7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People begins by examining perception and motivation of the individual. It seeks to alter our perception to think outside the paradigms of conventional thought. It examines motivation from the point of personal principles that drive behavior. In so doing Covey plants the seed that we can change and sets the stage to address these concepts in more detail later in the book.
An ongoing theme of the book is the P / PC balance. The P is defined as production and the P / C defined as production capacity. Production is the result of one’s labours and does not always mean something positive. The example given by Covey, is the Goose and the Golden Egg. However, in his version of the tale the farmer cuts open the goose to get all the golden eggs inside. Of course he finds that there are no eggs leaving him with a dead goose. The golden eggs in this story represent the P while the goose represents the P/C. The lesson to learn here is to focus on P/C that creates a balanced P whether it is in life, school, or business.
Throughout the book Covey comes back to the P P/C balance, but the core of the book is the seven habits of highly effective people. None of these habits stand alone; rather they are grouped in to sections of private victory (1-3), public victory (4-6) and renewal (7). The habits are briefly summarized here.
1. Be proactive
Our power is the ability to control how we react to our environment. We can choose to focus on the aspects of life that we have control over and use that choice to exert influence outwards. This is in stark contrast to focusing on areas we have no control over and hence influence comes from the outside in.
2. Begin with the End in Mind.
This habit is about getting organized. Prepare a personal mission of purpose and direct actions to its achievement. There is a heavy focus on learning about personal principles already in existence which drive behavior. This understanding of personal principles empowers us to be ourselves in the achievement of our mission. .
3. Put first things first.
The crux of this skill is the Time Management Matrix which characterizes actions as urgent or not urgent, and important versus not important. It pushes us to stay focused on the actions which will achieve the greatest results and extends some planning strategies in order to reach a high level of personal management.
4. Think win/win.
This is an exercise in lateral thinking which results in both parties getting the most out of a relationship. It is based upon levels of courage and consideration regarding relationships to surpass expectations on both sides.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
This skill is all about listening and listening beyond the likes of active or reflective listening. It is clarifying and re-clarifying. It is putting that person’s message over and above yourself and any stakeholder in order to have a complete and utter understanding of their message and their perspective in the creation of that message.
This entails not just overachieving in goals, but overachieving in the goals, in the process to achieve those goals, and in the personal development of each and every team member.
7. Sharpen the saw.
All of us have physical, mental, spiritual and social/emotional dimensions in life and work. These dimensions are not mutually exclusive of one another and each requires specific attention to achieve personal balance, a deficiency in one surely impacts another so take care of yourself.
I took a lot out of this book and will continue to do so as I develop my own personal mission. That being said, the two most impactful messages for me were; Seek first to understand and to Sharpen the Saw. Regarding the former, I found myself wondering if I was really listening to understand. Then I found myself pushing my thoughts and feelings to the side in order to really listen. Afterwards, I noticed more trust from those I really listened to.
Sharpen the Saw was the surprise skill of the book. So often business books neglect to think about the whole package of what makes a person effective. We really need to take care of every part of our lives in order to be effective. Not taking care of things at home impacts work and vice versa. All work and no leisure time its toll on the body and the mind. It was very refreshing to come to the end of the book with a message to take care of yourself in following the principles of this book.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a book about life. It transcends the applications of most business books firmly establishing an individually centred approach to becoming an effective person in your personal or business life. In fact, it was quite remarkable how this book surfaced in so many different aspects of my life. Of course this book was chosen by members of my book club, some who had already read it and wanted a refresher. It also surfaced at my daughter’s school when each and every teacher read the book and developed a program around their specific grade to increase leadership skills. It appeared in the hands of my wife who found some of the points made in the book so alluring she picked it up and did not put it down. This book certainly carries a lot of relevant weight in a diverse array of people and is one that I recommend you pick and read from cover to cover.