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Leading During Turmoil

Managing in Turbulent Times: How to Survive and Thrive Using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

But as Jennifer Colosimo of FranklinCovey explains, you and your organization can persevere through these turbulent times by focusing on certain habits that build resiliency and effectiveness, not only in the short-term, but into the future.

Jennifer Colosimo
Jennifer Colosimo

Jennifer is the President of the Enterprise Division with FranklinCovey, a global, public company, specializing in organizational performance improvement that helps organizations achieve results that require lasting changes in human behavior. Delta ModTech is teaming up with the firm to further enhance the capabilities and skill set of our workforce by utilizing FranklinCovey solutions.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

You may recognize the “Covey” in the company name, as it’s the name of one of FranklinCovey’s founders, the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey. He was the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the most highly regarded business and personal development books of all time.

Jennifer worked with Dr. Covey for 16 years, and is the only person to have co-authored a book with him: Great Work, Great Career: How to Create Your Ultimate Job and Make an Extraordinary Contribution.

Drawing upon the lessons from both of these books, as well as her past and current work with FranklinCovey, Jennifer shared some invaluable insights with me on how to persevere and grow through these trying times.

Working side-by-side with a business legend

As a child, one of Jennifer’s biggest influences was her grandfather, a farmer and large animal veterinarian. “He showed me the value of hard work, having integrity and being civically engaged,” Jennifer said.

She would apply those values throughout her career, from her early days at Accenture, to when she eventually met and became a protégé of Dr. Covey in 1996.

“Our relationship began as I would see him at events and talk with him,” Jennifer said. “Based on those conversations and the many roles I had in leading teams and serving our clients, Stephen became a mentor to me, and I became his co-author.”

Dr. Stephen Covey
Dr. Stephen Covey

While Dr. Covey passed away in 2012, his habits-based approach is universal and timeless in nature. In Jennifer’s current role as President of the Enterprise Division at FranklinCovey, she continues to apply his philosophy, personally and professionally, particularly in these difficult times.

Focus on Your Circle of Influence

2020 will definitely be a year to remember as being tumultuous. And 2021 looks like it will be a roller-coaster ride as well.

With so many macro-events happening simultaneously, it is stressful. But what can you truly do about it? Jennifer said some of these events are part of your “Circle of Concern.” 

“They’re of great concern, but you have little or no control over them. Focusing on these things minimizes the impact you can have on things you can control.

Circle of InfluenceImagine two circles, one inside another. The outside circle is the Circle of Concern. It contains things we can do little or nothing about, as they’re outside our influence. The inside circle is the Circle of Influence. It contains things we can do something about.

Spending our time in the Circle of Concern shrinks our Circle of Influence. But if we focus on things we can influence, our Circle of Influence starts to increase. We’re more effective. Our results depend upon where we keep our focus.

Leaders help their team to focus on what’s inside their “Circle of Influence,” things they can impact, which leads to positive outcomes and results. Relationships improve, employees are engaged in meaningful work and feel valued.

So many industries have been impacted by outside forces this year. This includes everything from modifications in operations, to supply chain disruption, challenges in finding and keeping labor (COVID), to name a few.

So much radical change at once is difficult to accept, especially when there isn’t a simple solution. Acknowledging that change is a must.

“We need to say, ‘Yes, supply chains are being disrupted. Digital transformation is going way faster than we thought. And, tracking employee health on the manufacturing floor is tough. But let’s focus on what we’re going to do to adjust,’” Jennifer explained.

Make a choice to be effective

Being effective is all about choosing to take the initiative. However, that choice rests with the individual.

Jennifer Colosimo

“As leaders, we can create the conditions for effectiveness, but I can’t force someone on my team to become effective.”


While you can’t always control outside events or individual decisions within your company, you can choose how you function as a leader, which in turn assists your team in handling change.   

Challenging times define leaders, and Jennifer believes it’s important to imagine how you want to be remembered during these times. Deciding how you want people to regard your current leadership will help you deliver on your intent.

