at his apparent lack of interest in and understanding of the importance of doing as well as possible in every GCSE!

So a habit is the overlapping of Knowledge, Skill and Attitude – or What, How and Want.  Without any one of the three it is not a habit.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people are not a collection of separate, individual tools or techniques – when adopted effectively they work together in an overall approach to business and to life.  They are not habits you can dip in and out of, or pick and choose the ones you like the most.  You may be wondering by now what these 7 habits are and why I have not delved straight into them.  Well I tried at first but found that I couldn’t properly explain the habits and do them justice without introducing the concepts behind the first.

Taken as a whole the habits help to make us more effective by taking us on a journey from dependency (where we are dependent on others for our success); through independence (where we are self-reliant) and onto interdependence (where we realise the power of working with and through others to achieve even greater success).

More about this journey in the next blog!