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The Secrets of Covey’s 8 Habits

Here are Stephen Covey‘s “8 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and my take on them. Covey’s “7 Habits” book has sold 25 million copies worldwide since 1989; and then he added the 8th habit in 2004.

He was born in 1932 and died in 2012; earned a BS in Business from the University of Utah; an MBA from Harvard; and Ph.D. from Brigham Young University.

Covey’s “Habits” were the common traits he found from interviewing CEOs at many of the nation’s largest companies. His research and findings are important to us as leaders, marketers, and job seekers.

#1 BE PROACTIVE
Absolutely! Don’t wait to react. Anticipate and take action BEFORE it’s needed or expected. Isn’t that what a leader does? Isn’t that the kind of employee we want to be? To hire? Ted Turner said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” Be proactive and choose to lead.

#2 BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
How often, personally and professionally, have we jumped into a project or situation just to get started? It’s human nature to do so, since we don’t want to get left behind. But, if we first deliberated (not to be confused with procrastinated), on the goal, we could strategize on how best to achieve it. Baseball legend, Yogi Berra, said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

#3 PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
Somewhat ironic that Covey didn’t put this habit FIRST, but he must have had his reasons. I’ve heard of a corollary to this: “Put first things first and everything else NEVER.” The balance is likely in between. The key is to prioritize what is most critical, depending on the goal, timeline, budget, resources, AND everything else going on in your life; at work; and with that project. Covey said, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

#4 THINK WIN/WIN
The executives that Covey interviewed could have said, “Think Win.” After all, the CEO is there to increase shareholder value, so why not be victorious in every deal? Because, of the axiom, “Win the battle and lose the war.” A smart, successful CEO knows that she must deliver a good deal for her company AS WELL AS for the other company. Otherwise, soon, she won’t have other companies with whom to do business. An unfair deal is a short-term win. A fair deal is a long-term win/win.

#5 SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
So succinct and so true! It doesn’t matter if conversing face-to-face, over the phone, or typing responses. WHILE we are processing data that we hear, see, feel, taste, and smell–we are also preparing a response using some or all of those senses. Are we being fair to either when dividing our attention? Communication is about encoding and decoding. Is our message being received as we intended? Are there language, cultural, political, geographical, environmental, and other barriers interfering with that message? Understand what the other person is saying, and then, make sure that they are understanding you. The next time you have a conversation, think about whether you’re really listening, or just waiting to talk.

#6 SYNERGIZE
Not a real word but the idea is about synergy–an interaction by which the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects. Two people can go off to work separately on a project, OR they can work together on the same project. The goal is that “two heads are better than one,” so that 1 + 1 = 2 or maybe 3 or 10. Competition breeds innovation, but also consider how productive competitors [colleagues] might be if they aligned to solve a problem; cure a disease, or build something new. Seeing things differently may be the key to success. Covey said, “Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way.”

#7 SHARPEN THE SAW
Covey discovered that, regardless of age, title, education, or experience, effective people NEVER stopped learning. They read articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals about their industry, the economy, culture, and politics; they read and watched non-fiction and fiction; they lectured, mentored, and even went back to school. Make it a goal to watch one “TED Talk” (www.ted.com) a week. With all the information and technology available at light-speed, you need to stay sharp and up on the latest research & developments. Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Don’t sit there. Be a shark and always move forward. Always be learning.

#8 FIND YOUR VOICE AND HELP OTHERS TO FIND THEIRS
Wow, you can see that this is the conviction of an accomplished executive! They’ve experienced a career of upward mobility, and now, want others to have the same success. For this habit, think of the mentors, teachers, and coaches that helped you get started or get to that next level. Find bright people who are ambitious, dedicated, and loyal. Find a few who exhibit or have the potential to exhibit the 7 habits below. Find a person with the integrity, that, 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, will have found their voice and WILL help others to find theirs. Tom Peters, businessman and writer on management practices said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

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