Point #5 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has probably been the one that has impacted me the most over the years … seek first to understand, then to be understood. I have used it when starting new roles and establishing 30-60-90 day plans; I have used it as the basis for understanding the market and customer needs before putting a product strategy in place; I have used it in dealing with difficult people and attempting to put myself in their shoes to see their point of view. There are so many ways this simple principle has played out in my life.
I mentioned the ebook A Bold Cup of Leadership Caffeine in my last post, and was reminded of point #5 in the section titled ‘Knock Down Obstacles’. I took this reminder as a cue to re-look at the 7 Habits … something I haven’t done in awhile. I’m glad I did. Point #5 wasn’t the only solid advice offered that product management leaders at any level can and should take to heart.
Point #1 – Be Proactive. What this means to be is being prepared/taking the initiative to get ahead of the curve. Abraham Lincoln puts it this way … “I will prepare, and someday my chance will come.” As product management leaders, we should be anticipating where things are going.
Point #2 – Begin with the End in Mind. Vision is one of the topics I regularly post about. As product management leaders, our role is to develop a crystal clear vision of where we are going while at the same time inspiring others to embrace the vision and help to make it a reality. To do this, you have to know what the end state is you are driving towards.
Point #3 – Put First Things First. Another way of stating this is be intentional. I once posted about how 90% of leadership is preparation and being intentional about thinking through things carefully and thoroughly. Yet all too often the tactical/operational elements of our jobs consume our mind share and energy to the point we sacrifice the strategic.
Point #4 – Think Win-Win. One of the truths about the product management role is we are highly dependent on others to succeed. Without collaboration & trust in these key relationships it is difficult at best to focus on achieving results.
Point #5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. We started with this one. God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth … use proportionately!
Point #6 – Synergize. Ug, this word elicits a negative reaction in my mind. Probably because it is somewhat overused to the point it has become cliche. But the premise it behind it still holds true … the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. I’ve seen small teams move mountains when they are clicking on all cylinders!
Point #7 – Sharpen the Saw. Two thoughts here … the first comes from my post A Not-so-obvious Leadership Perspective. The point I drew made is the health of your team and organization depend on your own health, so keep a balance between your work and your life. I’ve seen it expressed this way as well … devote the time to renewing yourself … physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially.
If you haven’t read the book from Stephen Covey, I’d encourage you to do so. And if you can’t find the time to read the whole book, here is a nice summary of the 7 habits from HubSpot that goes into a bit more depth than I did. Enjoy.