With the sales figures for Christmas recently out, I started to think about how things could possibly be any worse than they are today. We seem to be sailing in SS United Kingdom, but like a rudderless ship, we haven’t got a clue as to where we are heading, or how we are going to get there.  Not good….

Of course, it’s easy to stand on the side-lines and scream and shout (ask any footie fan what that’s like); but when you see a tragedy unfolding, it’s hard not to say anything about it.  The definition of a tragedy is knowing that the end isn’t going to be good; and then seeing it unfurl in front of your very eyes.  You desperately want to do something to stop the express train crashing in to the station, but no one is listening, despite lots and lots of people waving their knickers and pants in the air (see The Railway Children if you think I‘m being smutty).

Whatever happens, we have to trust the people who are responsible for running our companies, our teams, and our lives..…our leaders and managers.  I want to think about what they can do better.  How can they inspire us?  How can they gain our trust and belief.  I thought about what advice I would give them.  And what better model to choose than the 7 habits of Highly Effective People.

  1. Be proactive.  This means taking complete and utter responsibility for everything and anything that happens to you.  It’s NOT about blaming others.  It’s about accepting that you have a choice to take, so take the positive one.  Choose the right attitude, and surround yourself with like-minded people.  Focus on what you CAN do, not on what you can’t.  How many of our leaders and managers chose to lay blame at everyone else, but not at their front door.  And when something goes wrong, they still blame the previous person, regardless as to when they were last in the role.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.  We seem to be stuck in a cycle of perpetual short-termism.  Our future is merely the next few months, never mind the next few years.  So, we can’t focus on what we really want (yes, say it, “what we really, really want”).  And if we can’t see where we want to go, how on earth are we going to get there?!  Some leaders would have us believe that there is a Nirvana just around the corner.  Others look back to a better time when we were part of this great big happy company.  Regardless, we have to think positively about what we want the future to look like, and then we can begin to set targets and goals and dreams on how to get there.
  3. Put first things first.  This is all about making the time to spend on the important things in life, like building effective relationships.  In our current crisis, we seem to hell bent on destroying each other.  I’ve seen too many managers thrive on being rude, arrogant, pig-headed.  Of course they know better than we do (isn’t that why they are a leader?); but they are so hell bent on power for its own sake, that they seem to forget about the very people who are there to make them look good!  So, start thinking about the collective good of the team, and not just about scoring cheap points to climb the greasy pole…it doesn’t make you look good.
  4. Think win-win.  This is all about making sure that any interaction leaves both parties feeling that they have got something out of the transaction.  Even if the other party doesn’t get everything they wanted, they feel that they have been consulted, listened to, and a compromise has been reached.  I’ve seen too many managers in a win-lose war of words.  And all this results in is a lose-lose for the company.  So, please put aside your differences, think about the team, and take in to consideration the best of what we all want.  I know, easier said than done; but at least go in with this philosophy in mind.
  5. Seek first to understand, then be understood.  This one is always the hardest to do.  That’s because it often requires a ‘paradigm shift’.  In other words, put aside all of your prejudices, biases, pre-conceived ideas etc.  Then step back.  Stop.  Listen to the other person; but from THEIR perspective.  Don’t jump in with your opinion or solution, however, tempting this may be.  Because if you do, you won’t fully appreciate what the other person is saying, feeling, experiencing.  And if leaders were truly able to do this, then they might, just might, do the RIGHT THING, and not just something that meets their own short-term goals.
  6. Synergy.  Let’s focus on what we have been striving to do for the last 20 years; and that is accepting that we are NOT all the same.  And that’s good!  We ALL have something to contribute to our team, to the company, to our future.  Diversity is not a dirty word (though some of the political correctness stuff was getting on my nerves).  By embracing what we all can contribute, we can genuinely learn from each other; see a different perspective; and create a more holistic result.
  7. Sharpen the saw.  This one is easy…..if they get it wrong, just cut off their heads!