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Standing the test of time

Principles expounded in 1980s bestseller can still deliver today.
While new ideas for developing good professional behaviour are seemingly formulated every minute, FranklinCovey, an organisation specialising in behavioural change and leadership training, believes that adopting and practising seven habits outlined in a highly successful business book from the 1980s is the key to better leadership and company success.
The best-selling book – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr Stephen R Covey – may be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but continues to retain considerable popularity in the business sector.
“Good leadership habits in any organisation can have a significant impact on the performance and well-being of a company,” said Todd Davis, FranklinCovey’s executive vice-president and chief people and operations officer, at a recent event to celebrate the launch of a new signature edition of the book. 
He added that organisations can achieve sustained results by helping people become more effective leaders. “Whether in Hong Kong, mainland China, the US or Europe, the principles of what it takes to be an effective leader are basically the same.”
Davis explained that over years of testing, research and experience, FranklinCovey has drawn on Covey’s principles to help organisations and individuals achieve lasting, positive behavioural changes in key areas including productivity, sales performance, loyalty and staff engagement. Its development and leadership programmes are delivered in more than 150 countries and span a wide spectrum of industry sectors.
Presenting in Hong Kong with executive partner Right Management as part of a 170-city world tour, Davis said the “7 Habits” are as applicable today as they ever were. This is because despite technology playing a considerably larger role in business functions than it did 25 years ago, staff behaviour remains crucial to the way a business operates. “People are still at the heart of everything we do, so it is important to look at how we work together to achieve and attain something better than individuals can do on their own,” he explained.
Davis said the concept of developing strong relationships based on mutual understanding and collaboration achieves win-win situations. Speaking to an audience of about 300, he explained how people and companies globally have incorporated the principles of 7 Habits into their work practices and corporate culture framework. He said the 7 Habits can help people learn how to take the initiative, develop missions, visions and values, balance priorities, improve interpersonal communication, leverage creative collaboration and apply principles for achieving a balanced life. 
FranklinCovey work sessions help participants determine the type of leader they want to be and how to achieve their goals, Davis said. Workshops help organisations create an effective environment for leaders and teams by integrating the “7 Habits” and applying their timeless principles. 
He added that in a fast-paced world which has become more connected and technology-driven, companies and their staff need better ways to achieve and sustain a strong company culture. “More than ever we need to be able to understand how to effectively work together to achieve success,” Davis says.
While corporate culture has many definitions and varies widely between organisations, Davis says it includes a clear corporate vision on the needs of all stakeholders steered by management and communicated throughout the organisation. “Numerous surveys reveal that companies with a strong corporate culture significantly outperform their competitors in any business sector,” he said. Leaders, he added, are the leverage point, and companies that have a strong culture usually have leaders who are good communicators, visionary, and show character and competence.
Quoting management consultant Peter Drucker, whose writings are credited with the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business enterprise, Davis said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. He added that positive cultures offer significant competitive advantages over rivals when it comes to recruiting and retaining top performers. “It is very difficult to copy another company’s corporate culture,” he said, pointing out that while it is one thing for an organisation to announce a strategy, it is a much bigger challenging to reshape employees’ behaviour to deliver a strategy change. 
Classified Post was an exclusive media sponsor of the Hong Kong preview event for the launch of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Signature Edition 4.0.

 Dr Stephen R Covey’s seven-step journey to being more effective
  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win-win
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergise
  • Sharpen the saw

Learning to Listen
While the concept of listening carefully to what work colleagues, customers and suppliers say might sound like polite, straightforward business logic, it is an area in which many individuals – including leaders in organisations – could do with making improvements. 
“No leadership competency at any level within an organisation can compensate for not listening,” said Todd Davis, executive vice-president and chief people and operations officer at FranklinCovey.
However, according to Davis, the ability to practice empathic listening takes intent and skill. “It takes a concerted effort to master the skill of listening with an open mind and in a caring way so that others feel they are being listened to and understood.” 
Empathic listening, also known as active listening, is closely linked to one of Dr Stephen R Covey’s “7 habits”: seek first to understand, then to be understood.
“When we give a speaker our undivided attention, empathic listening becomes a powerful tool that allows us to fully understand the importance and full meaning of what is being said,” Davis said.
To practise empathic listening, individuals should let the speaker finish what he or she is saying and avoid talking over them with preconceived perceptions. They should also observe emotions and body language.
Listeners should also avoid multitasking, something increasingly hard in an era where the all-pervasive smartphone is a constant distraction in meetings, workplace conversations and socially sensitive events. Davis said that in many time-pressed working environments, it has become difficult for listeners to accurately interpret the speaker’s message, and then offer a suitable response.
“When there are matters of importance to discuss, it is appropriate to ask all those involved to turn off their mobile devices so people can listen and deal with a situation without distractions,” he said.