Covey's Seven Habits

Stephen R Covey published his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" in the late 1980's.  He discovered over years of reading and studying success that certain underlying themes seemed to recur.  These weren't superficial behavioural "how to's", but went deeper, relating more to one's ethics or way of life.  The result was his seven habits, equally applicable to your personal, social or business life.  Unlike many other approaches, the seven habits work best if they're adopted in their entirety.  You can't pick and choose which ones to apply, nor are they situational ("if this situation occurs, follow this formula.").


The first three habits relate to our own internal or personal philosophy

Be Proactive Be aware of yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, motivations - and be proactive in finding out as much as you can about yourself.  Then be proactive in applying that knowledge to your relations with others.
Begin with the End in mind In summary, create and live by a personal mission statement.  This may lead onto more specific goals and objectives, but the idea is that you try to live as the sort of person you'd like to be remembered for when you've passed on. 
Put First Things First Define what it is that really matters in your life, then spend your time on those important things.  Rather than spreading our time thinly across too many activities, concentrate on doing a few things well.

The next three habits relate to our interaction with our environment

Think Win/Win Not an original phrase, but in all your dealings with others, aim for each little negotiation to provide success (a win) for both sides.
Seek First to Understand, then be Understood Put another way, "God gave us two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion."  In your communications, be sure you know the other person's point of view before you start expounding your own ideas.
Synergize Look for ways to take your ideas and other people's ideas and build on them together, on the basis that the outcome will be something greater than the sum of the inputs.


The seventh habit that makes all the other six last is Sharpening the Saw.  This powerful idea can really only be described by Covey's word-picture:

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

"What are you doing?" you ask.

"Can't you see?" comes the impatient reply. "I'm sawing down this tree."

"You look exhausted!" you exclaim. "How long have you been at it?"

"Over five hours," he returns, "and I'm beat! This is hard work."

"Well why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?" you inquire.  "I'm sure it would go a lot faster."

"I don't have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically. "I'm too busy sawing!"

Sharpening the saw is about renewing yourself - physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

The Seven Habits are difficult to describe adequately in such a small space as this.  Suffice to say that thousands of managers have found them a powerful philosophy, and when you boil them down, there's a lot of common sense in what Covey says.


In 1990, Covey published his concept of "Principle-Centered Leadership".  This built on his idea that success comes to people who have a strong sense of purpose and principles for how they live their lives.  If you think about effective leaders you've known or worked for, you'll find there was something they stood for or were known for - and which was probably respected as something 'good'.  Covey describes how leaders who have a clear idea of what they stand for and what they want to achieve will be more effective in maintaining and developing organisations and the people who work in them.  He also shows how this approach can make our personal relationships more effective, and the chapter entitled  "Eight ways to enrich marriage and family relationships" may be an application too far for more cynical European readers.

The third Covey Classic is "First Things First", published in 1994.  This approach builds on the principles of his first two books and applies them to managing time.  But this is no straightforward 'Time Management' course: Covey asserts that to be effective, we need to have a clear understanding of what we should be doing, and only then can we plan our business or personal time.  Again he tends to drift into motherhood and apple pie, but the First Things First approach has worked for a wide range of managers.  The discipline of taking stock of what's really important in your life allows you to be more assertive in managing your time, and the balance between your work and personal/social time.

FranklinCovey Europe will of course be happy to offer training courses built on Stephen Covey's core 'products'.  


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