Title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Steven R. Covey
Publication details: Simon & Schruster Ltd, Great Britain, 1992
Number of pages: 355 pages
Since first being introduced to this classic book on personal development as part of my MBA course, I have revisited it several times and got something new out of it, every time. I again find ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven R. Covey relevant for today’s business context of uncertainty and economic upheaval. We are experiencing higher levels of stress with events like salary cuts and layoffs. In times like these it is essential that we stay grounded within ourselves and not loose faith in our own abilities. This book helps focus on the things you can control i.e., things within your “Circle of Control” rather than “Circle of Influence” and helps you stay confident and less stressed. It says…“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” What is more the book’s step-by-step holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for living gives one the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.
Covey begins the book by discussing how we all have our own paradigms (map of how we perceive the world and how we think the world should be), the source of our attitudes and behaviors. We must begin ‘Personal Effectiveness’ by examining our own character, paradigms, and motives rather than looking at our problems as "being out there". This ‘inside-out’ approach says “If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee…” Hence, Covey argues that character and principles are keys to success, effectiveness, and happiness in life. And that there are no quick fixes that will work permanently.
Covey then details out the ‘Seven Habits’ that will help you develop personally and so become more effective in how you live, work and relate with other people. The ‘Seven Habits’ help us move through three stages of personal development. The first three viz., be proactive, begin with the end in mind and put first things first, take you from dependence to independence. The next three viz., think "win/win", seek first to understand and then to be understood and synergise usher you along to interdependence, and the seventh viz., sharpen the saw is needed to reinforce the other habits. The habits are inter-related and synergistic, yet each one is powerful and worthy of being adopted and followed in its own right.
Apart from explaining vividly and developing a case for inculcating each of the habits, Covey also provides concrete exercises to apply and develop these habits over a period of time. For instance for the habit ‘synergise’ he suggests “Make a list of people who irritate you. Do they represent different views that could lead to synergy if you had greater intrinsic security and valued the difference?” The examples scattered throughout the book help reinforce the value of each habit. Covey illustrates the think "win/win", with the story of how a management training program was revamped. This not only resulted in saving costs for the company by reducing the training period drastically, but also in producing highly motivated and well trained set of management trainees.
What made the book an interesting read for me was that it integrates many useful concepts - personal scripts, importance and urgent quadrant, abundance mentality, principles of successful change, visioning, empathetic listening, effective delegation...the list can go on and on. Also the fact that Covey is quite specific helps. For example he recommends that one must devote an hour everyday to sharpen one’s saw viz., the habit of self renewal.
Like many self-help books, much of what you read here is common sense. However, what Covey manages to do so successfully is to convince the readers to take a long hard look at themselves. But, the only real way to test the value of the habits is to work on them and find out for oneself. While anybody embarking on a journey of self development will find this book valuable, it is a must read for every aspiring Manager.