Teach a Man to Fish '

Leadership guru urges retailers to embrace employees ' talents to reap greater rewards

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

SAN ANTONIO -- He has taught world leaders, heads of business and even Native American tribal chiefs how to create progressive internal cultures, but the lessons Dr. Stephen Covey shared with convenience retailers at the closing session of CSP's 2008 Convenience Retailing Conference were essentially the same: The best way to learn is to teach. "If you really want to impact people inside your operations, teach them what you've learned at this conference, and have them responsible for teaching others," said Covey.

Covey, co-founder and vice president of business training specialist FranklinCovey, [image-nocss] Salt Lake City, and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, told attendees that many employers continue to use outdated, entrenched models in structuring their organization.

Even though we are living in the Information/Knowledge Worker Age—where employees ' greatest impact on business is thanks to their talents and smarts—many companies are still governing with management techniques forged during the Industrial Age. In this archaic parlance, people are referred to as and considered expenses, and tools such as computers are assets.

Covey argued that in order to be flexible enough to compete in this globalized world and the increasingly changing competition, businesses need to consider trading in the traditional hierarchical corporate structure for one built on teams, where individual employees ' weaknesses are balanced by their colleagues ' strengths, and vice versa.

"Leaders need to embrace the full person paradigm," said Covey, referring to the concept that each human has four components to their self: the mind, body, heart and spirit. "Neglect any one of those four parts, and you turn the person into a thing, and need to control things to manage them," also known as the carrot-and-stick approach to motivation.

"You can buy my hand, but not my heart," Covey said. "People volunteer their heart."

By addressing all of these four human facets, a business will be rewarded with employees' heart and their investment in the company and its mission.

One means to get greater involvement is by following the four imperatives of great leaders: inspire trust, which speaks to the spirit; clarify purpose by including employees in the process of creating goals and solving problems; align systems by measuring what you say is important; and speak to the heart by unleashing employees' talents.

The end result: Leadership is spread throughout the entire organization, and everyone takes responsibility for accomplishing goals, said Covey.

This mindset requires discipline, and realigning your priorities. Most people are caught up in addressing things that are urgent but, in the long run, not important; the goal is to focus on those things that are important but not urgent.

In essence, it is akin to allowing principals to guide your priorities rather than money or other traditional drivers.

"You don 't want to climb the economic ladder of success and realize you're leaning against the wrong wall," Covey said. “The more you become principal-centered, the more you can deal with change."