The 7 habits of highly effective people
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is a highly influential book, first published in 1989, written by Stephen Covey, an American leadership consultant. Although the book is mainly aimed at business managers, the habits it advocates really apply to everyone. So whilst reading the whole book is highly recommended, it's good for everyone to have some knowledge about the seven habits that Covey advocates:
1. Be pro-active
Being effective begins with acknowledging that it's up to you to take control of your own life - and to decide how you are going to react to the world around you. As Covey says: "It's not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us that hurts us". This is also the core principle of coaching.
2. Begin with the end in mind
Knowing what you want in life is the first step towards achieving it. This seems obvious but it is amazing how many people can't answer the question "What do you want to happen?". They know what they find annoying and that they want things to be better - but can't say exactly how they would like things to be.
3. Put first things first
This is all about distinguishing between things that may be urgent but are not very important (answering every e-mail as soon as it arrives) and things that may not be urgent but are very important (such as planning your next career move). Being busy is very different from being effective!
4. Think win/win
Lots of people live their lives on the principle that that they can only regard themselves as a winner if they "beat" others along the way. But Covey argues that the most effective people are those who think we can all be winners when we work together and recognise each other's strengths and aspirations. The best leaders want the people they lead to all feel successful.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Many of us act as if the most important part of any conversation is whether or not we have told our story well and have got others to hear our opinions. But in Covey's view, highly effective people (whether they are leaders, sales people or friends) begin by asking lots of questions and listening very carefully to the answers.
Synergising is about recognising that every person has their own unique strengths and qualities. You are not better than anyone and no-one is better than you. We are at our most effective when we are allowed to use our own strengths to the maximum and when we allow others to do the same, with encouragement rather than criticism.
7. Sharpen the saw
President Lincoln once said that if he was given six hours to chop down a tree he'd spend the first four sharpening the axe (or saw). Similarly, Covey believes that if you are working a nine hour day and want to be more effective, the answer is not to start working for 10 hours a day. Rather it would be better to cut your hours at work and spend more time looking after yourself with exercise, relaxation, friendship and spiritiuality - so that you can bring your best, most creative self to work the next day.
How coaching can help
Stephen Covey's 7 Habits are not just relevant for business managers. They are the underlying principles of most coaching programmes - especially in relation to:
- Taking responsibility for your own life and emotions.
- Deciding what you most want out of life, inside and outside work.
- Working in partnership with others, helping them to achieve their own goals as they help you to achieve yours.
- Ensuring you have a good work/life balance
Following these principles, coaching can literally transform your life.
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About Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill is a leadership and well-being coach who specialises in bringing a positive psychology approach to his coaching. Over the last five years he has helped literally hundreds of clients to restart their lives, develop new levels of confidence, change careers, improve their work/life balance, or become better leaders and managers.