The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People

imagesOn July 16, Stephen Covey, author of the best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, passed away at the age of 79. Stephen Covey was a brilliant man. He was a professor, speaker, and author of several bestsellers. His cornerstone professional accomplishment was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which was first published in 1989 and has now sold 25 Million copies worldwide.

I read it for the first time in the early 90s and I found it to be brilliant in its simplicity, yet powerful in concept. At the time as President of Earle Palmer Brown and later as CEO of the Star Group, ad agencies in the Philadelphia area, the book was important agency reading.  We instituted meetings, discussions and outside seminars on the 7 Habits. I recall attending a 3-day seminar focused solely on digesting the key concepts. This was out of character for me as I am a cynic by nature. Those that know me understand that I am surely not a zealot, nor did I manage by the “book of the month” idea. I merely felt that Covey’s book was really smart, had far broader application than merely increasing productivity, and it gave me pause to think about how I was managing my business and life. I am grateful, based on Covey’s recent passing, that  recently several former employees of both those firms have mentioned to me the impact that the 7 Habits has had on their lives.

One of the things I learned is that the best way to reinforce its concepts was to teach them to others, and so I have occasionally given seminars and company speeches on the 7 Habits. I learned the importance of teaching at the 3-day seminar because at the end of each section of the class, a randomly chosen participant was asked to summarize what they just heard. Kept me on my toes and reinforced the importance of listening at a far deeper level (critical to Habit 5).

As a reminder, the 7 Habits were as follows

1. Be Proactive

This habit is all about proactivity and taking initiative. As part of this, taking responsibility for your choices and their consequences.

2. Begin with the End in Mind

I still use this expression often in business. It basically means, “what are we trying to accomplish here”. It forces clarity of mission.

3. Put First Things First

Again, this is brilliantly simple. Prioritize, plan, and execute based on importance rather than urgency. I find that so important in today’s world. I am amazed how many people feel that immediate response to an email or call is “important”. In the  end, they are merely slaves to the seemingly urgent, but mostly not important tasks.

4.Think Win-Win

I hate how this term has been overused. But the concept is still fresh. This means to genuinely seek a mutually beneficial solution. The underlying concept is that it is really important that both parties have a “win”. This is more than compromise; it is the basis of higher level resolutions.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.

This is always my favorite, though many former employers may have secretly thought that I came from the “Seek First to Understand Me, Then Shut Up” school. This is all about real listening.

6. Synergize

Another even more overused cliché, yet a powerful concept. It truly means that through real collaboration a unified  group can achieve far more than an individual can do on one’s own.

7.  Sharpen the Saw

This is about renewal, physical, mental and spiritual.

Covey’s death does not diminish the impact of his concepts. Even in writing this post it forces me to think more deeply about the  7 Habits and my own life. It’s time well spent by everyone.

More Strumings

One Comment

  1. Mike Daly says:

    Lonny, One of the “stories” that always resonated with me was about a man on a subway whose young children were acting up. When asked why he wasn’t keeping them under control he replied that they had just lost their mother and they were all in such shock he hadn’t realized. The moral being to take a couple of minutes to try to understand where someone is coming from before judging.

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