Traits of a Leader

Lighting The Fire Of A Burning Desire: Living The 8th Habit

Lisa Nirell asked:

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, learned that successful people shared 17 common traits. One of those traits was that they shared a “burning desire.”

How many of us work for organizations where that burning desire–or vision that launched the business–resembles a pile of smouldering embers?

Or worse yet, where a clear vision never really existed?

This question surfaced for me while attending a technology conference last May in Los Angeles. The room was filled with nearly 600 professional women. When best-selling author Marcia Wieder asked “how many of you currently have a vision of your future?,” fewer than 20 participants raised their hands.

This surprising incident coincided with my most recent interview with Stephen Covey, best selling author and Vice Chairman of FranklinCovey. His newest book, The 8th Habit, emphasizes the debilitating impact on society when any organization is unable to clearly define their vision (or, as he calls it, “find their voice”).

Covey states that “bureaucratic systems affect organizations deeply. Now that the Internet has put customers in charge, we have no choice but to be resourceful and innovative” with our vision.

Today, innovation and resourcefulness are sorely lacking in America’s Finest City. In October 2002, the San Diego City Council approved a General Plan. The vision was to be “a city that is a thriving metropolis, yet, at its heart, remains a City of Villages.”

Here in San Diego, we are operationally falling very short of realizing that vision. Our municipal pension fund faces a $1.4B shortfall. Current city events are not aligning with the original vision.

This is a great example of how disastrous it can be when your vision is unclear or non-existent. You may be spending more than 10 percent of your time publishing and enforcing policies, procedures, and contracts. You refer to people as “headcount expenses” (translated: “people are things and we treat them like Industrial Age workers) Or, perhaps your current vision statement has become a source of ridicule by your stakeholders.

Thankfully, leaders can take these steps to re-claim that burning desire:

1. Honestly answer this question: What do you (as a person or company) really love doing that fills a genuine need? (remember Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept from Good to Great).

2. Write down how you are regularly leveraging and developing the 4 intelligences of your best people: heart (emotions), spirit (make meaning in our work and lives); body (satisfy basic material needs), and mind (commitment to lifelong learning)?

3. Learn how the rest of the world views your organization. Hire an independent research firm to survey your stakeholders, suppliers and customers. Include these questions:

* Describe an outstanding experience you’ve had with our company…What made it so memorable?

* Who was involved? How did this compare to other experiences you had with this organization? What do you value most about the work you do with this company?

* What values does this firm stand for? What is it that, if it did not exist, would make this organization operate completely differently?

* If you could create the ideal company (in our industry sector), what key elements would it contain?

4. Identify what you are doing every day to reach out and help others find their voice. Wayne Darbeau, Vice President of Administration for the Port of San Diego, knows this isn’t always an easy task for a public service leader. He practices the 8th Habit regularly. Says Darbeau, the Port has spent the last four years “eliminating our arrogance. We listen to the public.”

In addition, several Port leaders are certified in Franklin Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People methodologv – including the CEO. Their vision is woven throughout every hiring, training and development system. This includes weekly orientation meetings where CEO Hollingsworth explains it to new hires.

The Port’s survey results speak for themselves. From 2001-2004, job satisfaction for their employees grew from 70% to 76%. From 1998-2004, employees who felt they were appreciated for the work they do increased from 44% to 70%. Says Darbeau, “People respect our process. It’s inclusive, collaborative, and shows a high commitment to public service.”

Summer is a great time to take your vision for a sail. You may like the outcome-even if you hit a swell or two.

copyright 2007, Lisa Nirell

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