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Advice Blog

11 Ways To Become Highly Effective [Part II]

7. If you want to be truly effective, always “Put First Things First.”

If you want to proactively influence your situation in life, and you have a clear goal in mind, you need good habits which will help you translate these aims into actions.

A mission or vision can only become a reality if you really live by it from day to day.

This requires a significant degree of time management. Most time-management techniques work only on increasing efficiency, and not on improving effectiveness. What is more, they very often put strain on relationships, and are actually counterproductive in the long-term.

Most of the time it is sufficient simply to remember the little maxim: "first things first."

"First things first" means rigorously prioritizing: the important things are taken care of, the less important things are put to one side and then delegated or dealt with later.

How can we tell which things are important? The things which are important are those which bring us closer to our final goals, and those which are consistent with our mission statement – our values and our norms.

This therefore does not include those numerous pressing little tasks we are faced with in everyday life. Rather, the important things are those projects and tasks which might not be temporally pressing, but are part of our larger vision and have a considerable effect in the long-term.

In order to be able to dedicate yourself to these crucial tasks, you have to learn when to say yes, and when to say no. Even if we have a burning desire to say yes, we should also be able to say no when the thing we’ve been asked to do contributes nothing to the achievement of our long-term goals.

8. “Think Win-Win” to get your share of the cake and build lasting relationships at the same time.

Most people are intrinsically shaped by the "win-lose" paradigm. They see every situation as a competition, and others as competitors in the battle for the biggest slice of the cake.

The majority of situations in life, however, don’t need to be a competition. There is usually enough cake for everyone, and it is far better when all parties work towards a "win-win" solution.

Because the major disadvantage of the "win-lose" mentality is that when two people of this mentality come up against each other, the situation more often than not becomes a "lose-lose" one. Both parties lose, whilst meanwhile the dog gets the cake, which has been knocked onto the floor in the argument.

Furthermore, it is impossible for a positive relationship to form between two people who are constantly in competition with each other. Being able to build lots of positive relationships with different people is, by contrast, one of the major benefits of the "win-win" way of thinking.

That's because the ability to form good relationships with others is a real asset and the basis of true effectiveness.

The win–win mentality is one which always strives to find a solution which is desirable to all parties. It requires a change in thinking from "I need to make sure I get my piece of the cake" to "There’s enough cake there for everyone."

This means that it is necessary to keep negotiating and communicating until a solution is found which is desirable to all parties. This is not an easy task and requires both sensitivity and patience.

The result, however, is a lasting positive relationship and the creation of mutual trust, from which all parties can profit.

9. Forming stable relationships with others means investing in emotional bank accounts.

Each relationship is like a kind of emotional bank account which records exactly how much each person has invested in it.

The greater the balance, the greater trust exists between the parties.

To this end, you should aim to make regular payments and withdraw money only rarely from the account.

A payment can be, for example, finding a win-win solution, sticking to a promise you made, or really listening empathetically to the other person.

A withdrawal, on the other hand, would be finding a win–lose solution, breaking a promise, or only half-listening to the other person.

Once you have reached the maximum balance in your account, you should aim to understand the needs and mission statement of the other person, and to invest also in these.

That's why, in everyday life, it is vitally important to always keep promises, and to be courteous and sensitive even in small matters while, above all, remaining loyal.

If it happens that you make a withdrawal from the account one time, you should apologize sincerely. People are more than happy to forgive a repentant sinner. Plucking up the courage to admit you were wrong is therefore always worthwhile.

10. If you want to be able to influence others, “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.”

How much would we trust a doctor who very quickly gave a diagnosis without having really listened to us at all?

How helpful would it be for an optician to merely hand us his own glasses, claiming that since he can see fine with them, they should work for us too?

Though most of us might be critical of such behavior, we actually behave very similarly in everyday life, particularly in conversation with others. We don’t really listen, and instead formulate our response extremely quickly. We tend to project ourselves onto the other person and look for solutions we can "prescribe" for them.

In general, such advice is seldom well-received, since we are only likely to trust the judgment of another if we feel they really understand our situation.

If you want to be good with people, and to be respected as a listener and as an imparter of advice, you need to develop the skill of empathetic listening.

This in itself necessitates a change of paradigm: not "I’m listening so that I can provide an answer," but rather "I’m listening so that I can really understand the person next to me."

Empathetic listening means active listening: repeating back to the person what they’ve said in your own words, mirroring their emotions and helping them to structure their own thought processes.

It takes time and effort to master this skill at the beginning, but the rewards will be numerous later on. If you learn to listen in a truly empathetic way, you will notice that many people are quite prepared to open up and to consider your opinions and advice. They merely require a good, appreciative listener to be able to do so.

11. “Synergize” by treating others with openness and respect.

Examples of synergy can be seen all around us in nature. The contributions of many add up to a total which far exceeds the contribution of any individual.

A person who is truly effective will make use of this principle in their personal and work life.

Synergy with others means valuing differences and being open with one another. Each of us sees the world through an individual perspective. Each of us has particular strengths. And it is possible, through the use of shared resources, to compensate for individual weaknesses.

Achieving this means overcoming your need for structure and security, and starting to see your interactions with others as an adventure. You should view the outcome of that adventure as being utterly under your control, and embrace it with complete openness.

This requires a significant degree of self-confidence on the part of the individual, as well as the conviction that the combined contribution of each party can lead to something great, something far better than could be produced by an individual.

When people really synergize, they listen to each other, they put themselves in each other’s shoes and they use the contributions of others as a springboard to create something great.

For this atmosphere of cooperation and trust to exist, the individuals in a group have to be very mature, prepared to treat each other with respect and to invest in their working relationships.

The results are almost impossible to predict, and synergetic work can often come close to chaos. But you mustn’t let yourself be discouraged by this. Instead, you must focus on the fact that, by the end, you will have reached a result which would have been unachievable by an individual.