Most of you have probably read or at least heard of Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® It is truly a business classic and I read it for the first time in 1989, as required reading in one of my college business courses. The day after I graduated, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and started my first “real job” as a manager at Target.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was one of the few college books I kept on the bookshelf in my office. I remember being overwhelmed at having to manage so many people, most at least twice my age. I remember making many management mistakes and pulling Covey’s book off the shelf to reread it and find out where I went wrong.
Just last month, I had an interaction with an employee that didn't end with either of us feeling very good about our discussion. After spending a night of tossing and turning in bed, I again turned to Covey. Instead of going to my bookshelf, this time, however, I went right to the internet. I quickly reviewed the 7 highly effective habits and saw which habits I had forgotten, due to a lack of patience on my part. I found several other terrific leadership writings as well.
After realizing I had blown it by not tapping into habits #2 and #5 properly, I met with the employee and apologized for not making better use of our time at our last meeting.
In an ideal world, all leaders would use these skills and many other traits, but the truth is we are all human and that means we don’t always walk the talk. However, we can all be better leaders if we stay on the journey to continually strive to be and to lead better. When we strive as human beings to improve, we grow and our leadership strengths truly emerge.
In case you too need an occasional reminder of the “habits” as Stephen Covey calls them, here they are:
Habit 1: Be Proactive®
Highly effective people achieve extraordinary results by consistently executing their resourcefulness and initiative to break through barriers.
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind®
Highly effective people develop an outcome-oriented mindset in every activity they engage in—projects, meetings, presentations, contributions, etc.
Habit 3: Put First Things First®
Highly effective people eliminate energy and time-wasting tendencies by focusing and executing on the team’s wildly important goals with a weekly planning cadence.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win®
Highly effective people lead teams that are motivated to perform superbly through a shared expectation and accountability process.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®
Highly effective people create an atmosphere of helpful give-and-take by taking the time to fully understand issues, and give candid and accurate feedback.
Habit 6: Synergize®
Highly effective people demonstrate innovative problem-solving skills by seeking out differences and new and better alternatives.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®
Highly effective people tap into the highest and best contribution of everyone on a team by unlocking the total strength, passion, capability, and spirit of each individual.