FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
My first exposure to his landmark work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was life-changing. Common sense, organized, is how many have described the principles that Stephen packaged in such understandable terms. I knew, the first time I participated in the classroom experience, that I would need to become a facilitator and share those principles with whomever I could get to listen.
In 1997 I had the privilege of partnering with a number of Covey Leadership Center professionals, among them the dedicated, gracious, and talented Nancy Moore, now a colleague of mine who leads many initiatives within our Education Division. The company I worked for at the time hosted a number of beta-test classes for an early version of Covey Leadership Center’s coursework on trust. I was asked to teach these beta versions of the class. You can imagine my surprise when Nancy asked me to co-present with Dr. Covey at the sales kick-off of Building Trust at their corporate offices in Provo, Utah. Stephen’s spirit and character were bigger in person than I had imagined. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. He affirmed to his team of sales professionals the timeless principles of loyalty, transparency, and empathic understanding.
During Saturday’s funeral service, all 9 of his children shared stories and thoughts about their father that reinforced the public principles he preached. His oldest son, Stephen M. R. Covey, said it most plainly. “Dad was congruent, whole, complete.” He went on to emphasize that as great an author, speaker and consultant that he was in public, in private Stephen was even better. Dr. Covey’s best friend and brother, John Covey, gave us a glimpse into Stephen’s primary motivation in life – both personal and professional. Early in their professional lives Stephen once asked John, “What do you want to do with your career?” Understanding how Stephen thought, John turned the question back to his brother. Stephen’s response was three simple yet powerful words: “Release Human Potential.”
And throughout the service, memories of Stephen did just that. Every story, every thought, every snapshot of his great life and example evoked, on one hand, feelings of inadequacy, but more importantly it inspired feelings of resolve, commitment, and desire to be a better husband, father, and friend. I hereby commit to redefine the potential I am capable of releasing in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Yes, Stephen R. Covey will be missed. But the life, learning, love, and legacy he leaves behind will endure in the work we carry on at FranklinCovey and in the lives of those touched by his great work.
Thank you, Stephen!
In exactly 10 days I will embark on a personal challenge unlike anything I’ve attempted to undertake in my life. Hundreds of thousands have done it. For me, it’s new. Its original creators thought to conceive an event that would test the human limits of physical endurance. And while recent years have witnessed the advent of longer courses and more strenuous tests, the Ironman distance triathlon remains the standard of individual sport maxims. 2.4 mile swim. 112 mile cycling. 26.2 mile run.
I was inspired 2 years ago on May 2nd by a participant in my 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop in Livonia, Michigan, who claimed to have completed three Ironman events. He was not in “Ironman” condition at the time – admittedly so. But he was roughly my age and build and – more importantly – he hadn’t just thought to do it, he had done it! Three times!!! It was in that moment that a new goal was cast in my own mind. “If he can complete three Ironman events,” I thought, “I can certainly complete just one.”
I went home and registered for my first Olympic distance tri (roughly one fourth the Ironman distances), to take place a mere 6 weeks later. No, my training was not ideal in duration or intensity, but then again my goal was to simply finish with a smile. A second Olympic tri and two marathons later (the running is certainly the hardest on my body), here I am contemplating the ultimate challenge that Saturday, May 7th, is about to bear.
To be clear, my goal is not to win or even place in my age group, but rather to enjoy every minute. Now, I’m sure there will be several minutes where I question my level of enjoyment. But I feel ready.
The whole training experience has been an opportunity to personally apply many of the precepts we offer in our FranklinCovey curriculum:
- Be Proactive – I couldn’t get off the couch and onto my trainer, onto the trail or out to the pool without some initiative.
- Begin With the End in Mind – My visualization of participating in and finishing the IM has consumed my psyche since the time my wife pressed ‘Enter’ on the keyboard to register me. (Yes, in a moment of ambivalence, I recruited Jana to initiate the first formal step of commitment. It was sort of like having someone else pull your loose tooth or rip off a big Band-Aid.)
