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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

By Peter Muijres –

“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.

  1. Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to take care of us.
  2. Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions and take care of ourselves.
  3. 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. | Training and personal development  


Determinants of expatriate adjustment – a 1985 vintage version

By Peter Muijres

What are the determinants of expatriate adjustment in a cross-cultural setting? The researchers Black, Mendenhall and Oddou suggested a ‘comprehensive’ model of international adjustment in 1991 based on a review of empirical studies on ‘overseas’ adjustment of expatriate managers by the latter two (Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985).

Eight years later, Shaffer et al. (1999) adapted the model by adding some new factors, including language fluency, and making a bunch of other changes. However, the 1985 review and the original 1991 model, displayed in the featuring image, included some useful handles that may help expats out there in their adjustment process. These individual and the ‘non-work factors’ in specific will be given full attention at the expense of all the rest.

The authors differentiated three sorts of ‘international adjustment’: (1) adjustment to work, (2) adjustment to interacting with host nationals, and (3) adjustment to the general environment. Good adjustment in one area spills over into another, as you might expect from anything having to do with people, motives and mental health.

The individual factors have been divided into a self-efficacy (self-oriented), relational skills (other-oriented) and perception skills. The self-oriented individual skill includes at least three subsets of skills:

(1) Reinforcement substitution: the ability to find replacing interests and joys.

This entails finding an alternative to fill the gap left by the loss of a cherished passtime that you cannot continue after relocation. If skiing is no longer an option, but photograpyhy is, perhaps that might develop into your new passion with a similar effect.

(2) Stress reduction: the ability to recuperate from stress.

Being exposed to an environment that is sometimes difficult to understand or predict is stressful. Some expats reduce that stress by regularly taking a time out for themselves to limit their exposure to external stressors and recuperate from stress, for example by engaging in a comforting activity like writing, yoga, or a cigarette break outside.

(3) Technical competence: on the job functionioning with good results.

Expats who are tuned into their sociocultural environment, perform better. Good performance promotes a positive attitude and successful adaptation and vice versa. However, HR people often wrongly assume that performance abroad will be as it has been at home and base the selection of future expats on their track record only.

The other-oriented individual skills has been relabelled ‘relation skills’. It involves the ability to develop new relationships and a willingness to communicate. Having host national friends (or indeed: lovers) may greatly benefit your intercultural adjustment in various ways.

Having local friends may not only enhance your opportunities to interact with host nationals, they may also introduce you to their way of life and help you to recognise, understand and appreciate the cultural differences. You might be introduced to their families or be taken to non-touristic places where you witness how things are done and people treated when undisturbed by office formalities and social expectations.

Even showing an interest in the non-expat population often earns you credits, as is learning the local language. However, beware of quick solutions and culturally insensitive approaches. Yelling local jokes out loud, reciting the tong twister of the local language (and pronunciating it wrongly), intruding into people’s breathing space and laughing hysterically at whatever one may say or do, doesn’t necessarily attract friends.

The perception based individual skills purport having a non-evaluative attitude and the ability to make correct intercultural attributions. Learned cultural differences in perceptions and evaluations of social behaviour often lead people from different cultures to misinterpret each other. Understanding the motives of host nationals also helps the foreigner to predict how their opinions and behaviour will be received.

The non-work factors affect the degree or extent of international adjustment, not how it happens. ‘Cultural novelty’, still called ‘cultural toughness’ in 1985, reflects the country specific variables that facilitate acculturation to a particular setting. Hofstede (1980) has made this dimension better known as ‘cultural distance’. Being in host countries with similar features as your home culture makes the whole process of settling in much easier.

Another non-work factor is ‘Adjustment of Family-Spouse’. Less exposure to and needs to come to terms with cultural differences make it less urgent adapt your mindset and personal life. Cultural restrictions in a male dominated society make adapting for western wives even extra challenging. Unsatisfied social and emotional needs of poorly adapted family members, and perhaps the associated consequences, may lead partners or dads to cut their assignment short and return back home.

Besides Individual and nonwork factors, also job factors, organisation culture and organisation socialization factors affect mode and/or degree of adjustment. The job dimension contain factors related to job clarity, job discretion, job novelty and job conflict. The ‘organisation culture’ dimension addresses the novelty of the organisation culture, social support and logistical help experienced by the expat. ‘Organisation socialisation’ entails tactics and content that only affects the mode, not the degree of expatriate adjustment. All these dimensions affecting in-country adjustment, are precipitated by Anticipatory adjustment factors. Intercultural training and previous experience affect ‘accurate expectations’ on an individual dimension. Selection mechanisms and criteria on an organisational level predict the mode and degree of in-country adjustment.

