Archive for July 2012

What We Learned From Stephen Covey’s, “7 Habits…”

July 19, 2012

Guest Post by Sarah Watson on Thu, Jul 19, 2012

Dr. Stephen Covey, who wrote the 1989 best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, passed away on Monday. In addition to being an author, Dr. Covey was also co-founder of Utah-based professional services company FranklinCovey, and his message of success won him millions of followers worldwide. Dr. Covey was a well-known motivational speaker and had an enormous impact on both the corporate world and the personal lives of millions.

More than 20 million copies of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have been sold and it was named one of the most influential management books by several organizations, including Time and Forbes magazines. The audio book is the best-selling nonfiction audio in history. In 1996, Covey was listed among Time‘s 25 Most Influential Americans.

Former Hearst Magazine’s President Cathie Black described what made Covey’s message so appealing:

“You will flourish by concentrating on the aspects of life that you can control rather than by reacting to external forces. The seven “habits” covered in the book may seem so simple as to be obvious (“Be Proactive,” “Put First Things First,” etc.), but Stephen Covey weaves them into a principle-based philosophy that emphasizes the importance of relying on your own character and intrinsic beliefs as you pursue any goal. I’ve found that even if you’re able to take on board only a couple of the book’s seven habits, you will still notice their beneficial effect on life both in and out of the office.”

For those of you who never read the book, here’s a brief overview of Dr. Covey’s famous seven habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive. Choose your own course. Highly effective people don’t dwell on the things they can’t do and aren’t reactive to outside forces; instead they focus on what they can do and are responsible for their choices and the consequences of those choices. Covey wrote, “Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we ‘see’ ourselves — our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviors, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.”

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Determine what your end goal is, including your broader life goals, so that you know what you are working toward. “This habit is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things,” wrote Covey. In other words, visualize what you want as if it already happened and the universe will begin to work wonders.

Habit 3:  Put First Things First.  Prioritize tasks based on importance, rather than urgency, and make sure your plan drives you toward the goals you outlined in Habit 2. Once you’ve prioritized tasks, execute accordingly. Covey writes, “Management, remember, is clearly different from leadership. Leadership is primarily a high-powered, right brain activity. It’s more of an art; it’s based on a philosophy. You have to ask the ultimate questions of life when you’re dealing with personal leadership issues. But once you have dealt with those issues and resolved them, you then have to manage yourself effectively to create a life congruent with your answers.”

Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Aim for solutions that mutually benefit both parties in a relationship. According to Covey, “This is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying… Most people think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking is fundamentally flawed.”

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Try to really listen to other people and be open to influence, which should help them do the same for you, in order to help create a more respectful environment and better solve problems. Covey writes,”We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first…This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.”

Habit 6: Synergize.  Use teamwork to reach goals unattainable by one person working alone. To get the strongest performance out of team players, encourage meaningful contributions and end goals. Covey writes, “You begin with the belief that parties involved will gain more insight, and that the excitement of that mutual learning and insight will create a momentum toward more and more insights, learning, and growth.”

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw.  To be more effective over the long-haul, make sure to keep your body, mind and spirit fit and refreshed, via exercise, prayer or meditation, community service, and stimulating reading. “It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature — physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional,” said Covey.

In 1996, Time magazine wrote, “The essence of Covey’s message — that self-knowledge and control must precede effective dealings with the world at large — seems unremarkable.” To which Covey responded, “What’s common sense just isn’t common practice.”

“Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

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