- Put 1st Things 1st – Prioritizing time to train has been a rewarding challenge in itself, one whose multi-dimensional benefits have been surprising.
- Think Win—Win – Yes, it’s an individual sport, but wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and sacrifice of my wife and kids.
- Seek First to Understand… – Listening to my body has become a critical exercise in knowing when to push and when to take it easy.
- Synergize – The combination of training activities and public accountability of my progress have combined to keep me on track and deliver results.
- Sharpen the Saw – Say no more.
- The Four Cores of Credibility: Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, Results – I said I would do it; I must keep my word to myself and others. I clearly declared my intentions. My capabilities have increased with each passing week’s training focus. Next weekend will certainly reveal the results.
- The Productivity Pyramid: Mission-Vision-Values, Long-term Goals, Short-term goals, Weekly and Daily Planning – All of these must have been more or less aligned over the past 24 months to pull this off.
And the list goes on…
I share this not to boast, but to convey the enormous effort this has required and, more importantly, how more acutely than at any other time in my life, I’ve come to appreciate that principles govern. This is the Goose and the Golden Egg (P/PC Balance). This is maintaining those ever-important Emotional Bank Accounts, with self and others. This is the Law of the Harvest.
So for 12+ hours on Saturday, May 7th, beginning at 7:00 a.m. Mountain, if my self-imposed sojourn happens to cross your mind, know that you’ll probably already be on mine. After all, it was a participant just like you who planted the seed.
A couple weeks ago I finished my second marathon. My effort was nothing terribly notable, except that I was hoping to beat my first time by a significant margin. I did. I ran 15 minutes faster than my first.
However, my time is discouraging when I compare it to my potential. I’ve only been a runner for about 3 years; I know I have plenty of room for improvement. Plus, I know how fast other guys my same age and build are running. Scores of them are significantly faster than I am. For example, I came in 174th place in my age group (out of 416). The guy who took second place in the marathon OVERALL was one year older than me! Now that’s something to strive for.
So what’s the best way to improve? Compare myself to me or compare myself to others? I think the answer is both.
Often in business we compare ourselves to the rest of the field. How are the top players in our industry faring. Where is our market share? How fast are we growing? Are we number one? There is healthy competition that can motivate an entire organization to rally behind significant revenue and growth goals, in pursuit of that top prize.
Then again, it’s also important that we don’t just settle for being on top of the heap. Oh sure, it feels good to be in first place. But we should also compare ourselves against our own potential. When we don’t, we could be settling for good enough instead of becoming our very best.
Living The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a tried and true method of balancing both approaches to success. The Private Victory is represented by the first three Habits of Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First. These lead me to mastery over self. Coupled with the Public Victory of Habits 4, 5 and 6, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize, they permit me to collaborate with others in a way that differentiates our collective performance, allowing us to stand apart from the crowd and achieve our very best.
So, I suppose the next marathon I’m running in May 2011 will give me a chance to test this theory. My focus during training: Keep one eye on pushing for ever-faster splits and pace while training my other eye on the pace of those who ran the same race last year.
Ask yourself: In what ways can I and my organization learn from the successes of our competition? Where are we not testing our potential, because we’ve become complacent with “good enough?”
Two weeks ago I flew half way across the country with my bicycle (an entirely painful experience I may share later) to join my brother, brother-in-law, and close friend on a 105-mile ride across three mountain passes. I thoroughly enjoy cycling. For years my favorite version of cycling was mountain biking on single-track trails over stumps, rocks, and roots. I enjoy the climb every bit as much as the descent. It’s only after having purchased a decent road bike two years ago and making a recent foray into the world of triathlon that my interest has expanded to include road cycling. This particular ride would bring my summer total to well over 700 miles.
