One of the great leadership teachers of our time passed away on July 16, 2012. Dr. Stephen Covey was the author of several books, most notably the highly influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He wrote it way back in 1989, and yet it is still front and center in many bookstores today. In 2011, Time magazine named it one of the 25 Most Influential Business Management books of all time.
When I first read the book in 1996, early in my career as a communication consultant, I had been learning the skills and competencies of corporate communication and leadership. Covey’s book, however, taught principles that were fundamental to good communication and leadership in all aspects of business and life.
I recall excitedly telling a friend about the book. He rolled his eyes and said, “Is this another of those ‘dress for success’ books?” I did my best to explain that, instead, it was a “live for success” book.
Even in today’s world, which is quite different than when Covey published the book in 1989, it would be difficult to ignore any of the seven habits and still be an effective leader. Here is how leaders can apply the seven habits to engage people.
|Leadership Habit||Communication Application|
|1||Be proactive.||Plan ahead and act quickly to take best advantage of communication opportunities, instead of waiting to react to communication problems.|
|2||Begin with the end in mind.||Start communication planning by crystallizing the outcomes you want the communication to achieve.|
|3||Put first things first.||Focus your communication agenda and core messages on no more than 3-5 priorities (or get laser-focused on only 1-3, which is even more powerful).|
|4||Think win-win.||After you identify your communication outcomes (your “win”), plan to address the question that every audience asks: “What’s in it for me?”|
|5||Seek first to understand, then to be understood.||Get to know your audience: the various types of stakeholders you are hoping to influence. Spend time listening to their perspective, or at the very least, mentally imagining yourself in their place.|
|6||Synergize.||Think about ways to involve some of your audience in some of the key decisions or other aspects of whatever you are communicating. Involvement is not only one of the best ways to engage their genuine support; it will probably create a superior outcome due to their input.|
|7||Sharpen the saw.||Treat communication as a key leadership competency. Invest time and resources in continuously improving your communication skills and capabilities.|
For more on this topic, including stories that illustrate each of the communication habits, listen to our podcast episode 001: The 7 Habits of Highly Engaging Leaders.
You can buy The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on Amazon.com here.