I’m finding myself talking about the late Stephen Covey lately. I have incorporated his ideas with my work with clients when discussing employee engagement. I brought it up when discussing my book, The Formula for Business Success = B + C + S, during a recent networking event. I have even brought up Covey in speaking with my wife about how well she is doing in engaging her team during a rather difficult time at work.
While I personally only met him once very briefly, I learned a lot from his teachings. As with many other people that appreciated his books — especially the 7 Habits, I haven’t always done a great job of following his advice. However, I always seemed to be drawn back to his books or the audio to re-learn and re-apply what he taught in order to re-gain my focus.
Over the past year or so I have stepped onto my proverbial soapbox to preach about what I believe is one of the biggest problems in our society today: the lack of employee engagement. I also believe that what Stephen Covey taught is at the heart of the solution.
Specifically I recall the habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Today executives and business owners are faced with more challenges than possibly ever before. The result is more managers that tell, yell, and get disgusted with what they feel are overly entitled workers rather than leading, mentoring, and engaging their staff. I can certainly empathize with the lack of patience given the “new normal” of management as Linda Scott discussed in 2015 in What Today’s Workplace is Doing to Your Health.
This is leading to more workers who are less empathetic to the needs of the organization, their team members, and their customers. Rather than taking pride in the job — whatever that job is — and earning that promotion, that raise, or that “something closer to what I want” there’s an attitude of “they’re not paying me enough to go the extra mile.” I can’t tell you how many times a week, even just buying a sandwich, I see examples of a lack of leadership on one end and a clear message from body language of “I just don’t want to be here” on the other.
It’s time to try again to understand the unique pressures of this “new normal” on all levels of the organization. It’s time to dust off that copy of Principle Centered Leadership from the 90’s and put some of those mentoring skills back in action. It’s time to re-learn that giving respect earns respect at every level, especially entry level. And, given the tone of my article, it’s obvious that it’s time for me to pull out that 7 Habits book and re-learn them once again myself.