While I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by world-stage cycling events and personalities, such as the Tour de France and cycling phenom Lance Armstrong, I’ve never followed the sport very closely. In my naiveté, I would often question the need for all that expensive gear and technology or secretly mock the brash colors and tight-fitting clothing. I certainly had my doubts that riding in a pack or “peloton” really had any benefit. Does “drafting,” or riding closely behind another cyclist, really make that big of a difference? After all, until September 12, 2009, I had always ridden alone.
I’m ashamed to admit, after teaching the principles behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past 13 years that I would have been so skeptical about the power of synergy in such a simple and powerful application.
As a group, our collective experience with drafting was mixed. My brother-in-law is a seasoned “roadie” (the affectionate name for road cyclists). He drafts almost once a week with other cyclists in his neighborhood. My good friend had tried it a few times and was eager to draft on a longer ride. My brother and I were first-timers to the art of riding somebody’s back tire. As we began our first and flattest 10-mile segment of the roughly 6-hour tour, we each took turns leading the group, with the point person falling back about every 3 to 4 minutes. The rider in front, or “pole” rider, puts out the same effort required to ride alone. As for everyone else…
What a rush!
I can honestly say, I have been missing out on a lot of cycling synergy. The experience was so real and yet so simple! By my rough, unscientific estimate, each individual expends around 20% less effort to ride as a group than he would while riding alone. The “pull” that each trailing rider experiences in the draft is real and measurable. Sadly, I had even taught the example of geese in flight to illustrate synergy – the same application of aerodynamics – without having tried it myself (riding, rather than flying, of course).
I firmly resolved, at the end of our ride, to not only look for other riders I might join back in the Midwest, but to also look for more creative ways of “drafting” with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family. What mental barriers or incorrect/incomplete paradigms may be preventing me from synergizing in ways that are natural and simple?
Undoubtedly the principles that are taught in our curriculum – such as responsibility, planning, follow-through, abundance, listening, collaboration, trust, etc. – become even more relevant during times of economic retraction. Most organizations have felt the pinch of our economy, in some way or another. It has translated into palpable nervousness for many associates who are increasingly more unsure about their future. I can’t help but revisit an early theme I shared in my first blog posting – that living these principles is the answer to recession-proofing one’s career.
However, as I reflect further on the deliberate arrangement of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as organized in the Maturity Continuum model, I can’t help but recognize the correlation that exists between the Private and Public Victories and what businesses expect from their employees during these tumultuous times.
Consider this. The Private Victory is about me. Not me, as in Todd, but me as in everyone. Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind, Put First Things First. I am completely and 100% in charge of whether or not I live these first three habits. I can turn them on and I can turn them off. I alone am in control of the level of effectiveness I wish to experience by taking responsibility, formulating a plan for my life, my year, my week, my day, and executing that plan in the face of constant distractions. There is tremendous gratification that comes from working a well-thought out plan and reaping its rewards. One benefits personally and is in a position to do more for himself, as well as others.
On the other hand, living out the Public Victory – Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize – require at least some cooperation from others. The Public Victory requires, well, the public! I can do everything right to get my own “shop” in order, but if my co-worker doesn’t want to work well with me, a Public Victory can be easily compromised. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to convince others (especially if they themselves haven’t achieved a Private Victory of their own) to think abundantly, to truly empathize with all parties, and to painstakingly work toward collaborative solutions that represent the 3rd Alternative.
Therefore, I must recognize more and more that living the Private Victory is simply the lowest possible threshold my employer is willing to accept among potential job candidates who are seeking employment. What differentiates me from the pack is going to be my ability to bring people together and actively work toward interdependence and the Public Victory every day of the week! My ability to synergize is what will differentiate my performance from the next “B-level” player who is only concerned about excellence in his or her own work.
In other words, living ALL seven of the habits completely is much more likely to ensure future opportunity and security than just doing my own thing and staying out of the way. More and more, potential employers are only willing to take a candidate seriously, if he or she can demonstrate what it takes to bring out the best in themselves and everyone else.
