Date: 04/03/2015 | By: Liz Painter

In this series of blogs by Kevin Brent 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 third 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. 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.

In the second blog we learnt about the importance of habits in instilling values throughout what we do.  We learnt that a habit is the overlapping of Knowledge, Skill and Attitude – or What to do, How to do it and Want to do.  Without any one of the three it is not a habit.

We introduced the idea that taken as a whole, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people 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).  And this is where we pick up from for this blog.   If you missed the second blog you can find it here.

We all start life being totally dependent on our parents. We relied on them for everything.  As we grew older and particularly perhaps in our teenage years, we began to become more independent – some of us perhaps to the point of rejecting the advice and support of others knowing that we ‘knew better’!  Anyone got teenage children? One of mine has a sign on his door that says: “Those of you who think that you know everything are particularly annoying to those of us who do”!

Eventually we do leave the nest and are able take care of ourselves and become independent.

As we mature, we become increasingly aware that to function fully in society we need to work with others and cannot function in isolation. We begin to understand that society (and nature for that matter) relies on interdependency and that to get the most out of life we need to work with others.

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits take us along this continuum from dependency to interdependency – and truly understanding and accepting this is the key to becoming highly effective in whatever we do.  It takes a certain kind of strength and confidence to acknowledge that we can’t do it all ourself. Many individuals and business owners struggle to realise this and make this transition. Without doing so, no business will ever truly be more than the individual in charge.

The attitude of dependency is one of ‘You’:

You didn’t deliver

You didn’t come through for me

I did my bit, you didn’t do yours

It was your fault

In other books and ‘management speak’ this has been referred to in organisations as a ‘blame culture’ or ‘CYA’ – where the predominant behaviour is to Cover Your Arse and find a scapegoat for any failures!

Independency is that attitude of ‘I’:

I can do it

I can manage

I will/ I am going to

I did it/ I was responsible for increasing the sales…

This is the attitude of self-reliance. It is definitely a step up from dependency and requires a certain degree of confidence in your own abilities. If you have ever interviewed sales people, you may well have found with some that every reply began with ‘I…’

Interdependency is the attitude of ‘We’:

We will find a way

We developed a solution

We delivered the results

Dependent people rely on others. They need others to tell them what to do and they tend not to take responsibility for their actions – particularly when things go wrong.  Independent people don’t need others – they are driven almost to the point of ignoring others and will tend to ‘tell’ rather than ‘ask’.

Interdependent people know that they can’t do everything themselves. They know that the best solution may well require input from and working with others.

How much more mature is the attitude of interdependency than that of independency? How much more pleasant is it to deal with a son who has moved on from ‘knowing it all’ to engaging in ‘adult’ conversation and debate? It is intuitively obvious when we think about teenagers but is it so obvious when we think about business and our working relationships? Do we really take responsibility and ownership of problems or do we tend to blame others?  (Dependency). Do our staff? (And do we let them?) Do we take time out to work with others to find the best way forward or do we dictate our solution because our way is best (or because it would take too much time to debate)? (Independency.)

So the 7 Habits help us to move along this journey of maturity, from the attitude of ‘You’, through ‘I’ and on to ‘We’.

So here are the 7 habits. I list them here accepting the risk that some of you will look at them and think, ‘Yes – they are pretty obvious’. But I ask you to think beyond their face value and really try to understand what they mean. Further blogs will delve further into the habits.

Habit 1 Be Proactive

Habit 2 Begin with the end in mind

Habit 3 Put first things first

Habit 4 Think Win/Win

Habit 5 Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Habit 6 Synergise (uuch…!)

Habit 7 Sharpen the saw

The first 3 habits are what might be described as ‘Character’ habits.  The second 3 are what might be referred to as ‘Personality’ habits.

Much of today’s management training deal with ‘Personality’ habits; tricks and techniques on how to understand the way people think and behave, and how to use that understanding to get to where you want. For example DISC personality profiling and understanding dominant, influencer, steady and conscientious personality types and how they like to be communicated with.

These are all great and powerful if used in the right way. If our underlying character habits and ethics are not strong then the danger is that the personality habits become manipulative and shallow. They can lead us into techniques, quick fix ideas and ways of getting what we want, now.

These 7 habits are not a quick fix. It will take time to really take them on board and shape the way you think and act – but they will have a lasting impact on your personal and business life.

So we have covered the idea of maturing from dependency (You) through independency (I) and on to interdependency (We) and we have introduced the 7 habits and how taking them on board can help us on that journey. Next time we will explore the first 3 ‘Character’ Habits in a little more depth…