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Jans Corner: Steven R Covey and individuals who make a difference

In many organisations an individual can be viewed as a little easily replaceable cog in a large machine. He or she can apparently hardly make any difference and that’s how many employees relate to their jobs.

I often see enthusiastic people who have great ideas, see great possibilities, and are eager to share their insights with other in their team or organisation. Yet they get stopped by the questions that might go something like this: “Who am I to think I change anything? Can I have any significant and lasting impact? I’m just an employee or a manager, I’m not a major decision maker. I am just a name in the box on the third, fifth, n-th level of the organisational chart. Who would even listen to me?”

Indeed, the power of the individual in companies – large or small – is greatly underestimated and underutilised. Mostly by the individuals themselves. They frequently look more at what they view they cannot change by their decisions and actions rather than what they can already influence now, however small it may seem.

18 years ago, there was one person who inspired me to think differently. It was Steven R. Covey through his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Instead of thinking I can’t make a difference, I realised that I cannot not make a difference – if I focus on the right people and actions, and if I take the initiative. Ever since, I have studied and applied Dr. Covey’s thinking and principles and have been amazed by the impact of proactive empowered individuals in the interconnected world of business.

A regular employee will not be able to change the organisational strategy or culture but can greatly change his or her effectiveness and the contribution he has to others around him. By understanding them and their pressures and aspirations, by knowing oneself and learning to add value to others where it counts and where it makes a difference to their effectiveness, success and experience. The difference of us stepping up and taking on this personal leadership, however small our circle of influence might be gradually yet palpably leaves a mark around us. It engages our own vision and talent in service to others and only requires the willingness to start wherever one is and a little patience along the way.

A team or department managers can step up in a similar fashion. Slowly, proactively focus on adding more or better value to other departments and making them more effective and successful. The same spirit of service and empowerment applies. It doesn’t require others to change. It only demands the willingness to adjust to contribute better and more. One can start with question like:

:: What is our value to the other departments and how can we increase it or provide it better or more effectively?

:: How can we best leverage what the others bring to the table in our work so that we are all more successful as an organisation?

Often, small things make the biggest difference.

Ultimately, organisations are a lot less like machines with moving parts and more like organisms consisting of highly interdependent living organs and cells where each one has a great responsibility to and impact on the whole.

Rather then doubting our ability to make a difference, I invite you to consider the impact you are already making and proactively, intentionally and gradually grow it. Remember, you cannot not make a difference.

Steven R. Covey passed away recently but his legacy lives and so it his inspiring message for the workplace and life. So live, love, learn and leave a legacy – and watch the difference you make in the relationships and results… at home and, yes, at work, too.

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