Where can you better leverage the Public Victory in your own work? How will you differentiate your contribution from the rest of the pack? What do you put at risk by only worrying about your own deliverables? Let’s be careful how often we utter those infamous words, “That’s not my job.” They could turn into a very undesirable reality.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey recounts a story about turning over the yard-care responsibilities at his house to his young son. “Green and clean,” he explains, are the criteria for success in this new job. When after 2 weeks his son still hasn’t fully accepted the responsibility of this new assignment, Stephen shares a moment of exasperation when he reminds himself of the deeper purpose of his calling as a father – “Raise boys, not grass.” This story came to mind recently, during a moment of frustration of my own.
Monday morning, I found myself in the middle of a steep learning curve, pretending to be a stone mason. I was with my 9-year-old son, Conner, at the house my father is single-handedly remodeling (re-building, is perhaps more accurate) to help Dad finish up the stone façade that would decorate the front of his house. He and Conner were about 75% finished affixing the beautifully cut faux stones to the wall and had asked me to squeeze freshly mixed mortar out of what amounts to an over-sized cake decorating cone into the spaces between the stones. This also requires smoothing out the mortar with a skinny trowel, attempting to even out any lumps and fill in all the gaps. Believe me – this was harder than it sounds.
About 20 minutes into my effort, the thought crossed my mind, “Gee! Why don’t we just hire a couple day-laborers with masonry experience to come and do this; then the three of us can go do something fun?!” We could have been doing anything more fun than working on the house, such as hiking, fishing, or carousing at the local amusement park. This thought no sooner crossed my mind, when it occurred to me what we were really engaged in. This wasn’t just about the work that needed to be done on the house. My dad would certainly not be set back in his construction progress, if Conner and I hadn’t spent those measly 2 ½ hours helping out. Instead, this was much more about building something together. This was about creating a lasting, tangible monument of sorts. This was, more importantly, about learning lessons of hard work and building relationships between three generations of Wangsgards.
Besides, doing something constructive with his hands is my dad’s idea of fun. And to be accompanied by his son and grandson in the process is something he’d much rather do than spend the day engaged in more shallow forms of amusement.
What are you building today? What is the state of your most important relationships? In what ways can you more efficiently “sharpen the saw” and satisfy the need for renewal in all four human dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual?
On second thought, I enjoy “masonry!” There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than molding the mortar of time into the spaces between my most precious possessions – my family, friends, colleagues, and clients.
Call me crazy. Almost two weeks ago I signed up for my very first triathlon. With the exception of a mountain biking event three years ago, I’ve never participated in an organized race. I’ve certainly never run or swum in a race. And yet, something within me thought this would be a good idea.
Over the course of the first three Fridays in May, I had the privilege of teaching The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in Livonia, Michigan. One of the participants was a four-time Ironman triathlete. Just to be clear, that is a triathlon that includes a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon! I found this incredibly inspiring and, the more we talked about his experience, incredibly do-able.
I will not be participating in an Ironman, however.
My triathlon is the Topeka Tinman, to be held on June 20th – a mere four weeks away. It includes an 1100 yard swim across the open waters of Lake Shawnee, a 19.2 mile bike ride, and a 7 mile run – often referred to as a sprint or Olympic triathlon in length.
Although I have tried over the years to stay active by running 3 to 4 miles, 3 or 4 times a week, nothing quite matches the intensity of focus and discipline that result from actually registering for a real race. Plus, there is some inherent motivation in not letting that hefty $95 entrance fee go to waste!
I have become quite serious about my workouts. I have enlisted a buddy down the street, who is also planning to race in the triathlon. I have tuned up my bike, purchased new gear (aerobars, a tri-suit, swim cap and goggles, and the like). I created a scoreboard spreadsheet for both of us to track our daily and weekly training progress. We individually update it and send it to one another, at least twice a week. In essence, I have applied the principles of The 4 Disciplines of Execution to my daily routine to ensure I reach my ultimate goal – finish the race with a smile on my face.