Although expatriate adjustment wasn’t much of a concern until the late 1970s and the research still in a very early phase in 1985, the research tradition has never changed much. Many different models of intercultural adjustment have been offered during the last four decades. Just like people or eras in time, each has its own pros, cons and particularities. Mostly, attention is paid to how individuals move around as actively processing centers of awareness, but less to the parts played in multiple systems. The transcultural dynamics involving the locally available social groups, the home front and virtual communities for example, as well as the adaptation process as an often emotion based process that takes time do not always receive the attention they deserve. | Training and Development

Culture Class provides training in personal effectiveness, culture and communication skills

International negotiation skills

By Peter Muijres

Negotiation is a give-and-take decision-making process involving interdependent parties with different preferences and interests. Negotiations may take place during a sales process, between a therapist and a patient, between business partners, and even between what your heart wants and your head says. Feelings like to undermine effective negotiation and patience and persistence may improve it, making your children at times more successful negotiators than your spouse. Communication is key in negotiation and intercultural communication differences may complicate an international negotiation process.

Key features of negotiation are that each party has certain expectations regarding the outcome of the negotiation process and is willing to modify their position. Negotiation may be used to reach an agreement or compromise, ‘beat’ the opposition, make a point, or settle an argument. Negotiation styles tend to vary between cultures with masculine cultures inclined towards beating the opposition and Nordic and Scandinavian cultures towards agreement and compromise. People generally enter a negotiation process more easily than they think they do or like to admit.

There are two types of negotiation. ‘Distributive negotiation’ is about getting the biggest share of the pie at the expense of others. The drive to beat others in negotiation is fuelled by the drive/incentive and perhaps by  the threat system too and  is likely  to provoke feelings of competition, anger or distrust in the other party. (Read post240715: ‘the compassionate mind’ for more information).  ‘Integrative negotiation’ is concerned with creating a win-win situation. This is done during a process where the parties cooperate to maximise value in order to best serve the interests of all. A win–win negotiation demands more creativity, flexibility and relies on a trusting relationship more, than distributive negotiation does.

Although, a win-win negotiation benefits all, it should not be taken as a sign of weakness and an invitation to push you over. Greed, fear, ignorance and impatience may cause one party to loose confidence and suddenly turn to a win-loose compromise. The prisoner’s dilemma, known in game theory, explains why individuals do not cooperate, even when it is in their best interests.

The risks in international business explain why in many countries in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, a good relationship is a condition prior to entering a negotiation process. Until a trusting personal relationship has grown between the different parties, no business is going to happen between the companies they represent. This also means that when there is no such thing as speeding up the negotiation or simply sending another person to represent the company. A new negotiator would have to invest in a good relationship all over again.

A proper understanding and appreciation of cultural nuances help to improve the relationship by adapting your communication and negotiation strategy. The cultural nuances include:

  1. Language and non-verbal behaviour
  2. Values
  3. Thinking and decision making processes

Failure to prepare for cultural differences will weigh down on a negotiation process that is already challenging by itself. Stress may push negotiators back into their initial negotiation and cultural default positions and dramatically increase the risk of getting stuck.

A handful of guidelines may help you to attend to the cultural nuances and keep the negotiation process ‘unstuck’: flowing and fruitful.

  1. Thinking in terms of ‘interests’, rather than ‘positions’. Don’t let rejection push you into a ‘position’ modus.
    1. If your proposals are rejected by them, don’t start justifying and defending them.
    2. If you can’t accept their proposals, then don’t just bluntly reject them. Think about possible interests involved and ask them why your proposals won’t work for them and what exactly makes their proposal valuable to them. Use that information for your next move.
  2. Common interests first. Common interests strengthen the relational basis that helps to overcome conflicting interests at a later stage together.
  3. Use time to our advantage. Although decisive action is recommended once an opportunity window has opened, windows tend to open differently around the world. Allowing yourself or the other party an occasional time-out may help to make you look more reliable, considerate and committed. It may further signal your confidence in the sound judgement of the other party or it may actually buy you some time to collect any additional information you might need. Quick, American style judgement and decision making is not a ‘natural’ display of intelligence, enthusiasm and confidence everywhere.
  4. Power play. Each party has real and attributed power. Experienced negotiators may try to influence your decision by making you believe they are holding more power than they actually do. However, the opposite may happen too. Britons display a tendency to understatement and self-deprecation, however impressive their achievements may be. Cultural norms about the display of real power vary considerately.
  5. Communication is key. Negotiation is communication (and communication is culture). Experienced negotiators are not the typical extraverts, but keen observers and listeners busy with interpreting behaviour and collecting information to their advantage. Digging into Watzlawick’s five axioms of communication, described in post301214, will help you come to terms with communication. A future blogpost will explain the interpretation of body language in more detail..

Thus, collecting information and preparation is key to effective communication, before and during any negotiation process and particularly the international ones. Determining goals, pitfalls and conditions is one; determining your communication and negotiation strategy is another part of proper preparation. Select a knowledgeable and appropriate negotiation team, discuss in advance who is going to do what at the negotiation table and when, prepare your team and adapt the negotiation setting for the cultural differences in etiquette, body language, verbal communication and decision making styles; and make sure to complete the follow up procedures and practices to maximise your chances of eventual pay-off. 

Culture Class  provides training in personal effectiveness, culture and communication skills.