With gratitude to Dr Stephen R Covey for his inspirational book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Dr Stephen R Covey (1932 – 2012) has been (and continues to be) a major influence in the field of leadership and interpersonal/ organisational dynamics. His book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ became a blueprint for personal development when first published in 1990. Covey’s ‘habits’ are, perhaps, even be more applicable today as the business world becomes increasingly attuned to the value of having empowered employees working productively within a values-based culture – as opposed to the process-based ideologies that characterised ‘directorial’ management thinking in earlier times. The ‘7 Habits’ are straight forward and easy to understand – but take some self discipline to apply. I would encourage you to take on the challenge. This remarkable set of inspirational and aspirational standards is for anyone who seeks to live a full, purposeful, and positive life.
Habit 1 – Be proactive
This is the ability to control one’s environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances.
Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind
This is the habit of personal leadership – leading oneself that is; towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.
Habit 3 – Put first things first
This is the habit of personal management. This is about organising and implementing activities in line with the aims established in Habit 2. Covey says that Habit 2 is the first or mental creation; Habit 3 is the second or physical creation – highly dependent upon effective time management skills.
Habit 4 – Think win-win
Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.
Habit 5 – Seek first to understand and then to be understood
One of the great maxims of the modern age. This is Covey’s habit of communication, and it’s extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy ‘diagnose before you prescribe’. Simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life.
Habit 6 – Synergise
Covey says this is the habit of creative co-operation – the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person’s contribution.
Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw
This is the habit of self renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: the spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing.
At the end of the day, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits are a simple set of guidelines for life – inter-related and synergistic, and yet each one powerful and worthy of adopting and following in its own right. For many people (me included) reading Covey’s work, and/or listening to him speak has been, quite literally, a life changing experience. He has undoubtedly been one of the single most powerful influences in my life – and in my coaching. Thank you Stephen, you have left the world an amazing legacy. Kieron