Although I’ve only been ultra-serious about training since signing up on May 15th, already I’m beginning to see results. My dear family and friends are holding me accountable. I’m dedicated to my workout routine. My buddy and I encourage and motivate one another to stay the course. I’m actually shedding unwanted pounds and find the adrenaline rush of intense exercise to be increasingly addicting! I’m witnessing all the principles behind The 7 Habits come to life in this short-term, microcosmic experience.
Undoubtedly, I may have been able to merely finish the race without any level of training beforehand. But I’ve come to realize, more and more with each passing workout, that not only will I be mildly competitive in my age group, but I’m discovering a level of stamina, strength, and affinity toward triathlons that will positively influence my quality of life – for the rest of my life.
Without question: We reap what we sow. Now, I only wish I had been more serious about sowing sooner!
Last week I coined a new phrase. At least, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it before. It goes like this:
“Perfect inaction is a miserable substitute for imperfect action.”
Too often, for example, we see 4 Disciplines of Execution clients spend way too much time getting ready to get ready. They want their WIGs (wildly important goals), lead measures, scoreboards, and WIG meetings to be perfect, before taking any action at all. However, during those 4 to 8 weeks of preparation, they miss out on the fruit of action – even if that action isn’t perfected yet. Err on the side of action. My good friend and fellow FranklinCovey consultant, Patrick Leddin, puts it this way, “Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly- at least at first.”
In Gilbert & Sullivan’s famous operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance,” art imitates life. The constable and his deputies, tasked with confronting the dubious and dastardly pirates, sing ernestly about their intentions to engage in certain conflict. Over and over again they sing, “We go! Yes, forward on we go. Yes, forward on we go.” All the while, they are marching in circles – NOT going. Finally, the hopeful – and increasingly more concerned – citizen onlookers chime in on the chorus and follow each “Forward on we go,” with their own, “Yes, but you DON”T go!”
Perhaps Nike’s ad slogan says it best. “Just Do It!”
In my field of work, it’s okay to take your work home with you, right?
About 12 years ago, after teaching my first 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I remember making an effort to really turn on Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. I had only been married a few months and wanted to show my new bride, Jana, that I was the world’s best husband. I came home from work one day, greeted my wife, and just sat there listening to her. Unlike any other day, I didn’t pick up the paper. I didn’t turn on the TV. I just stared at her and listened.
I didn’t’ get 30 seconds into my intense listening mode, when Jana said to me, “You’d better not be trying any of that work stuff on me.”
Sure, I could have been a little less obvious. And yes, I have improved my technique after a dozen or so years. (How do you stack up?) My point is, however, that when we want to make significant improvements in an interpersonal skill, we may need to step out and do something different and sometimes uncomfortable. We must appreciate the incremental progress we make along the way and be sure to break down our overall objective into bite-size pieces. Additionally, it’s always helpful to forewarn those who will be most affected by our new behavior that we’re trying something new. At least Jana didn’t turn and say to me, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”
At least I tried. (And, for the record, I’m still working on listening.) That’s the single most gratifying result I witness each week. I am thrilled to hear at least one person from each workshop or consulting session report back on the tremendous success they experience when they earnestly try even one piece of what we studied.
To illustrate my point, here is yet another compelling testimonial, this time from Cathy, a Veterans Health Administration associate, who attended one of my Project Management workshops a couple weeks ago (shared with permission, of course):
“I have realized several positive changes in my project management ability as a result of applying what I learned. Prior to attending your training session, I had no planned way of organizing a project. I now feel that I am able to manage and guide projects from point A to point B in a way that demonstrates efficiency and clarity. I now have a plan to resolve problems before it is too late, or before the problem gets out of control. Finally, I believe that I now do a much better job of prioritizing my goals and making better use of my time.” (click here to learn more about FranklinCovey’s Government Solutions.)
Our progress is a never-ending path of wins that come from the effort we put forth every day. Let’s not forget Dr. Leo Marvin’s advice from the 1991 comedy movie, “What About Bob?” – Baby Steps!