Habit 5, Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood, Character And Communication

Author’s quotes:

“Reading and writing are both forms of communication. So are speaking and listening. In fact, those are the four basic types of communication. And think of all the hours you spend doing at least one of those four things. The ability do them well is absolutely critical to your effectiveness.

Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend most of our waking hours communicating. But consider this: You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?

If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me—your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss, your coworker, your friend—you first need to understand me. And you can’t do that with technique alone. If I sense you’re using some technique I sense duplicity, manipulation. I wonder why you’re doing it, what your motives are. And I don’t feel safe enough to open myself up to you.

The real key to your influence with me is your example, your actual conduct. Your example flows naturally out of your character, or the kind of person you truly are—not what others say you are or what you may want me to think you are. It is evident in how I actually experience you.

Your character is constantly radiating, communicating. From it, in the long run, I come to instinctively trust or distrust you and your efforts with me.

If your life runs hot and cold, if you’re both caustic and kind, and above all, if your private performance doesn’t square with your public performance, it’s very hard for me to open up with you.

You may say you care about and appreciate me. I desperately want to believe that. But how can you appreciate me when you don’t even understand me?

Unless you’re influenced by my uniqueness, I’m not going to be influenced by your advice. So if you want to be really effective in the habit of interpersonal communication, you cannot do it with technique alone. You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust. And you have to build the Emotional Bank Accounts that create a commerce between hearts.”

Personal comments:

Relatives of mine, as well as some acquaintances, believe they can be kind one minute, and caustic the next. They create an atmosphere full of anxiety, while we wait for what comment is coming next (kindness or caustic). This creates mistrust. Leaders should refrain from this type of behavior, but I realize it is not always possible.

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Empathic Listening

Habit 4, Think Win-Win Systems and Processes (#4, and #5 on Covey’s Five Dimensions of Win/Win chart)

Personal comment: I’ve included both Systems and Processes with the intent of moving the conversation along to Habit 5.

Author’s quotes:

Win/Win can only survive in an organization when the systems support it. If you talk Win/Win but reward Win/Lose, you’ve got a losing program on your hands.

You basically get what you reward. If you want to achieve the goals and reflect the values in your mission statement, then you need to align the reward system with these goals and values. If it isn’t aligned systemically, you won’t be walking your talk.

So often the problem is in the system, not in the people. If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.

As people really learn to think Win/Win, they can set up the systems to create and reinforce it. They can transform unnecessarily competitive situations to cooperative ones and can powerfully impact their effectiveness by building both P (Production) and PC (Production Capability).

Win/Win puts the responsibility on the individual for accomplishing specified results within clear guidelines and available resources. It makes a person accountable to perform and evaluate the results and provides consequences as a natural result of performance. And Win/Win systems create the environment which supports and reinforces the Win/Win performance agreements.

“There’s no way to achieve Win/Win ends with Win/Lose or Lose/Win means. You can’t say, ‘You’re going to think Win/Win, whether you like it or not.’ So the question becomes how to arrive at a Win/Win solution.

In my own work with various people and organizations seeking Win/Win solutions, I suggest that they become involved in the following four-step process:

First, see the problem from the other point of view. Really seek to understand and to give expression to the needs and concerns of the other party as well as or better than they can themselves.
Second, identify the key issues and concerns (not positions) involved.
Third, determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution.
And fourth, identify possible new options to achieve those results.”

Personal comments:

Freedom and support must be given to those asked or responsible for setting up systems. Too often I’ve watched managers usurp control especially when their “sacred cows” may be eliminated. Those sacred cows vary from minor to major, and yet often these sacred cows block improvements. Win/Win is more than a catch phrase. It is created by us from the inside out. Too many cannot, or refuse to, understand that.

It is also important to be sure, and clarify, that there really is a problem before proceeding along Covey’s 4-step process. An example is one staff member, who I’ve mentioned before, quite often made an issue of pay with his employees. He wasn’t capable of understanding there was a pay structure that his employees fit in, and that pay structure included everyone in the organization.

When identifying key issues and concerns it is easy for the group to slide into personalities, especially when those personalities are not present. Always avoid discussing personalities if the focus is to be on key issues and concerns. Otherwise the meeting could end up being a waste of time.

Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Character And Communication

Habit 4, Think Win-Win Agreements (#3 on the Five Dimensions of the Win/Win chart)

Author’s quotes:

“From relationships flow the agreements that give definition and direction to Win/Win. They are sometimes called performance agreements or partnership agreements, shifting the paradigm of productive interaction from vertical to horizontal, from hovering supervision to self-supervision, from positions to being partners in success.

In the Win/Win agreement, the following five elements are made very explicit:

Desired results (not methods) identify what is to be done and when.
Guidelines specify the parameters (principles, policies, etc.) within which results are to be accomplished.

Resources identify the human, financial, technical, or organizations support available to hep accomplish the results.

Accountability set up the standards of performance and the time of evaluation.

Consequences specify—good and bad, natural and logical—what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation.

Traditional authoritarian supervision is a Win/Lose paradigm. It’s also the result of an overdraw Emotional Bank Account. If you don’t have trust or a common vision of desired results, you ten to hover over, check up on, and direct. Trust isn’t there, so you feel as though you have to control people.”

