Are you highly effective?

Posted on September 16, 2019 · Posted in blog, News

Are you one of the millions of people who bought or read the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey? This influential global bestseller was first published in 1989 when the world was a very different place: before people had cellphones. Mobile phones have transformed us. We are now well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we are finding it hard to catch up.

So, is this book still relevant at all? Can we extract something useful? Covey died back in 2012. Did he leave a meaningful legacy?

Many would argue, and I totally agree: Yes.

I think the first three habits – if followed and lived – provide the foundations for living a productive life.

Let’s do a quick refresher course:

Habit 1: Be Proactive

In shorthand: it’s the opposite of being reactive (i.e., being driven by feelings, circumstances, environmental influences. Where life is but a series of responses and adaptations to these.)

“Act rather than be acted upon.”

Of course, it is not always possible. Of course, circumstances exist. Things happen. But you should focus on what your long term goals are (This is about the big fluffy stuff like: How do you wish to be remembered? What would you want to be known for?) But also about your immediate goals. (Some would say: to know your purpose or what you want to achieve.)

Questions to ask yourself here are: Are you feeling that you are shaping your life, that you have agency?

A crucial element in acquiring this Habit (or living by it most of the time) is this: you need to check against what is within your Circle of Concern (the world economy, or what Brexit will finally look like – unless you are Boris Johnson or in his Cabinet, it is not up to you and not much you can do there, is there?) – and your Circle of Influence. Here are all the things you can affect (going to the gym, having that long-postponed awkward conversation with a colleague, writing that report…)

And with that: you need to adhere to your commitments and promises. Own your actions and your mistakes.

Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind

I love this Habit because it epitomises choice and living with purpose. It is quite simple: Begin everything you do with the end in mind, and stop to think about your life’s end. I know it can sound morbid (especially when you become older). But – if you do not know where you’re going, you’d start falling into being reactive to what’s happening to you and around you rather than being proactive.

So: where are you heading?

It is about personal leadership. Develop a personal mission statement. Revisit it every few years. What are your deepest values? What makes you, YOU? What cannot be taken away from you (in terms of values, not things) that would alter you and take away your sense of who you are?

Covey provides a long list of different “centeredness” options: Family, money, work, pleasure, possessions etc.

But most of us have a combination of things. In coaching sessions, we almost always do discovery-of-values exercises with clients. Working with people trying to achieve any goal or to up their game will always require this quest. Want to try to do it yourself? Try here or here.

If you have never done this exercise (and most of our clients, even in later stages of life haven’t), take some time to imagine you’re towards the end of your long and fulfilled life. What would you want people to think about you? Say to you? Who are these people? How many? Where would it take place? Your answers will give you many clues as to what is truly important to you.

For example, A client who had political aspirations described how a whole country came to a standstill in his mind. He had many books and articles to his name, as well as some crucial legal amendments he’d made in his years in Parliament. While another described a Greek island white-washed cottage and just her family, many great-grandchildren and old friends were surrounding her. So it is a very personal vision, and the list of values is therefore also very personal. There is no right or wrong here!

Habit 3 – Put First Things First

This Habit is actually about how you manage yourself – or what people sometimes call “Time Management” (which really cannot exist: you cannot manage TIME, you can manage yourself concerning time).

It is possibly the habit most remembered and least acted upon!

In short, let’s look at this visual:

In our work, since we mainly focus on leadership development, we adhere to what Covey coined “Quadrant 2 Leadership”.
This means a leader (or manager) who pays attention, and spends time, proactively, on those things that are really important (the company’s vision and long term goals, finding the best talent and retaining them, etc) but not urgent (and therefore can be pushed to the end of the queue until a crisis emerges).

A common issue amongst executives is the balancing act between achieving immediate goals, giving attention to their reports, and dealing with daily crises. But equally, they tend to have far too many time-guzzling emails and too many meetings.

To become a Q2 leader, you need to be proactive. Things happening around you cannot entirely dictate how your day, week and eventually, legacy, looks like.

Keywords here are: prioritising, organising and the discipline to work accordingly.

And what about the other Habits?

Habit 4 is crucial too – it is about Think Win/Win

This is about how you handle your interpersonal relationships. To maintain a win-win mindset is to look at everything you do through those lenses, looking to respect others.

It requires integrity, maturity and a mentality of abundance as opposed to one of scarcity, which breeds a competitive stance.

There’s a lot of talk about “assertiveness”. It was a full-on buzzword a few years ago. But let’s cut to the chase: To be assertive” is to approach relationships with a win-win mindset.

It is the opposite of aggression (forcing anyone, disrespecting, etc) or passivity (let me lose, appease, walk away) or passive-aggressiveness (manipulative – say what I do not mean and mean what I do not say).

Habit 5 is all about empathy – Are You Good at Listening to Understand Another’s Viewpoint?

Or do you listen with the intent of protecting something or convincing? Most of us operate in talking more than listening, and we would all do well to move toward more listening, as with that comes empathy and with empathy come better solutions, healthier relationships and misunderstandings and conflicts are hugely cut back.

One short take away message out of this content-rich chapter is this:” Diagnose
Before You Prescribe“. I personally hang my head in shame as I do so often rush to diagnose, as I am a quick operator. This has obvious downsides. How about you?)

Habit 6 is the next-level stuff – about Synergise Principles of Creative Communication.

A mouthful, which can be summed up thus: Synergy is about what happens when all these habits that came before come together and the sum is greater than the parts. Synergy needs openness and flexibility (which, if you developed the ability to listen and seek win-win solutions, you would have honed). But it can be a threat to those who like certainty.

Well, dealing with ambiguity is something we all best learn in this fast-changing world of ours.

Habit 7 is “Sharpen The Saw” – It is About Balanced Self-renewal.

It is about taking care of yourself – physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. Only by doing that in a balanced way, you show respect to your life, and win what Covey calls “The Daily Private Victory”. (Here I wrote about acknowledging achievements, which is very much a practice that’s required here)

Later Covey Came up with Habit 8, which is “The conscious choice to love our unknown potential and help others fulfil theirs” but I feel 7 habits is a lot, and that we should aim to master those original 7 first.

If you wish to learn more or want to learn how to assess how you are doing in all these Habit categories – give us a call and we can assess and propose a way forward for developing those Habits that you feel you need to improve.