Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

We all have a favorite author that has inspired us in one way or another. For me, one of my favorite authors is Stephen Covey who presented a framework for personal effectiveness called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a book that I continue to read over and over again.  With each passing year, I learn more and more about ways to become and exist as highly effective person.  The most compelling part is that it’s a habit. We are so use to being told about our bad habits and how we need to change them and Mr. Covey talks about effective habits.
Let’s say you want to create a new habit, whether it’s exercising more often; eating healthier or setting financial goals.  The big question is how long will it take to become a part of us? Clearly it will depend on the type of habit one is trying to form and how single-minded you are in pursuing your goal. Ask Google and you will get a figure of somewhere between 21 and 28 days to change a habit or to create a positive habit. It really does work if you can make a concerted effort to stay focused.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People presents an “inside-out” approach to effectiveness that is centered on principles and character. Inside-out means that the change starts within oneself. This approach represents a paradigm shift away from the personality ethic and toward the character ethic.
The following is a summary of the seven habits of effective people:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind:
Develop a principle centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long-term goals.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, making time for each of them.
For me, this is a struggle as I tend to get distracted and bombarded with setting priorities when clients, family or others are pulling at you for attention. I have learned to be consistent and true to myself.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a “win/win” deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make “no deal” may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to reward win/win behavior among employees and avoid inadvertently rewarding win/lose behavior.
All too often we find ourselves in relationships that are a bit one sided leaving each of us feeling drained of energy to deal with our own issues. One personal example is a relationship that I have with two people who are always seeking advice but never seems to listen or follow through on the advice at all. I consider them to be drama queens because there is always a hot issue. The true lesson is to try contacting them when you have a minor issue and need an open ear. Don’t be surprise if they become deaf and move the story back to their own issue.  One way to deal with an issue of this nature is pure ELIMINATION of the relationship or distancing yourself or developing a habit of putting up invisible walls of protection.  A very good friend has taught me to train my ears to hear only what’s important from these emotional vampires. It beats walking around with garlic around your neck.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood. Mr. Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one’s own experience. Rather, it’s putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.
Habit 6: Synergize
Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person’s own solution.  Remember, there are always two sides to everything, listening is a great skill. A great trainer reminded me that it’s the reason we have two ears and only one mouth. Two ears to hear everything, two eyes to see everything and one mouth so there is only one voice at a time.  The things I have learned through active or passive listening have been remarkable.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions. Covey provides with the example of the goose that laid the golden egg. In the fable, a poor farmer’s goose began laying a solid gold egg every day, and the farmer son became rich.  He also became greedy and figured that the goose must have many golden eggs with her. In order to obtain all of the eggs immediately, he killed the goose. Upon cutting it open he discovered that it was not full of golden eggs at all. The lesson here – if one attempts to maximize immediate production with no regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost. Effectiveness is a function of both production and the capacity to produce. The balance applies to physical, financial and human assets.
Are there things that make you a more effective leader, trainer or person?  We would like to know. Please share those incredible ideas with us. Together we can become a community of highly effective people.
For more details about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, download or pick up the book by Stephen Covey today.