Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Stephen Covey (RIP) wrote about being proactive. He pointed out that despite our prior “programming” in life we always have a choice point between stimulus and response should we choose to choose it!

To the degree that you choose not to exercise your choice point you become reactive… you let events and the world outside you determine your destiny. In effect, you surrender your personal power!

Are you a prisoner of your own thoughts?

A problem many of us face is that we are not taught that we have this choice point. There are many others, particularly those in authority, who prefer that we don’t exercise our choice point for obvious reasons. Thus, many people are unhappy because they don’t feel that they have control over their lives and, worse still, they don’t believe that they can have control over their lives. Sadly, they become a prisoner of their own thoughts. Covey refers to Viktor Frankl’s remarkable survival in a prisoner of war camp during World War 2 as an example of someone who chose to exercise his choice point.

We’re curious about what you think and first we suggest you watch this clip of Covey being interviewed as he explains this Choice Point…


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On July 16th, 2012 the world lost a great thinker. One of the world’s best-selling authors, his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is widely regarded as one of the most influential books ever written. It established him (at the age of 56) as one of the leading thinkers of our time. In the book he challenges us to go beyond what he called ‘personality ethics’ and live our lives according to ‘character ethics’. His 7 Habits presented the core principles behind his thinking.

Taking responsibility

At the heart of what he proposes is a system to enable us to better adapt to change and take advantage of the opportunities that changes in our lives often bring. A central theme is that we are largely responsible for what we create in our lives and by taking responsibility for who we are and how we relate to others we can profoundly influence the direction our lives take.

A deep well

I’ve always been impressed with Covey’s ability to synthesize and present these core principles because they are so closely aligned with the core principles of something else we’re passionate about: NLP. For his Doctoral thesis Covey apparently studied over 150 years of the American self-help movement. The 7 Habits would appear to represent his core learnings from that Doctoral thesis. NLP draws on this same deep well of knowledge and wisdom and through its emphasis on modeling excellence translates many of these principles into tools and skills so we can actually experience the “difference that makes the difference” in our daily lives. Therefore, NLP and The 7 Habits complement each other.

Being the change…

What I personally admired about Covey was his modesty about what he had set out in his challenge. Unlike other authors who often claim to be greater than thou and in private rarely live up to what they postulate, Covey himself strove to live these 7 Habits. He also advocated that true learning is achieved through doing. I have met many leaders who claim to have read the 7 Habits and it’s clear that it was wasted on them as their actions rarely demonstrate that they’ve truly tested them out and embodied them in their own lives.

I’ve met others who dismiss Covey’s work because they’re so caught up in their heads that they lack the Emotional Intelligence to appreciate and genuinely try on his principles and notice the improved results they can attain. This is because cognitive awareness is rarely enough to learn something. It’s only by practicing a skill that you can get it into the muscle so it becomes a habit.

Words of wisdom

I’ll leave you to ponder these words of Wisdom taken from the Foreword of the 15th Anniversary edition of the book:

“As you now commence reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I also promise you an exciting learning adventure. Share with your loved ones what you are learning. And most important, start applying what you are learning. Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.

I have personally found living the 7 Habits a constant struggle – primarily because the better you get, the very nature of the challenge changes, just like skiing, playing golf, tennis, or any sport does. Because I sincerely work and struggle every day at living these principle-embodied habits, I warmly join you in this adventure.” ~ Stephen R Covey

May he Rest in Peace…

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Respect other people's model of the worldRespect other people’s model of the world

Now that you know that everyone has their own unique model or map of the world you can easily embrace Empowering Belief #2. An important distinction here is that we are saying respect and not agree or accept.

Just as you want people to respect your point of view so you too can demonstrate to others that you can respect their point of view. A major advantage of being able to do this is that you develop the ability to better appreciate how other people think. When it comes to sales or negotiations this is a critical skill set. Without it you diminish your ability to have influence and as a leader without influence you call into question your right to be a leader in the first place.

To respect another person’s model of the world you must be prepared to accept that person’s beliefs and values for what they are and this requires a high level of rapport and acceptance of the other person. Interestingly, by showing this level of respect you deepen the rapport. If you have a hidden agenda or your intention is to manipulate the other person then you will not be able to create this level of rapport. As they say: “People will see you coming!”

To accept this belief is to accept and understand others as they are… It’s a powerful way to build relationships and bring out the best in others.

