The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Executives: How To Set & Stick To ‘Career Resolutions’

By FPC National - Your Executive Recruiting Partners

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If you’re keen to make this year better than the last year, then you have to change something.

One of our favorite books to read in Q1 is Stephen Covey’s insightful read, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” because it gives you 7 ways to do just that.

As you may know, this book is a classic. It may even be sitting on a shelf in your bookcase right now with its pages prominently highlighted and marked. The advice in this book is so simple and timeless, however, that you can apply it immediately, even if it’s your first time learning about the principles.

Today, we’d like to show you how to master Covey’s 7 Habits in context of your career and create ‘Career Resolutions’ that stick. Mastering these habits will set you on the right track to ensure that your 2016 far exceeds your 2015 in scope and satisfaction.

Here’s what you need to do:


1. Become proactive about your career.

It’s no secret that most successful executives are proactive in their lives and their business. On a day-to-day basis, you may be very proactive when putting out fires before they become blazes and pushing the business’s objectives forward, but what about your career and your life in the bigger picture? As an executive with little time to spend, how do you become proactive in your search for a new job? A new focus?

That’s a whole different ball game.

Consider your current career strategy. If you decided to switch focuses in a few years, or change careers entirely, would you know how to start or where to turn to for support?

The key to remember is that you must become proactive in your relationships and your influence. Form connections with well-networked people and cultivate those relationships in little ways. Buy birthday gifts. Think about their kids. Genuinely care for them and help them feel cared for. When the time comes to make a move, you’ll be ready because you’ve been proactively building these relationships and fostering your network, even if just for a few minutes each week.

Forming those relationships on your own can take months, years, or even decades, but there is a way that you can shortcut the process. Call a local recruiter who specializes in your job or industry. Good recruiters will have those connections built into their networks, but the recruiters who can help you the most will have spent decades cultivating them.

At FPC, we’ve been cultivating our professional network since 1959. In 2016, it now extends to more than 60 offices nationwide that serve more than 40 industries. To find a recruiter that can help you directly, you can get started in minutes by using the search tool right on our website.

If you’ve been looking for a new challenge, more control over your own destiny, or greater rewards for what you do, then be proactive about it. Take the steps that will allow you make those connections on your own or connect with one of our recruiters.


2. Begin your career plan with the end in mind.

Many successful, driven people box themselves in when it comes to their careers.

They push towards goals and past obstacles with such unwavering focus that, when they look up from their work, they don’t recognize where they’ve ended up. Sometimes, the reality is a hard pill to swallow.

That’s why it’s so important to write down - and keep in front of you - the goal you want to achieve with your career, with your work, and with the time you have this year.

The particular goal you choose could range from making more money to having more influence, but the answer that you really need to pinpoint is: what kind of lifestyle would you like to live?

How much would you like to make? Where would you like to live? What kind of work will you do? How about what work won’t you do? Paint yourself a picture and then step back. Figure out how you can move from where you are to where you want to be. Then check in once a month to ensure you’re still on track. One of the best things about this exercise is the realization that your REAL goal is often right in front of you. Often you’ll find that all you really want is the same money, the same work but more time spent with your family.

If you find that the best way to achieve your ideal lifestyle would be to become your own boss, then we invite you to look into becoming a local recruiter. Our recruiters find that this switch gives them greater rewards financially and with their lifestyle as well.


3. Put first things first.

Once you’ve made your goal for this year, you’ll notice an increased sense of motivation. Working towards your goal will be easy, even effortless. However, your motivation will begin to ebb after a week or so. You will be tempted to take shortcuts.

“I really want to spend more time with my family,” you’ll say, “but these extra hours will bring in so much more money. I should stay at the office, instead.”

Resist this temptation!

The secret to achieving lasting success is to put your goal in front of everything else in your life. You must sacrifice everything upon the altar of your dreams.

This means making hard decisions and weighing the opportunity cost of everyday things like overtime, like taking on new projects for lifestyle reasons, like the amount you delegate or let others take control of. This is the critical choice between success and failure. Yet, it’s easy to miss because the sacrifice always seems so small, at the time.

Make it a point to keep your goal at the front of mind and review it every day. Put the first things in your life, first.


