Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Since Stephen Covey died this week (from injuries sustained in a bike accident), I thought I'd finally pick up the book that's been sitting on my desk waiting to be read for well over a year now: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  After thumbing through it I can see what an impact this book has had on American business culture, not least including the church business. I can hear the presentations and PowerPoints of countless mediocre copyists, throwing around words like "paradigm" and flashing the picture of the beauty/hag to talk about self-perception (now I know where that picture came from).

But it does seem a quite remarkable book.  I didn't realize that I had already read it... in the language of American culture.

1. Be proactive.
How many times have I heard this sentiment.  "We can see where this is headed.  We need to be proactive."  I can think of leaders at IWU who've used this principle and forestalled trends that hadn't even gained steam.  And I can think of crises where leaders ignored impending data they were warned about years in advance to no avail.

2. Begin with the end in mind.
Mind you, this book is full of psycho-babble of a sort.  It's not too bad (although the animated movie Hoodwinked came to mind where the evil bunny has written a Personal Mission Statement).  But this principle is now the key to good education practice.  A good educational system is one that is "outcomes driven."  You know exactly what you want the student to know when a course, degree, or program is over and you design things with that goal in mind.

3. Put first things first.
I smiled when I saw this.  Wasn't this a motto at IWU before World Changers?  If so, then I have no doubt that then President Barnes or the board got the motto from this book. It's intuitive for some.  Very difficult for others.

This is where the "4 Quadrant" model comes from that I learned from Russ Gunsalus and have used to frame my own activities as an administrator.  Quadrant I activities are pressing and important.  They inevitably get the focus of our attention.

Quadrant II activities are important, but not urgent.  These are the ones we can easily put off but can't afford to.  The danger is that Quadrant III activities will suck up all our time--things that are urgent but ultimately not too important.  This is the biggest problem area for so many of us.  In a business (or church), these are the tasks we need to delegate to others.

Quadrant IV activities are finally the not urgent and not important.  People we consider failures at life are those who spend all their time on these sorts of things (watching TV) when there are important Quadrant I and II things that need to be done.

There's quite a nice list in between Habit 3 and 4.  Covey calls them six major deposits for building up your "emotional bank account" with others (a cheesy way of talking about your trust level with others).
  • Understand where other people are coming from.
  • Attend to the little things.
  • Keeping commitments
  • Clarifying expectations
  • Showing personal integrity.
  • Apologizing when you make a withdrawal from the "emotional bank account."
  • Unconditional love.
4. Win-Win
I immediately thought of the movie, Letters to Juliet when I saw this phrase.  It's another phrase tossed about in pop culture.  In Letters, the fiance keeps doing selfish things that push his bride-to-be away.  He calls it a "win-win" for both of them, but really it is always a "win-lose" for him.

Lose-Lose is pretty much how Congress has been operating of late.  If both sides have a win-lose mentality, then usually both will lose.

5. Understand first, then be understood.
This is common sense relational advice.  "Diagnose before you prescribe," which amounts to the advice not to jump to conclusions.  Listen before you leap.

6. Synergize
Another word that has trickled throughout American entrepreneurial culture.  "Look for synergies."  It's looking for common energies heading the same direction independently and then hooking the two together to see what happens.

7. Sharpen the saw.
The final habit is about renewing yourself as a person. Paying attention to your body, your soul, your mind.

Great book!

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