Stephen Covey’s “Habits” Books – Still Valuable After All These Years

Stephen R. Covey is justifiably famous for his books on business and personal success. In this blog, I briefly summarize two of his best and most relevant books for moving you and your company forward.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • The 7 habits
    • Be Proactive
    • Begin with the end in mind
    • Put first things first
    • Think win / win
    • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
    • Synergize
      • Creative cooperation
    • Balanced self-renewal
      • Continuous learning
      • Can you learn for one hour a day?
  • Other insights
    • It is crucial to be principle centered
      • Focus on thinking the right way and then doing the right things
      • Build your success from the inside out
    • In time and attention management, focus on those tasks and activities that are important but may not be urgent
      • The tyranny of the urgent (those tasks that are not important but immediately pressing) needs to be combatted
    • Failure is the result of applying yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.

The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

  • The 8th Habit: Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs
    • Your voice is your unique personal significance
    • Voice is one of the three components of spiritual intelligence
      • Integrity – being true to one’s highest values and achievements
      • Meaning – a sense of contribution to people and causes
      • Voice – aligning work with one’s unique calling and gifts
    • Voice is at the intersection of Talent, Passion, Need, Conscience
      • Talent – Your natural gifts and strengths
      • Passion – Those things that naturally energize, excite, motivate and inspire you
      • Need – What the world needs enough to pay you for
      • Conscience – That small voice that assures you of what is right and that prompts you to actually do it.
    • Create high level of commitment in yourself and others
      • Not, rebel or quit
      • Nor, malicious obedience
      • Not even, willing compliance
      • But, cheerful cooperation
      • Even better, heartfelt commitment
      • Best of all, creative excitement
    • Learning
      • You learn best when you teach another
      • Your learning is internalized when you live it
    • Finding your voice involves all four human intelligences / capacities
      • Mental – IQ – Mind – Vision – Talent
      • Physical – PQ – Body – Discipline – Need
      • Social / Environmental – EQ – Heart – Passion – Passion
      • Spiritual – SQ – Spirit – Conscience – Conscience
  • Leadership
    • What is leadership?
      • Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.
      • You lead and empower people. You manage and control things.
    • Symptoms of chronic problems in companies (“All organizations are perfectly aligned to get the results they get.” Arthur W. Jones)
      • No shared vision / values
      • Misalignment
      • Disempowerment
      • Low trust
    • What do successful leaders do (Results Based Leadership)
      • Set Direction
        • Vision, customers, future
      • Demonstrate personal character
        • Habits, integrity, trust, analytical thinking
      • Mobilize individual commitment
        • Engage others, share power
      • Engender organizational capability
        • Build teams, manage change
    • Ultimately, a good leadership team is a complementary team where people’s strengths are made productive and their weaknesses made irrelevant by the strengths of others
    • The key question is always:
      • What is the best thing I can do under these circumstances?
    • A high level of initiative or self-empowerment is fostered
      • Wait until told
      • Ask
      • Make a recommendation
      • I intend to
      • Do it and report immediately
      • Do it and report periodically
      • Do it
    • Ethical leadership is crucial
      • “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
      • 90% of all leadership failures are character failures
      • Only 57% of workers surveyed agree that their organizations consistently do what they say they will do.
      • The key to trust is in making and keeping promises
  • Communication
    • 40 – 50% of our communication time is spent listening. This is the one mode we have had the least training in.
    • Only 17% of workers surveyed feel that communication in their organizations is truly open, candid, and respectful
    • Listening continuum
      • Ignoring
      • Pretend listening (patronizing)
      • Selective listening
      • Attentive listening
      • Empathic listening (within the other’s frame of reference)
    • Use a “talking stick” – in a meeting, only the person holding the talking stick is permitted to speak. You thus can speak until you are satisfied that you are understood.
    • In listening, to understand does not mean to agree with.
    • 90% of all communication problems are caused by differences in either semantics (the way you define words or terms) or perceptions (how you interpret data).
  • Synergize
    • Two steps to achieving synergy
      • Would you be willing to search for a solution that is better than what either one of you (us) have proposed?
      • Would you agree to a simple ground rule: No one can make his or her point until they have restated the other person’s point to his or her satisfaction?
    • Solutions continuum
      • Lose – Win / Win – Lose
      • Compromise
      • Mutual Understanding
      • Win-Lose / Lose – Win
      • Compromise on Issue
      • Synergy on Issue and in Relationship
    • Create commitment
      • Mission statements and strategic priorities that are developed in a rush by those at the top and then announced are forgotten. Without involvement or strong identification, there will be no commitment.
      • “Leadership is creating an environment in which people want to be part of the organization and not just work for the organization.” Horst Schulze, CEO of Ritz-Carlton
      • “The best way to inspire people to a superior performance is to convince them by everything you do and by your everyday attitude that you are wholeheartedly supporting them.” Harold S. Geenen, Former Chairman of ITT
      • Ask employees:
        • Do people clearly understand the organizational goals?
        • Are they committed?
    • Ensure alignment
      • Aligning requires constant vigilance
      • Ask ask ask your people: What do they think?
      • Best interview question: Starting with your earliest memory, what did you really like doing and do well?
  • Execution
    • Six core drivers to execution
      • Clarity of Goals
      • Commitment to Goals
      • Translation – what does it mean to me; translating lofty goals into specific actions
      • Enable
      • Synergy – ensure people get along well
      • Accountability
    • People are naturally wired to focus on only one thing at a time (or at best very few) with excellence.
      • Focus on the wildly important
    • You must clarify your team’s top two or three “wildly important” goals and carefully craft them to be in alignment with the organization’s top priorities.
    • Yet, in a survey about goals, these were the results
      • 15% of people in an organization can identify the top goals and priorities
        • Unclear
        • Vastly under-communicated
      • 19% of people in an organization are passionate about the top goals and priorities
      • 49% of people’s time is spent on the top goals and priorities
      • 51% of people in an organization don’t understand what they need to do to achieve the top goals and priorities.
    • In a Harris poll, only 8% of workers systematically schedule their priorities
    • Good questions to ask: how much time do our people actually spend on key goals?
    • Try Triage reporting – everyone reports quickly on the vital few issues, leaving the less important issues for another time. Focus on the important issues not the urgent.
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About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Business Acumen, Leadership, Personal Success and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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