The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

March 8th, 2013 by Martin Smith Leave a reply »

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Book Image

Stephen Covey wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,  arguably one of the most influential business and self-help books in 1989. Since then the Seven Habit model of management and leadership has become a must read book for all who aspire to be better at what they do, be it managing a team or leading a business or simply running their life more effectively. Covey argues that any effective self-help programme must begin with an “inside-out” approach, rather than looking at our problems “being out there”. We must start by examining our own character, our own thinking, behaviour and motives.

The Seven Habits are:

  1. Be proactive®
    Take responsibility for your life. As Covey says “You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents” Proactive people recognise that they are “Response-able”. They know that they choose their behaviour or their response to circumstance or events. Proactive people make the decision to improve their lives through the things they can control and influence rather than simply reacting to external forces.
  2. Begin with the end in mind® (aka the leadership habit)
    This means that you need to imagine ‘see’ your desired outcome (goal, objective, vision) and then focus on activities that will move you towards it. Begin each day, task or project with a clear vision of the desired outcome. Covey describes this as the wall you decide to lean your ladder against. Your vision or goal can be anything, but it needs to inspire you and your team to want to achieve it and start taking the necessary steps towards it.
  3. Put first things first® (aka the management habit)
    This habit happens day in and day out, moment by moment, it deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management but that’s not all. First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. Managers need to personally manage themselves and focus on activities which contribute towards Habit 2. Covey says that Habit 2 is the first or mental creation; Habit 3 is the second or physical creation. Be the role model for the change that you want to create, you can’t expect your staff to change if you won’t!
  4. Think win/win®
    This, is perhaps, the most important aspect of interpersonal leadership for a Highly Effective person. It recognises that there are benefits to being “in it for the long game” rather than making short term wins. Most business and private relationships are best nurtured over time in order to see real benefits. As Covey says; “Win/win is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To achieve win/win you not only have to be empathic, you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave.”  In other words; what’s in for you? what’s in it for me? – what is our motivating factor to achieve the vision. It’s about working together for mutual benefit to achieve the vision.
  5. Seek first to understand, then be understood®
    Communication is the most important skill in life. To do it well requires the skill of listening. Covey says that; ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply!’ Effective managers learn to diagnose before they prescribe, so listen hard, with a view to understanding what the other person is actually saying then pause to think before you respond.
  6. Synergise®
    This is the habit of creative cooperation – It works on the basis of teamwork or the principle that collaboration often achieves more than could be achieved by individuals working alone. Valuing difference is what drives synergy. Differences should be seen as strengths not weaknesses. So learn from and share with others rather than seeing yourself in isolation, you’ll likely achieve better results.
  7. Sharpen the saw® (aka the habit of self-renewal)
    Means making the time to step back from the usual day to day action for personal renewal. Its about focusing on your own growth, development, wellbeing and learning in order for you to keep on being Highly Effective.  Learning from your previous experiences and encouraging others to do the same keeps you fresh. Covey sees development as one of the most important aspects in being able to cope with future challenges and aspiring to higher levels of performance and ability.

Stephen Covey’s principles are protected intellectual property. Some phrases on this blog are registered trade marks belonging to Stephen Covey

Martin Smith Learning and Development Ltd is a specialist consultancy working with leaders at all levels to improve their relationships with the people that they interact with both internally and externally to the company. We work with organisations, teams and individuals to identify how they can get the best from their people. We have experience spanning diverse industries and encompassing sectors such as engineering, design, customer service, finance, supply chain, sales and procurement.

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