In times of change, strong relationships are key to getting things done…

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When we are discussing change with senior executives the topic of mindsets frequently comes up. They often say things like: “our people need to change their mindset”. Leaders seem to struggle to see how to bring about a mindset change. Like all change you want to see, it starts with you… as a leader.

Change conversations

A useful starting point for thinking about mindsets is to think in terms of the conversations you are having. You can think of there being two major world views each of which has its own characteristic conversation and each of which generates very different results. We’ll come back to the specific language of each conversation in future posts.

The downward spiral

Change conversations: The Downward SpiralThere’s the world of what we can call the downward spiral. This is the world of complaint, of no choice, of fault and blame:  “it can’t be done, it’s difficult, the resources aren’t there, other people are doing better,  it’s hopeless” – it appears as a world with a fixed reality.

You might recognize this as: black & white thinking, absolutes, linear causality, blame, win/lose, polarization, duality, dichotomy…

Possibility & Opportunity

Change Conversations: Possibility & OpportunityYou’ll be relieved to know that there’s another world, which is the world of possibility, of opportunity, of creativity and innovation, of exploration and expansion:  “how can we do this, what difference will it make, how can we add value”; it’s a place of growth, of learning, of generative change.

You’ll recognize this perhaps as: analogue, emergent, context dependent, complex causality, flexible, I’m alright/you’re alright, 3rd point thinking, shades of grey, middle way, sliding scales, balance, Yin/Yang, relativism

Build your energy

These two conversations in themselves are neither good nor bad… they’re just different. Try on some of these phrases and those of your own and notice which of these conversations builds your energy, motivation and commitment and which one drains your energy, leaving you feeling deflated and demotivated?

Create greater choice

Just imagine what difference it makes when you have the skills and ability to influence the conversations that you are having and the results you are creating. Being aware of which of these conversations you are involved in is the first step in creating greater choice.

So, for the next few days pay attention to the conversations around you… and notice how they are different.

And, we’re curious to receive your comments…

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There are 4 inter-related core competencies that leaders must master to congruently lead organizational change.

These provide the foundation on which all other change leadership skills can sit.



  1. Mastery of Self – operating from a psychology and physiology of excellence. A leader should be able to choose his/her state at any given time; choose their response to any situation; process feedback and adapt accordingly, use language with volition knowing the impact that his/her words and actions have on others. This is where a leader demonstrates congruence and is, in effect, the process by which a leader leads himself/herself. Mastery of self manifests itself in what people often refer to as “Walking the talk!”
  2. Mastery of Relating to and Communicating with Others. This is about your ability to build rapport with others and enter into another person’s model of the world to better understand what motivates them and how best to communicate with them. Because Leaders have to realize their change programs through the cooperation of and their influence on others, relational skills are essential aspects of leadership. You’ll know if you need to work on these if you experience any form of resistance to the changes you propose.
  3. Mastery of Strategic Thinking Skills. These are necessary both to define and achieve specific goals and objectives. Being able to define a desired state as a well-formed outcome and not just in clichés but also in sensory based terms is a key aspect of being able to think strategically. A key part of effective strategic thinking skills is knowing how to determine which operators and operations will most effectively and efficiently influence and move people from the present state to the desired state. In times of change, your people will expect you to set the path for them to follow.
  4. Mastery of Systemic Thinking Skills. These are at the root of effective problem solving and the ability to create functional teams and essential in times of change. Leaders today are too reliant on linear thinking and this is not useful in most situations. Systemic thinking enables you to better understand elements such as: the relationships between parts, the consequences of actions, feedback loops, dynamic complexity, mental models/mindsets, etc… The ability to think systemically in a pragmatic way is a sign of maturity in a leader.

To develop and enhance these skills leaders first must be willing to do some Wide Thinking for a Change…

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Change LeadershipFor the next while we’ll be exploring Change Leadership and to get the ball rolling we came across an interesting article on the competencies that leaders may need for dealing with the ongoing wave of changes sweeping the global landscape. Some things that stand out are the need for leaders to be highly flexible, able to cope with increasing complexity, embrace digital technology, be open and transparent and have high EQs.

In subsequent posts we’ll be exploring what specific skills leaders will need to have and explaining how they can acquire these skills to become excellent Change Leaders!

Above all, we believe that leaders will need to be highly skilled at Wide Thinking for a Change…

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