Seek first to understand, then to be understood.


Stephen R. Covey‘s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, first published over 20 years ago continues to influence many people and help us all become more effective.  In 2010, Covey formed a partnership with the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence  strengthening the awareness of successful principles-based organizations

I have great respect and interest in what The Shingo Prize has been doing and in the transformational work underway at the Huntsman School of Business,” Covey said. “Companies that have implemented principles taught by The Shingo Prize have made dramatic and measurable progress in achieving operational excellence.”

Of the 7 habits mentioned in the book, perhaps the one that resonates most with me is number 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”    To a lean thinker, this habit forms the basis for following the principles of “Lead with Humility” and “Respect for every Individual”.  This is not a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge.

To “Lead with Humility” means we must admit that we don’t know it all.  My father told me long ago, “the more you learn, the more you’ll find out you don’t know.” 

Did you ever go from feeling like a genius one moment,  to feeling like you just don’t get it in the next moment?  When talking with a group of like-minded thinkers, the discussion just seems to flow and everyone is nodding their heads in agreement – sometimes jumping in to finish each other’s thoughts. 

Leaving this familiar place and go into areas where our subject matter knowledge isn’t as developed can sometimes feel over-whelming.  Change always comes with an anxious dilemma.  How do I share what I know without coming across as a know-it-all, yet still influence the direction of a group when they are struggling to find their way?  Welcome to the world of continuous improvement. 

As lean practitioners know, the hardest part of our job is to balance our desire to just do it, versus our desire to teach others how to do it.  We are sought out for our expertise, yet it is the lean leaders job to leverage the expertise of the people currently doing the job.   To be able to lead people to where they need to be by asking questions, rather than providing answers is one of the most satisfying aspects of the change management process.

Transitioning from manufacturing to healthcare has been a great learning experience for me.   There has been a lot of observing, listening, asking questions and where appropriate some talking.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead some great teams that have yielded very good results.  I’ve also been disappointed when I’ve transitioned off of projects and the team’s old behaviors resurface and the initial gains slowly start to evaporate.  This is usually because not enough work took place upfront to understand the culture of the team.  The work required to change the culture of a group by leading them out of their comfort zone to one of continuous improvement is always harder than changing a work process itself.

As I continue to seek to understand the field of healthcare and lend my expertise to making things better, there is a constant balancing act.   A thought shared by fellow bloggers,  Matt Wyre and Tim McMahon .  At times it is exhilarating, others times, totally frustrating.  In times of frustration, I often turn to this poem that I first came across in one of my MBA text books on organizational development. 

   In Broken Images
by Robert Graves

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and clear in my broken images.

He, in a new confusion of his understanding;
I, in a new understanding of my confusion.

—————————————————————-

http://www.linkedin.com/in/timpettry
Follow me on Twitter: @valuesstreamldr

 

Advertisements

, ,

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: