Perils of misinterpretation

Many of us in the corporate world have heard of Stephen Covey and his first book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. It’s a landmark book in many ways and an all time favourite of mine. I have recommended that book to many people, Krishnan and I had two study-groups around it and I quote from it often. Infact I have a mini training on it that I have repeated often with several groups.

When people come to me with time management issues, one of the remedies I prescribe is the prioritization teaching that is in “Seven Habits” about putting in the big rocks first and the gravel and sand will anyway fit in. The teaching is get to the most important things first and dont waste time on the unimportant and non-urgent, they will get done anyway. I personally apply that always by figuring out what is the one or two big priorities for the day/week and get to them first, before the email-email game starts and a busy non-productive day goes by.

I recently came across a misinterpretation of the above leading to demotivation !! One of my mentee had picked this up and applied it to her team without providing any context… The goals didnt get set, but she would ask her team members to fill out a daily time sheet of big rocks, medium rocks, small rocks and gravel …. Little realising that her team was planning to literally collect a few of these and dump it on her head !! Prioritisation is not about a time sheet and filling out a time sheet of to-do’s may get your team nowhere. What’s important is for everyone to understand what the team’s priorities are and then let each person do it in their style. There may be some who don’t understand the priorities or are not bought into them, spend the time to explain, debate and convince or get convinced. Then again as a manager let each person find their way to reach the goal… Forcing “one” way will demotivate and so will filling out an inane time sheet.

Am writing this with her permission so others may benefit from her experience. She has rectified her approach and the team is coming around.. They got it the minute context was provided. So happy ending in a difficult situation.

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