My first job out of college was at a boutique search and recruitment firm in Atlanta called Rowland Mountain and Associates. The firm’s founder and one of my most profound mentors, Russ Mountain, introduced me to the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. It’s been a forever favorite, professional foundation, and a guiding principle on how I approach work, managing people, and life.
Covey talks about the following “Seven Habits”: 1) Be Proactive, 2) Begin with the end in mind, 3) Put first things first, 4) Think Win-Win, 5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood, 6) Synergize, and 7) Sharpen the Saw. As I’ve grown as a recruiter and TA leader over the last 15+ years, I continually rely on ALL of these principles. At RMA, I was a kid out of college working on 100% commission after having moved to a new city. I was a sponge for knowledge and wanted to learn how to succeed in this cool field of recruiting. I landed with a gem of a firm because Russ and his team taught me to be the human first. Getting the business is important, but only if it’s good business. Placing the candidate is important, yet only if it’s the right match.
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Putting the habits to work
I started managing people more than 10 years ago at Turner, after I had left the nest of RMA. Habit #5, Seek first to understand has been key. There are always two sides to a situation or story. I’ve learned to hear everything before choosing the right course of action. It’s taught me to be fair and has helped me gain trust. Within this section of the book, Covey talks about a man on the subway whose children are running around being noisy and disruptive to other passengers. People are clearly annoyed, yet the father just sits silently. The reason: he’s just lost his wife. People on the train have no idea this is what’s happened, but it’s a clear example of the paradigm shift when new information is introduced. I’ve always remembered this and many other parts of this book.
Habit #4, Think Win-Win has always applied to negotiations for me. I learned early on to spend the time up front understanding what’s important to both sides (client and candidate). Once the match is established, I really work to get to the win-win. If the client sees that he/she is getting the right person, it’s up to us as recruiters to help them see the value in a sometimes creative offer. A new hire coming in the door excited and with no reservations is coming in at 110%. We advocate for both our candidates as well as our clients. The win-win philosophy gets us there.
Habit #3, Put first things first taught me a lot about prioritization. Covey explains that important and urgent tasks should be prioritized first. Last on the scale are unimportant tasks that are not urgent. This applies holistically to our business. One of the key goals of my team is creating the best possible candidate experience. Therefore, response time and tackling tasks that get us to that greater good are both important and urgent. It’s a practice that helps manage each day.
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A good reminder for me personally and professionally has been Habit #7, Sharpen the Saw. Here Covey talks about sharpening all parts of yourself: both physical and mental. Running is my time to clear my mind and re-energize. It’s when some of my best and most creative ideas are generated. Training sessions, classes, anything that helps me learn new things feeds my brain. Both of these activities feed my soul - in essence sharpening my saw for whatever challenges are before me.
Lastly, Habit # 2, Begin with the end in mind, reminds me each day to focus on who I want to be, remember what’s important, and bring my human self to my everyday work. I’ve discovered that if you share first, people will share with you. I’ve learned to be willing to be open about who I am and what I think. it builds trust and close relationships. It also follows my everyday moto which is “Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.”
This book has been an incredible tool for me. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
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