Stephen Covey's, "7 Habits..."

Contributing Author:
Susan Young, Get in Front Communications.
7 leadership lessons from Stephen Covey

Dr. Stephen Covey, who wrote the 1989 best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", passed away on Monday. In addition to being an author, Dr. Covey was also co-founder of Utah-based professional services company FranklinCovey, and his message of success won him millions of followers worldwide. Dr. Covey was a well-known motivational speaker and had an enormous impact on both the corporate world and the personal lives of millions.

More than 20 million copies of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have been sold and it was named one of the most influential management books by several organizations, including Time and Forbes magazines. The audio book is the best-selling nonfiction audio in history. In 1996, Covey was listed among Time's 25 Most Influential Americans.

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Former Hearst Magazine's President Cathie Black described what made Covey’s message so appealing:

“You will flourish by concentrating on the aspects of life that you can control rather than by reacting to external forces. The seven “habits” covered in the book may seem so simple as to be obvious (“Be Proactive,” “Put First Things First,” etc.), but Stephen Covey weaves them into a principle-based philosophy that emphasizes the importance of relying on your own character and intrinsic beliefs as you pursue any goal. I’ve found that even if you’re able to take on board only a couple of the book’s seven habits, you will still notice their beneficial effect on life both in and out of the office.”

For those of you who never read the book, here’s a brief overview of Dr. Covey’s famous seven habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive. Decide your own goal and go for it. Highly effective people don’t dwell on the things they can’t change and instead are proactive. Covey wrote, “Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we ‘see’ ourselves — our self-paradigm, the most fundamental paradigm of effectiveness. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviors, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.”

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Think about your end goal, whether these are life or business goals, so that you know what you are working toward. “This habit is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things,” wrote Covey. In other words, visualize what you want as if it already happened and the universe will begin to work wonders.

Habit 3: Put First Things First. Prioritize tasks based on importance, not urgency, and make sure your plan drives you toward the overall goals previously mentioned. Once you’ve prioritized tasks, execute accordingly. Covey writes, “Management, remember, is clearly different from leadership. Leadership is primarily a high-powered, right brain activity. It’s more of an art; it’s based on a philosophy. You have to ask the ultimate questions of life when you’re dealing with personal leadership issues. But once you have dealt with those issues and resolved them, you then have to manage yourself effectively to create a life congruent with your answers.”

Habit 4: Think Win-Win. Look for solutions that are beneficial to everyone involved. According to Covey, “This is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying… Most people think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking is fundamentally flawed.”

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Listen to other people and really try to understand what they are saying. In turn, they will grant you the same courtesy and respect you have shown them. Covey writes,"We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first…This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication."

Habit 6: Synergize. Work as a team to accomplish things you could not do alone. Covey writes, "You begin with the belief that parties involved will gain more insight, and that the excitement of that mutual learning and insight will create a momentum toward more and more insights, learning, and growth.”

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. To be more effective over time, make sure to keep your body, mind strong, by exercising, prayer or meditation, community service, reading, or doing other things you enjoy. “It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature — physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional," said Covey.

In 1996, Time magazine wrote, “The essence of Covey’s message -- that self-knowledge and control must precede effective dealings with the world at large -- seems unremarkable.” To which Covey responded, “What’s common sense just isn’t common practice.”

"Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know." – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

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