First things first – Yes! – But how?

Author: Anders Christian Hjort

“Always focus your mind and actions on the wildly important that will bring the outcomes you strive for in your life”

What are the top priorities you should act on every day?

What will make your reputation and legacy shine as the magnificent human being you are?

“First things first”
we learned from Steven Covey many years ago in his books: 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People.

The book was based on guiding principles that will help you succeed in life. I found guidance and liked his books a lot.

Steven Covey illustrated that by putting in the big rocks in the “Jar of life” first, and the fill in the minor stones thereafter to get your priorities right.

This morning this illustration was enhanced even further in a Facebook update from one of my friends, and with a humorous twist:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles roll
ed into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

But how do you do that real life?

How do you transform these guiding principles into you own action?

Now you know the “What to do”

But what about the “How to do it?”

How will you actually play your role to create and capture the values of an outstanding relationship: be it a farther, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, spouse, friend, boss, colleague etc.?

What I have learned?
From personal experience both as a father and husband having 3 kids and 2 cats, and in my professional career, working with great people in change management projects at major multinationals for many years;

Bringing this to life needs is not easy However having insights on the key verbal behaviours needed to achieve better outcomes interacting with other people becomes wildly important, if you want to succeed with speed.

What behavioural research tells us?
At Huthwaite International we have studied and observed verbal behaviours on a scientific level for 40 years this summer, originally initiated by professor and sales guru Neil Rackhams. Neil and his research team did rigorous research observing thousands of people interacting in various settings using Verbal Behaviour Analysis. Results were amazing – The innovative approach and evidence found disrupted the world of sales and delighted multinational clients all over the world – and still does based on the ongoing behavioural research we still do every day at Huthwaite. Today our Interactive Skill Database holds more than 45.000 observations and growing.

Interactive Skills.
Being Behavioural Change Experts at Huthwaite International, we know in specific detail how people interact, and what the very best do differently compared to their average peers. Both on how create and capture value, and how to build a high value sustainable relationship.

Observing people interact in meetings we found a subset of 11 verbal behaviours that will help you interact more effectively in your conversations, not only in meetings, but also in sales, service calls and negotiations.

We found that a balanced use of these behaviours will influence the participants perceptions of the quality of outcomes and effectiveness of these conversations.

Here are some examples of effective verbal behaviours from our research look like:

Proposing: “I suggest that we…”
Supporting: “That’s ok with me…”
Testing Understanding: “Are you saying that…”

So my point here is that even outstanding guiding principles, standardised and best practice processes, and structured approaches will help you get your actions prioritised and structured right and that’s off course good. Like when doing “first things first”

And action!
However, when the rubber meets the road people meet people and interact effectively or Ineffectively, behaving appropriate or inappropriate ways, good or bad outcomes and results of those interactions follows, and you need to adjust fast.

So achieving better outcomes faster you will need to focus on the behaviours executed more specifically.

Do you like the results you get now? Keep on doing what your doing now.

If you don’t, you can get the results you want faster by knowing what behaviours to apply and how you do that.

John Ruskin puts it in another way:

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.

And at Huthwaite International we add:

“- and how well we do it”

Change Behaviour. Change Results.



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