7 habits of highly Ineffective People
I saw the article “7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People” in our local paper the Virginia Pilot almost two months ago and I’ve carried with me hoping I would take the time to use it as a basis for a blog post. I received the inspiration yesterday when I saw the bumper sticker, Bark less—Wag More. The picture of the sticker is below.
When I think about highly effective people, they truly do “Wag more and Bark less. ” And on the other hand, ineffective leaders really are all bark.
In “7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People,” Morgan Quinn shares with us the antitheses of the seven habits Stephen Covey suggests in his famous book. In full disclosure, I found Covey’s 7 habits one of the most helpful leadership books I’ve read. I often refer back to the Seven Habits when I’m in a particularly challenging situation. They are my measure of“how am I really doing.”
The first ineffective habit is being reactive as compared to proactive. Highly ineffective leaders are negative and often blame their inability to succeed on outside forces. Their fall back phrase is, “I could do this if only…….” Quinn and Covey remind us that in the end we may not have control over what may happen but we always are in charge of how we react to what happens. To be effective, Quinn suggests: “Instead of reacting to life’s events, focus your time and energy on something you can control: yourself.”
Losing sight of the end goal
Covey suggests that highly effective people “begin with the end in mind” and the opposite is true of highly ineffective people. Often times ineffective people either forget or simply never have an end in mind. As leaders one of the most important things we can do is to articulate the goals for our organization and to do this in such a way that our team understands and embraces the end goal. Quinn says it well: ”When you begin with the end in mind, you own your destiny, control your desired direction and secure the future you envision.”
I didn’t particularly like this one because I am so guilty of overcommitting. By overcommitting, we dilute our focus on our true priorities. Have you, like me, ever wondered if you are really doing any of any of the things that you responsible for as well as you could if you weren’t so overcommitted? As leaders, we need to be sensitive to what it means to our staff when we overcommit. Are we indirectly impacting our teams ability to be effective? And let’s not forget, overcommitting also impacts our families and friends. I can’t imagine that when my time comes telling my kids that I wish I could have spent more time in the office.
Quinn’s discussion of seeing life,as win-lose was a wake up call for me. He says that“when you think of life as a win-lose situation, you base your self-worth on comparison and competition.” The wake up call for me is that I am a competitive person and yet I think that if as a leader you do begin with the end in mind, you can leverage your competitive side and at the same time find win-win with others who will help all of us get to the goal. Quinn reminds me that seeking mutual benefit and solutions are much more satisfying.
Talking over others
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Oh, it is so much easier to listen for a second and then go inside your own head and begin to frame what will be your insightful retort. True confession, I remember times while being in meetings that I thought, “Darn. I need to say something insightful or people will think less of me.” By the time I opened my mouth, I should have simply put a sock in it. Probably the best advice I can give any leader is to shut up and don’t answer until the person asking the question has finished. And a second bit of advice would be rather than giving an answer, ask more questions and give the person a chance to reach an answer. We are creating future leaders, future problem solvers. By seeking to understand “you build relationships, and develop high levels of trust with others.”
Have you ever been in meetings when you thought, darn if I were only a committee of one? Well, as they say on ESPN Game Day, not so fast my friend. Operating alone, you insulate yourself from others. Let’s face it, they say two heads are really better than one. The challenges we face are large, multifaceted, and require a variety of expertise to solve. I am smart enough to recognize that I don’t have the depth of experience to address the challenges we face in our College and at our institution so I do want to have the experts at the table. Simply having others at the table will not result in multifaceted problem solving. You need to choose the “experts” carefully because you want to avoid groupthink. I remember the advice about assuring that you include the crazy contrarian on the committee, not always easy to get along with but he or she always assist in coming to a better conclusion.
Working hard, not smart
I remember when I was at the University of North Dakota, Bob Boyd brought together the directors and said, “if it feels like you are doing more with less, well that is because you are doing more with less.” Ive used that line a number of times and giving the staff the challenge of “how can we work smarter not harder” usually follows it. Part of this for Quinn and Covey is taking the time to “sharpen the saw” so that you get recharged and you can find ways to work smarter. This ”sharpening the saw” reminds me of the question I asked earlier, when my time comes will I really say, “Gosh. If only I had one more hour in the office I could have written two more memos You know as I’ve gotten older I have more and more reasons to want one more hour – be it with the our kids and grandkids and time with Peggy and friends and maybe just one more round of golf. And while we are at it having one more year just in case this is the year for the Cubs to take it all. You do know that the Cubs are going to the playoffs.
Well, after all that, to be a great leader, to be a good friend, to be a good parent and partner, it’s simply Wag more—Bark Less.