Front Row Access is a Microsoft internal SMSG (Sales, Marketing & Services Group) event organized to bring industry recognized leaders to provide an opportunity for employees to learn & build critical skills. Yesterday's speaker was Dr. Stephen Covey, an icon among motivational speakers who talked about leadership, management, productivity in the workplace, and the values of family and a happy home life.

 

J.D. Meier & I exchanged notes after the presentation. He did a brain dump in great detail & easily consumable bit sized nuggets. I don’t want to regurgitate J.D’s notes; however, here are my key takeaways on key skills required for current and next generation:

 

·         Seeking the third Alternative – the emphasis here is Not about agreeing or disagreeing - but to understand. He gave a powerful tool (a question) to try during conversation deadlock – Would you be willing to seek for a solution that is better than what either one of us have proposed?  
Many in the audience questioned about the practicality of WIN-WIN agreements in a highly competitive & performance oriented organizations. He gave wide range of examples and anecdotes (from abortion issues, environmental issues to intern continental issues in united nations) to illustrate why his principles, simple-tools are so effective, proven and applicable across the board.  He said, it is not going to be easy to implement them. It will take time, commitment & persistence to put them in practices.  
He emphasized the important and difference between Telling vs. Involving.  Telling – is giving the solution, Involving – let the solution come within.  Telling worked well in industrial age (Boss telling an employee what to do); however, in knowledge Worker Age it is critical to involve workers/dependent-teams in the problem & work up the solution together.  The forces are stronger & against you when you try to operate independently, in a dependent world.

·         Empathic listening – Talk less, listen more.  Listen with others frame of reference. Empathize before you present.  Demonstrate deep integrity that you truly care for the other person’s opinion. Have an abundance mentality & always promote a synergistic solution to the problem.  He said communication is the no# one skill to master in life. So, good communication starts with empathic listening.

·         Continuous learning – I am big fan of lifelong learning. He emphasized the need for continuous learning & sharpening the saw.  He showed a video that illustrated how mankind had to let go off old practices & go-through intense learning process moving from Hunter-&-Gather age to a farmer age.  It is critical to let go of industrial age practices, and start adopting and preparing for the knowledge worker age.  

 

What struck me the most was Dr. Covey’s ability to convey principles, practical tools and techniques draw from real world experiences.  He came across as someone who always had simple answers to complex problems in today’s world.