Todd Davis is FranklinCovey’s Chief People Officer and the author and co-author, respectively, of The Wall Street Journal bestsellers Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work and Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. Todd is also an expert on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, which has sold more than 40 million copies in 50 languages. The 30th Anniversary Edition will be released on May 21, 2020 and will feature new insights from son, Sean Covey. Learn more about FranklinCovey’s 7 Habits solutions.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Life-Changing!
While it’s a widely known fact that hiring the right people is critical to any company’s success, it’s actually the nature of the relationship between those people that is an organization’s true advantage. Because we all get results with and through others, our ability to develop and sustain sincere, meaningful, and effective relationships is not only a “nice to have” but is critical to executing on an organization’s most important goals and objectives.
I’ve read many excellent books throughout my career that have had a meaningful impact on my personal and professional relationships, but none more than The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To say it was and continues to be life-changing for me would be an understatement.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published over 30 years ago and has sold more than 40 million copies in 50 plus languages. It is regarded as one of the most influential business books of all time and is as relevant today as it was when Stephen R. Covey first wrote it. Why? Because it is based on timeless principles of effectiveness−the effectiveness of our relationships with others.
Stephen Covey didn’t title the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, or Highly Efficient People, but rather, The 7 Habits Highly Effective People. Effective people are those who get things done now, in a way that provides for even better results in the future. One of the foundational principles for each of the habits is our paradigm, or how we see things. What we see influences everything we do. And we already know that what we do drives the results we get. For example, if I’m a micro-manager, how do I see my team members? They are incompetent. So, I see my team as incompetent and then what do I do? I criticize. And as I continually criticize them, what kind of results does this team get? They get results which are poor or mediocre at best? And as I see these poor results, what do I say to myself as the micro-manager? Wow, I’ve got to micro-manage even more. And it becomes this downward spiral and self-fulfilling prophecy all driven by the way I see my team. So, our paradigms are critical to our effectiveness.
Habit 1 is Be Proactive. This is the habit of choice. We have the freedom to choose and are responsible for our choices. And the most empowering concept in Habit 1 is that while there are many things over which we have no control, we can choose our response to any situation. We can choose to be proactive rather than reactive. Rather than being a “victim,” blaming other people or circumstances for our situation. Habit 1 is the first habit for a reason because it helps us realize we can be in charge of our own lives.
Habit 2 is Begin with the End in Mind. This is the habit of vision. Highly effective people shape their own future by creating a mental vision and purpose for their life, their week, and their day. Instead of just going on autopilot, responding to whatever crisis or situation comes their way, they map out what they want to accomplish based on their most important values and roles in life. They have clearly defined their purpose and they know where they’re going.
Habit 3 is Put First Things First. This is the habit of execution. Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you say you’re going to do.” Habit 3 is where the rubber meets the road. In Habit 2, we created our vision or plan around what we value most and in Habit 3 we execute on that plan. We are driven by purpose and direction. We put people ahead of schedules. Getting things done in a timely manner is important, but we make sure we are getting the right things done. Before climbing the ladder, we make sure the ladder is leaning against the correct wall.
These first three habits, Habits 1, 2, and 3 help us to master what is called the Private Victory or victory over self. These are the habits that help us become trustworthy, as we do what we say we are going to do. The next three habits, Habits 4, 5, and 6 help us master what is called the Public Victory. The Public Victory helps us build trust with others. And it’s clear that we must first be trustworthy before attempting to build trust with others.
Habit 4 is Think Win-Win. This is the habit of mutual benefit. It’s not about you, or me; it’s about both of us. How do we win together? Habit 4 is an attitude. People who think win/win have what is called an abundance mentality (there is plenty for everyone and more) versus a scarcity mentality (the more you get the less there will be for me). This win/win attitude or mindset allows us successfully to move to Habits 5 and 6.
Habit 5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This is the habit of mutual understanding. Do you listen with the intent to truly understand the other person’s feelings or point of view, or like most of us, do you listen with the intent to reply? Highly effective people suspend their thoughts and opinions long enough to truly understand the other person. Not to agree or disagree, but to empathize and relate to how the other person is feeling. Stephen Covey said, “the deepest need of the human heart is to feel understood.” Highly effective people understand that the key to influence is to first be influenced.
Habit 6 is Synergize. This is the habit of creative cooperation. Highly effective people value differences instead of being threatened by them. They believe that their own strengths combined with the gifts and talents of others can lead to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They seek for 3rd alternative solutions that are better than what they or the other party had in mind to begin with. They don’t go for compromise (1 + 1 = 1½) or merely cooperation (1 + 1 = 2) but seek out creative cooperation (1 + 1 = 3 or more). This happens because they begin with an attitude of win/win (Habit 4) followed by taking the time to truly understand the others’ perspective (Habit 5). This is how Habits 4, 5, and 6 work together.
Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw. This is the habit of renewal. Highly effective people understand that they must invest in themselves so that they have the energy and resources to increase their effectiveness with others. The term ‘Sharpen the Saw’ comes from the story of the wood cutter who was so busy sawing logs with a dull saw blade, that he failed to see how much more effective he would be if he would take time to sharpen the blades of his saw. Many of us, like the woodcutter, are so busy that we don’t take time to renew ourselves in the four key areas of life: body (physical), mind (mental), heart (social/emotional), and spirit (spiritual - meaning purpose and contribution). By investing in these four areas on a regular basis, we dramatically increase our capacity and capabilities.
By focusing on living the 7 habits, we can become highly effective in our most important relationships, contributing in ways that result in an extraordinarily meaningful and purposeful life.
The 30th Anniversary Edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is launching on May 21, 2020. It includes the universal, timeless principles and safe wisdom and guidance in original form, as well as new insights from Stephen Covey’s son, Sean Covey. If you have never had the opportunity to read this book, I invite you to do so. And if you have read it before, I invite you to read it again. It is a book to read again and again, especially when life gets difficult. It changed my life for the better. And, I am sure it will do the same for you.