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Seek first to understand, then to be understood


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Habit #5 in Stephen Covey’s world-renowned book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’. We believe this is a vital lesson to remember. When leading others, you will be looking to create a vision and to engage, enable and energise people to successfully fulfil that vision. However, those people need to believe in you as a leader before they are open to understanding your vision and willing to work towards it.


They will first ask themselves, ‘Do I feel that this person cares about me enough to keep me safe and happy?’, then they’ll require a positive answer BEFORE they will be willing to entertain the thought of what you want to achieve.


For people to believe in you, there is a need to create the trust and empathy that are critical to your relationship. Listen to the person you intend to lead so that you understand them, not simply so you can respond to them. Without this, you might be able to create a transactional relationship where people will compliantly do things because they are asked or because it’s their job, but in such circumstances it is very unlikely they will be fully engaged and on board.


To truly win their hearts and minds, build trust and demonstrate empathy. Seek first to understand. Only then will you be given the time and attention to be understood; to explain the logic behind your vision and how you, collectively, will make it happen.


Our Performance Leadership Foundations online course guides you through the highly successful Leadership Flywheel to provide a repeatable framework that supports and enhances your leadership practice. The course will help you build the foundations of effective leadership across your whole organisation.


The online course is available for as little as £45 per person as a self-managed programme. You can find out more about Performance Leadership Foundations here.

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