4. Look for “Win-Win” opportunities.

As competitive people, we always look for the win. However, our culture teaches us that the win comes at a price: In order for someone to win, someone else has to lose.

Covey teaches us this is not the case. In most situations, our win can help someone else win as well.

In our relationships, we can get what we need in a way that enhances our partner. In our careers, we can get ahead while adding value to the company. In our leadership roles, we can get what we want and bring others along with us as we rise to greater levels of success.

In every problem, you can craft a solution in which your actions create a greater “good” for both parties than if you simply looked out for yourself. The action step here is to look at every problem through the lens of “Win-Win.” How can you move towards your goals in a way that helps everyone else win, as well?

If you think others will benefit from your insight and advice, or if you’re keen to become a mentor, leader or business owner, try signing up as one of our recruiters. You can spend time helping others find the Win-Win for them and be rewarded in the process.


5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

When we’re focused on our goals and what we want, it can be easy to ignore the people around us. However, the hard truth is, we can’t get what we want without other people.

As an executive especially it’s important to understand that the road to what we want goes through other people and that persuasion is paramount in getting what we want.

The secret to persuading others is not flashy language. It’s not fancy semantics. It’s not high pressure or the hard close. The secret is simply understanding the person directly across from you at the table.

When you listen first, you understand what the other party wants and desires. You get him to paint his own future picture for you. Then you see the “Win Win” opportunity which gets you both your dreams.

If you put this Win-Win in front of him, do you think he’ll begrudge you your piece of the pie? Why would he? You’re helping him achieve his painted picture of the future. Instead, you’ll find him happy to help you achieve your dream, too.


6. Synergize

When we merge ideas and people together in innovative new ways, the rewards far exceed the sum total of the two things we originally put together. This is what Stephen Covey calls Synergy.

To give you an example: The drive up window first appeared at local banks. Then McDonalds stole this idea for use at their restaurants. This idea opened the doors not just for windows at restaurants, but also for a multi-billion dollar a year industry that continues to reach far above and beyond the sum of the original ideas.

To put this in terms of your career: You may be brilliant in your field. You may come to the negotiating table with references, achievements, and expertise galore. Even so, the person on the other side of that table may not appreciate or understand how valuable your experience is, and would be, to the success of the business’s objectives.

When this happens, you have two options. You can try to “sell” them on your usefulness, or you can find Synergy. Find a friend who’s in their shoes, knows what they’re looking for, and can guide you in presenting yourself more powerfully to the employer. At the end of the day, your Synergy with this friend will benefit you more in the long run than putting together a powerful pitch.

Our recruiters are great options for a Synergistic connection: Search our recruiters and find someone who can provide Synergy for you. Or consider joining our network of executive recruiters at FPC National. You’ll be able to team up with experts in your field who know your market, understand your motivations and have access to the employers on your target list.


7. “Sharpen the Saw” of your professional life and daily routine.

Although you may feel motivated to take on the world in one go with your new game plan, attempting such a feat all at once would be a mistake. It is the small, consistent steps you take toward your goal each day that will determine how successful you’ll be in achieving it.

Instead of trying to fit everything in at once, set aside an hour or two a day to sharpen the saw. This simply means keeping your skills sharp or making them sharper. Build this sharpening into your daily routine.


Put your plan into action.


Now that you have your Career Resolution written down, planned out and strategized, it’s time to take action. We recommend joining our network of executive recruiters at FPC National. This helps you make connections with experts in your field who know your market, understand your motivations and can help you get where you want to go.

To do that, simply visit our website and let us know the kind of opportunities you’re looking for.

Have a successful 2016!


About the Author

With more than 50 years of experience in executive recruiting, FPC National has grown to become a well-respected executive search firm that operates in more than 40 industries.

We keep our pioneer founder’s entrepreneurial spirit alive with our unique franchise model which has resulted in 60+ independently owned and operated recruitment offices nationwide.

If interested in speaking with one of our executive recruiters about what you’re looking for in the next step of your career, visit our website to find a recruiter in your area or browse the positions that we are currently recruiting for. (On Twitter? Come say hello! @FPCNational)

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