Krug: The one Covey habit most likely to be skipped
Krug: The one Covey habit most likely to be skipped

Author Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is a gift that continues to give decades after the thinking was introduced.

Those that have spent a moment with the “Habits” know they are an almost idyllic goal to which to inspire. They are points of light in a leadership continuum th.....

Author Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is a gift that continues to give decades after the thinking was introduced.

Those that have spent a moment with the “Habits” know they are an almost idyllic goal to which to inspire. They are points of light in a leadership continuum that reminds one that the journey is the reward. On paper, they all look so simple and appear to be the very atoms of common sense.

But it is where the speed of life and the realities of work pressure intersect that these exemplars of habit are put to the test, and too often are steamrolled by the zeal to get a project accomplished or overwhelmed by the frustrations of failed attempts to navigate through the challenge at hand.

And the first to go? That’s easy: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.”

Now that shouldn’t be too terribly difficult, right? Sort something out before you address it, and then clearly articulate your point of view in a way that encourages a positive and shared outcome.

Yeah, and we do that, well, like, uh, um, all the time, right?

If you truly manage to accomplish that, give yourself the day off. You are a Zen master. You have the blood pressure of an iguana and the patience of a saint.

Completely true story: I once carried Covey’s “Habits” on a laminated card that served as the bookmark on my day planner (which happened to be a Franklin Covey product), and early one morning it was spied by a senior executive who asked to review it on the way to a meeting we were attending.

He read it as someone might skim the front page of a newspaper, and boldly said, “Nice, I do all of these. Keep working at it – you’ll get there someday.”

No more than 7 minutes later, a minute or two after the meeting had started, he proceeded to chew out a fellow executive in front of the group for being late. She explained, calmly and without crying, that she had been at the hospital all night with her ailing child and had come directly from the hospital to make the meeting.

Had she been late in the past? I don’t know. Probably. Aren’t we all late for a meeting every now and again. Had she been habitually late? I don’t think so. Does it really matter?

The measure of respect lost for the senior executive that presumed her tardiness was related to laziness or disorganization or some other controllable cause was a rush to judgment. And had he checked his phone, or bumped into his assistant before the meeting, he would have seen that she had texted ahead to let him know that she was running late.

For the rest of us, the key is really not so much to seek first to understand, but to not completely fly off the handle so that we can understand. And why is that? Most people – regardless if they report to you directly – simply won’t be transparent with you if your go-to move is to shoot first.

As a society, we suck at listening. If we didn’t, nobody would bother to mention that they’re a good listener on their resumes and online dating profiles.

We don’t have time for the facts. And for some, if they have time for the facts, it might not fit their picture of what’s going on in their workplace, so there’s no real point in listening. Instead of opening our ears and minds, gradually assessing and coming to know what is what, we often go a different route: We blurt out our own assessment and then seek a response.

Chart it this way: Ready. Fire. Aim.

The people that you supervise are not there to simply offer the opportunity for a conversation between projects, or to handle your grunt work. And if you are worth a lick as a supervisor, you give your associates the space to perform work in a specific way within parameters, offering them each a view of what shared success will look like for everyone involved.

You won’t always buy their stories, nor should you. But everyone should have the chance to be first understood before catching the cold, harsh backhand of bad management.

Along the path to that success, there will be problems. Some are controllable. Some are not. Some are foreseeable. Some are outside of the control of those that are accountable for the outcomes.

Expect problems. But deal with them the proper way.

That only can be achieved by taking a moment to allow those closest to the challenge to explain it to their manager, who, in this case, would be you.

• • •


As always, stay classy.

Chris Krug is president of the progressive media communications firm No Limit Agency in Chicago. No Limit is a full-service agency whose practice focuses on strategy, brand management, creative campaigns and delivering unparalleled placement in the media. No Limit Agency works with some of the best-known brands in North America, and that’s not a coincidence. Contact Krug by calling 312-526-3996 or via email at [email protected].

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