By Peter Muijres – cultureclass.org
“Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things”
In 1989, Stephen published his #1 best-seller: ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’. The book sold over 15 million copies and is became a classic in management literature.
Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits. The habits build onto each other and are expected to become an integrated part of one’s character, manifested as a progression from dependence via independence to interdependence.
- Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to take care of us.
- Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions and take care of ourselves.
- Interdependence: the paradigm under which we cooperate to achieve something that cannot be achieved independently.
The first three habits focus on self‐mastery, that is, achieving the private victories required to move from dependence to independence. The second three habits focus achieving public victory, aimed at realising effective interdependence. The seventh habit is one of renewal and continual improvement, that is, of building one’s personal ‘production capability’ or the ability to produce.
Habit 1: Be Proactive Focus on the things you can actually do something about. 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 Begin everything you do with a clear picture of your ultimate goal. Develop a principle‐centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long‐term goals based on personal principles.
Habit 3: Put First Things First Manage your life according to your needs and priorities. 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, and make time for each of them.
Habit 4: Think Win‐Win Integrity: Stick with your true feelings, values, and commitments Maturity: Be considerate of the feelings of others Abundance Mentality: Believe there is plenty for everyone. 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 behaviour among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding win/lose behaviour.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood Learn how to communicate clearly and listen to others. Stephen 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 is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.
Habit 6: Synergize “Two heads are better than one.” 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.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw Allow yourself to grow by maintaining a balanced program in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions.
To be effective, one must find the proper balance between actually producing and improving one’s capability to produce. Covey illustrates this point with the fable of the goose and the golden egg. In the fable, a poor farmer’s goose began laying a solid gold egg every day. The farmer soon became rich and greedy. In order to obtain all of the eggs immediately, he killed the goose and cut her open. By attempting to maximise immediate production with no regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost.
Although very interesting, Covey’s paradigm also raises some questions. Are conditions for character development as universal and as timeless as he suggests, always and for everyone? The book has been written in 1989 and the world has seen a revolution in communication technology during the last 25+ years. It could be argued that personality (how you come across), has become more important, than character (who you are) in online communication. Also, being able to change the sails and adapt your working model to fit cultural terms and conditions is giving international business managers the competitive edge today.
Covey already notes himself that much of the success literature tends to overvalue independence, to ‘realise and be yourself’ at all costs. The independent model is not optimal for use in an interdependent environment that requires both leaders and team players. The meaning of and approaches to achieving effectiveness already varied greatly between people and organisations and time has added additional changes. Where, with whom and how information is shared, decisions are made, and identities are negotiated has also dramatically changed. In fact, big changes have happened so rapidly that the majority of people haven’t had time to come to terms yet with what has actually been going on and what has been left behind – let alone what to prepare for.
Covey’s book ‘The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness’ (2004) addresses how some of the changes that have taken place may have outdated some of the ideas behind the seven habits. He claims that effectiveness does not suffice in what he calls “The Knowledge Worker Age”. He proclaims that “the challenges and complexity we face today are of a different order of magnitude.” So, according to Covey, becoming great has become dependent on finding your voice and inspiring others to do the same.
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