“For example, remember that your staff is under a lot of pressure in today’s world, so there are times you may need to temper your expectations,” said Jennifer.

Adapt the correct mindset and the results will follow

Every industry has been forced to adapt and innovate at a pace like no other. Having the correct mindset is essential, as it can help or hinder you in tough times.

Jennifer agrees: “Adapt your mindset first, to get the results you need. Creating new systems, processes, and products takes great creativity and the ability to work well with others. Having the right mindset and skill set will give you optimal results.”

For example, becoming a better listener will change how you interact with people and improve your relationships. You’ll understand different perspectives, increase collaboration and improve innovation. 

Are you listening? Empathy is different than sympathy.

Because our industry has had to adapt so rapidly, decision making has had to happen on the fly. This frenetic pace leaves little time for course correction.

Habit #5: “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood” means listening empathically to others. However, there tends to be misunderstanding as to what listening with empathy actually means.

Jennifer Colosimo

“Empathy often gets confused with sympathy. But it’s really about having the ability to truly understand the thoughts or feelings of others – from their perspective.”


For example, you’re in a meeting where a fellow engineer has a proposal on the table to address a challenge brought about by our current environment. You immediately think she’s headed in the wrong direction, but you can feel her passion for her solution. She’s invested on an emotional level.

Instead of dismissing the entire proposal and sharing what you think is the right direction to take, use empathy to understand her thought process.

Consider why she’s so certain it’s the right call? What inspired her to develop this solution? Are there components of her proposal that can help the overall problem?

This type of listening happens without interruption, judgment or formulating thoughts or a response while your engineer is sharing. The next step is to mirror back exactly what she shared, to her satisfaction. By doing so, she’ll know you have heard and understood her communication, but more importantly, her intent.

“This process works, even in discussions on the most jugular issues,” Jennifer said. “Influence with others comes when we are open to being influenced by them and they feel deeply and sincerely understood.”

This process may seem like it takes more time. But in the end, it actually saves time. 

Sharpen your Saw to Stay Positive and Persevere

We asked Jennifer how she’s personally staying positive and persevering. Besides following the habits listed above, she’s also taking time for herself to “Sharpen the Saw.”

“Sharpen the Saw” is Habit #7 in Dr. Covey’s book. Here’s what it means:

Imagine yourself walking in the woods. You approach a man working feverishly to saw down a tree. The man is exhausted. He tells you he’s been working for over five hours, but making little progress.

You suggest he take a break and sharpen his saw for better results. He responds, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. I’m too busy sawing!”

Sharpening your saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have. You. It’s about continuous improvement and renewal in the four dimensions of your nature: 

  • Physical (exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep) 
  • Spiritual (spending time in nature, meditation, contribution)
  • Mental (reading, learning new skills, taking a class)
  • Social / Emotional (meaningful connections in key relationships) 

Jennifer combines some of these by getting together with friends for a daily workout on Zoom. 

“We chat for five minutes and then work out together,” Jennifer said. “It helps me stay balanced and alleviate stress and tension. That’s why I show up, even when I don’t have time. I absolutely know it helps. Especially this year!”

Jennifer suggests setting a goal in each of the four areas on a weekly basis and scheduling time to work on them.

“You don’t have to set or achieve a goal in every area. Simply work toward achieving something that is meaningful to you and provides you with satisfaction,” she said.

What Leadership? 

We’re all leaders, whether it’s leading a company, a team, or just yourself. We all are called upon to lead. And that need has never been greater than it is today.

But leadership isn’t about a prominent title, always telling others what to do, or delivering empty rah-rah speeches, which ring hollow.

It doesn’t mean that you promise your people that ‘everything will be okay,’ as no one has those types of guarantees in life, especially after experiencing 2020.

Instead, Jennifer recommends you assure your team that, “We will make it through all of this.”  

“You don’t always get to choose your circumstances, but you do have a choice in how you choose your response to what happens,” she said.

The ability to become such a leader is a choice that any person can make. It all starts with you.


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