Personal comments:

Covey’s elements, as listed above, are not specific enough for me. These elements can be the framework for proceeding, but I would add more specificity including:


Communication-posted March 7, 2012
Expectations-posted March 21, 2012
SMART goals-posted March 28, 2012
Effective meetings-part one posted June 6, 2012, followed by 5 additional posts on the subject.

Reading, and applying these skills will help facilitate Agreements success.

Post for 3-25-15
Next: Habit 4
Think Win-Win
Systems (#4 on Covey’s Five Dimensions of Win/Win chart)

Habit 4, Think Win-Win, Relationships (Covey’s 5 Dimensions of Win/Win, posted on 2-18-15)

Author’s quotes:

“From the foundations of character, we build and maintain Win/Win relationships. The trust, the Emotional Bank Account, is the essence of Win/Win. Without trust, the best we can do is compromise; without trust, we lack the credibility for open, mutual learning and communication and real creativity.

But if our Emotional Bank Account is high, credibility is no longer an issue. Enough deposits have been made so that you know and I know that we deeply respect each other. We’re focused on the issues, not on the personalities or positions.

A relationship where bank accounts are high and both parties are deeply committed to Win/Win is the ideal springboard for tremendous synergy (Habit 6). That relationship neither makes the issues any less real or important, nor eliminates the difference in perspective.

But what if that kind of relationship isn’t there? What if you have to work out an agreement with someone who hasn’t even heard of Win/Win and is deeply scripted in Win/Lose or some other philosophy?

When you’re dealing with a person who is coming from a paradigm of Win/Lose, the relationship is still the key. The place to focus is on your Circle of Influence. You make deposits into the Emotional Bank Account through genuine courtesy, respect, and appreciation for that person and for the other point of view. You stay longer in the communication process.

And the stronger you are—the more genuine your character, the higher your level of proactivity, the more committed you really are to Win/Win—the more powerful your influence will be with that other person. This is the real test of interpersonal leadership. It goes beyond transactional leadership into transformational leadership, transforming the individuals involved as well as the relationship.

It’s important to realize that not all decisions need to be Win/Win, even when the Emotional Bank Account is high. Again, the key is the relationship.

An agreement means very little in letter without the character and relationship base to sustain it in spirit. So we need to approach Win/Win from a genuine desire to invest in the relationships that make it possible.”

Personal comments:

The human condition, with outdated beliefs, past in-bred habits, inability or lack of interest in learning (new ideas, trying something new, experimenting, trial and error) also affects (gets in the way) the ability to trust. In my human resource experience I’ve been amazed by how long these “conditions” last, and how they’ve become impediments to growth.

Covey’s statement concerning Emotional Bank Accounts is exemplified by a group of us that meet once a month over lunch. The conversation is significant because the high level of Emotional Bank Accounts, and the commitment to Win/Win, allows us to focus on issues, openly, without being concerned with differences. This group has a significant impact on my emotional well-being, in a world that has the opposite effect. I suggest that anyone, who has not experienced this level of interaction, make an effort to participate in a group where you will experience it.

Next: Habit 4
Think Win-Win
Agreements (#3 on the Five Dimensions of Win/Win chart)

Habit 4, Think Win-Win, Five Dimensions of Win/Win (Part III)

Character (three character traits: Integrity, Maturity, Abundance Mentality, continued):

Integrity and Maturity were covered in the last two posts.

“ABUNDANCE MENTALITY. The third character trait essential to Win/Win is the Abundance Mentality, the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everybody.

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit—even with those who help in the production. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people—even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.

It’s difficult for people with a Scarcity Mentality to be members of a complementary team. They look on differences as signs of insubordination and disloyalty.

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision-making. It opens possibilities, option, alternatives, and creativity.

The Abundance Mentality takes the personal joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment of Habits 1, 2, and 3 and turns it outward appreciating the uniqueness, the inner direction, the proactive nature of others. It recognizes the unlimited possibilities for positive interactive growth and development, creating new Third Alternatives.

A character rich in integrity, maturity, and the Abundance Mentality has a genuineness that goes far beyond technique, or lack, of it, in human interaction.

But remember: if we search deeply enough within ourselves—beyond the scripting, beyond the learned attitudes and behaviors—the real validation of Win/Win, as well as every other correct principle, is in our own lives.”

Personal comments:

At one point, early in my life, I was burdened with this Scarcity Mentality idea. I actually thought more money was the secret to happiness. Through the years, as reality and experience set in, I woke up to the fact that money wasn’t making me happy or content. It was the satisfaction gained through valuable relationships, and helping others. The satisfaction was gain through the concept of “leading from behind”.

This concept has been derided recently in the “political” arena, but there is an effective way to succeed at it, for the leader and for those being led. When used properly the results are fascinating to watch.

Employees are use to managers taking credit for the success employees attained, but with this concept, employees receive the accolades, and recognition. Observing the employees reaction was more satisfying than most every other aspect of my work.

Next: Habit 4
Think Win-Win
Relationships (Covey’s 5 Dimensions of Win/Win posted on 2-18-15)