Saturday 16 December 2017

Seven effective steps to creating a winning culture in any organisation

Building a lasting competitive advantage while simultaneously overcoming a multitude of 'business as usual' issues is a challenge faced by leaders on a daily basis (Stock image)
Building a lasting competitive advantage while simultaneously overcoming a multitude of 'business as usual' issues is a challenge faced by leaders on a daily basis (Stock image)

Tomasin Magwood

Building a lasting competitive advantage while simultaneously overcoming a multitude of 'business as usual' issues is a challenge faced by leaders on a daily basis.

While some may be winning their battle, the majority tend to feel they are being swept up and carried along by the whirlwind of problems, making little progress towards establishing a culture that will drive their organisations forward.

It's therefore no surprise that becoming highly productive, or effective, remains an aspiration for many leaders. They know things need to change and are in the process of trying to address them, but few are going about it a way that leads to sustainable results.

Their initial efforts tend to be quick fixes which are frequently focused on raising employee motivational levels. However, the reality is that these act as little more than social sticking plasters - something that may solve problems temporarily but leave underlying chronic issues to fester and resurface.

Likewise, in facing many opportunities today for new and better outcomes, leaders may lack a consistent approach to leveraging the initiative, talent and skills in their teams to achieve collaborative and creative results.

It boils down to the fact that the way leaders and managers currently see the problem is the problem. Experience shows there is no lasting quick fix - a winning culture cannot be bought; fundamental issues cannot be solved on a superficial level. To be truly effective in tackling deep-rooted problems and moving forward, organisations require an enhanced level of thinking that goes beyond basic, incremental changes in behaviour and attitude.

This needs to start with leaders taking a different view of the issues - at FranklinCovey we refer to this change in perspective as a paradigm shift.

Imagine trying to navigate around Dublin for the first time when you're looking at a map of Cork by mistake. However hard you try, you won't resolve the issue unless you have the right map to hand.

A paradigm shift works in much the same way by helping businesses and other organisations to change their outlook, to enable them to see the issues differently and address them by tackling the root cause.

At FranklinCovey, we do this by helping individuals, teams and organisations make a shift to a more effective mindset by applying a set of principles or habits.

First articulated more than 25 years ago by Dr Stephen R Covey in his famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, these timeless principles are closely aligned to human characteristics. In contrast to the quick fixes, this means that everyone can relate to the seven habits - though no two people will respond to them in the same way.

Used to develop leaders at every level as part of a high-performing culture, it works on the premise that regardless of a person's competence, he or she will not have sustained and lasting success unless they are able to effectively lead themselves, influence, engage and collaborate with others, as well as continually improve and renew their capabilities.

The seven habits, which are summarised below, offer a compelling framework that works as an operating system for personal, interpersonal and organisational effectiveness.

Habit 1 - Be proactive

It is quite common to hold external influences responsible for where we find ourselves, leading to blame and a lack of personal responsibility in our own lives. The first habit is based on the paradigm that individuals are free to choose and take the initiative by focusing and acting on the aspects of their lives that can be directly influenced, instead of those that can't.

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind

While some just go with the flow, highly effective people shape their own future by defining a vision and purpose for their life, or day, and for any project, large or small. They live day to day with a clear purpose in mind.

Habit 3 - Put first things first

This enables people to live and make decisions with a clear sense of what is most important as opposed to urgent. They organise and execute around their most important priorities, not by other people's agendas. In the workplace this enables people to focus more on activities, such as creative thinking, relationship building and planning, that will drive their organisations forward.

Habit 4 - Think win-win

Highly effective people build high-trust relationships based on mutual benefit. They foster support and mutual respect. They think interdependently- 'we', not 'me' - and develop win-win agreements.

Habit 5 - Understand, then be understood

Many leaders and managers will simply try to ensure people understand their point of view but the most effective individuals behave more empathetically, taking time to listen to and understand others before communicating their own thoughts and feelings.

Habit 6 - Synergise

When faced with a difference of perspective, highly-effective people don't seek to compromise and merely cooperate. Instead they value differences and focus on stakeholder strengths; exploring alternatives to come up with ideas and solutions that are better than those that any one person would have come up with on their own.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the saw

Named after the woodcutter who felt he was too busy to make his saw work more effectively, the final habit is based on the principle of continuous improvement. Highly effective people increase their effectiveness by renewing themselves regularly in the four areas of life: body (physical), mind (mental), heart (social/emotional), and spirit (service, meaning and contribution).

Insights into the seven habits and how they can be applied to improve performance in organisations, individuals and teams, will be provided in a free overview at Dublin's Gibson Hotel on Tuesday, July 7 from 9am-12pm. To book, call Peter Nolan on (01) 696 8192 or go to

Tomasin Magwood is a consultant with FranklinCovey UK & Ireland

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