Another corporate initiative to make me more productive! How long will this one last?

As leaders, we are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and productivity within our own organization.  We must continually remind ourselves that the only way this is going to happen is through our human capital i.e., our staff.  The fact is – they have seen it all before.  They’ve heard the pitch, attended the professional development classes, only to see the excitement and implementation of the latest craze get lost in the day-to-day busyness of deliverables.

During the past two years at SA, we have taken our entire 85-member staff through Franklin Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Here are five things we’ve learned in applying the 7 Habits principles into our culture:

1. Management must prove its commitment to the staff.  This program involved an initial three days of training with staff members throughout the agency.  Beyond the time and financial commitment, it involved vulnerability and understanding as we discussed detailed items, ranging from unproductive frustrations and ways to improve effectiveness not only at work, but also at home.  Our senior management team was engaged every step of the way and provided a safe environment in which employees could  share openly.  This was just the beginning.

2. You must answer, “What’s in it for them?”  For most employees, the first thing that comes to mind in undergoing this training, “What management is really saying is, ‘We want more bricks, but you have to get your own straw!”  The great thing about the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is that most found it easier to begin applying the habits at home before applying them at work.  That’s okay because we found that if people become more effective in their personal lives, they are more likely to be effective at work.

We also covered work/life balance and the importance of self renewal (Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw).   While we often experience commitment from our staff that is over and above what is expected, we also know that without renewal, we all burn out.

3. Empower your employees to own it.  A common denominator of great companies is their empowerment of staff to drive initiatives through their organization.  After our first group went through the initial training, five staff members from SA became Franklin Covey Certified coaches and trainers. These coaches and trainers have since taken the entire staff through the 7 Habits training, which has been both rewarding for them as well as a sign of SA’s commitment to infuse the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” into our culture.

Additionally, SA has engaged numerous individuals throughout the organization to keep the program thriving.  Which leads to one of the most important points in making sure your program continues.

4. You must have a plan for long-term ongoing implementation.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  We use it or it fades away.  The plan has to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely).  Lay-ups and free-throws i.e., find a way to implement the fundamentals on an ongoing basis and they will become part of your culture.  We have done this in several ways.

  • Habit of the Month.  We are taking one of the 7 Habits and making it our company focus for an entire month, announcing it at our monthly all-staff update meeting.  We enlist Habit of the Month Champions from each department and let them creatively devise implementation of that habit within their department.  We have a structured way to report back on implementation.  And wow – the staff has already taken it beyond where we ever imagined it could go!
  •  7 Habits Maximizer.  This is a full day refresher course to gauge where we are personally in our application of the 7 Habits.  It also introduces us to additional ways we can increase our effectiveness and impact in decision making.  To date, we have three remaining groups to finalize the Maximizer class.  This also reinforces management’s commitment to the program.

5.  The best ideas can come from anyone in your organization This is one of the most important things I’ve learned.  Habit 6, Synergize, helps us understand not only the importance of synergy, which we all intuitively know, but the importance of the process of getting to synergy.

To quote Michael Nolan, “There is somebody smarter than any of us, and that is all of us.”  When we realize this, we truly begin to honor and respect the viewpoints of other individuals.  We allow ourselves to celebrate our differences.Those differences take us to places of innovation to which we could not have traveled on our own.

The results – the ongoing implementation of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in our staff is making a positive impact in service to our clients and in our employees’ lives.  We see and hear it throughout our organization.   And our hope is that it will continue to infiltrate our culture and that our staff and clients alike will benefit.

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