I am a fan of Stephen Covey. His books – 7 Habits of highly Successful People and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness – offer the kind of practical, principle centered wisdom that gives you confidence you can succeed at whatever you try. Every time I reread Stephen’s books I learn something new about myself.
Stephen authored an article for USA WEEKEND entitled “7 Ways To Come Together”. After reading it, I was struck by how the advice could be reapplied to the challenge of getting a team of private and public sector community leaders to agree on a strategic plan for successful economic development. If you are challenged with leading such a task, or participate in a strategic planning exercise, Stephen’s wisdom may be helpful to you.
- Open your “inbox”. Often we approach strategic planning with a strong preconceived idea of what we want the final outcome to look like. Then the exercise becomes a game of convincing, cajoling and influence peddling to have the strategic plan be as close to that idea as possible. Real success starts with everybody having an open mind and really listening to the points made by others on the team with the intention of hearing and understanding them. When people are heard in the strategic planning process, they become invested in the final outcome. When we filter their input out up front, then we automatically create an unnecessary barrier to successful execution.
- Find a third solution. Persuading somebody to see the world your way is a daunting task when they are diametrically opposed. It creates a win:lose situation that does not encourage enrollment. Working to find a third solution that is superior to either proposal helps both people feel good about and “own” the result because they can see a piece of what they want in it. The challenge is that finding a third solution does not mean driving to the lowest common denominator. It is hard work, because you need to find a better solution than either proposed. Working shoulder to shoulder to discover that superior solution is what builds buy-in and increases the probability of successful execution.
- Model yourself after others. Become a student of people that have taken on difficult challenges in your community and made a positive difference. Every community has success examples. Make a point of really understanding why these people were successful in their approach and try to model your behavior after them. You may be surprised at what you find the secrets to local success are. While some things may be universal, every community will also have its own unique keys to success.
- Avoid identity theft. Do not compromise your integrity or values in the process. Don’t focus on your personal gain. Stay focused on the end result and be willing to subjugate your personal need to win for the greater good. When leading strategic planning exercises, if you make it all about you or your Organization, you need to be prepared to walk alone. It is all about what works for the community.
- Try something new. The unique challenges of this interdependent global economy will not be solved with historical approaches. It is going to take innovative new approaches to create sustainable economic growth. At a minimum, be willing to entertain and test new concepts. This is the only way to create discontinuous change. It is also important you try new things and push the boundaries of your personal experience. This will help you be more receptive to exploring ideas outside your comfort zone.
- Know your audience. Your desire to move your community forward economically is not sufficient to succeed. To paraphrase a well-known saying – It takes a village to raise a village. You need to understand the benefits of moving forward for each of the key constituencies in your community and make certain the proposed plan has a win:win potential for the majority. Get to know the key decision makers as individuals. It will help you better appreciate how their ideas are informed and help you better value their differences.
- Laugh at least once a day. Sometimes we can take the job of economic development too seriously. It is important to keep things in perspective. While creating jobs and economic prosperity is certainly important work, our individual roles in the process should not be unduly aggrandized. Find something humorous each day of you life and have a deep belly laugh about it. This is good to keep your ego in check and it is actually good for your health.
Stephen initially identified 7 key habits for success and then added an 8th. In that spirit, take a moment to leave a comment that shares your 8th way to inspire collaboration. We can all benefit by inspiring each other, so your willingness to share will make a difference and is greatly appreciated.