Ronald Olusegun Olaiya
While writing, Stephen R. Covey, in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gave great insights for enhancing our personal effectiveness irrespective of which sphere of life we may find ourselves. The contents of the book provide powerful tools for effectiveness of those in the industrial, commercial, financial, non-governmental organisations, politics, families, entrepreneurs, clerics, and other areas of human endeavour.
In the book that was first published in 1989, Stephen Covey did not spare effort at demonstrating his feeling against what he called “The Personality Ethic” which he felt was a common factor among many modern motivational books. He instead threw his weight behind the idea of “The Character Ethic”: According to him, this aligns one’s values with “universal and timeless” principles.
He took his time and effort to differentiate between principles and values. According to him, principles represent external natural laws. On the other hand, values are internal and subjective. Highlighting their uses along this distinction, Covey opined that values govern people’s wide range of behaviours. Contrary to this, principles determine the consequences.
There are certain habits that are thrown up for expression as progression is being made from dependence, to independence and interdependence.
Covey sees our character as aggregates of habits; these habits have profound impacts on our lives. According to him, the habits comprise of knowledge, skill, and desire. Through knowledge we know what to do. With skill we have the ability to know how to do what we know we should do. Our desires drive us to do the what.
The 7 Habits take us through the three levels indicated below:
- Dependence: This paradigm represents our state when we were born newly. At this level we depend virtually on others to take care of us, viz: bathing, feeding, carrying us, singing and dancing for us, to mention just a few.
- Independence: At this stage we are now in a position to take decisions and do things on our own. We take care of ourselves without interference/intervention from anybody.
- Interdependence: This paradigm represents the state in which we cannot independently do things on our own and we have to enlist the cooperation and support of others to get the goal achieved.
This is a significant departure from the position of many motivational books that over-emphasised independence. They are in support of getting people free to do things the way they want. Implicit in this viewpoint is the assumption that people can be islands on their own. This assumption is fraught with error in that in real life we are actually interdependent. The independent school of thought cannot bring out the best in people. We need each other to get things done.
Covey went further to demonstrate that the first three habits help us to achieve private victory. This is because these habits help us to attain the goal of self-mastery; thus through private victory, we are able to move to independence from dependence. Find below the three habits:
- Habit 1: Be Proactive
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
- Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habits 4, 5, and 6 work together to take us to the stage of interdependence:
- Habit 4: Think Win/Win
- Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Habit 6: Synergize
The 7th habit has to do with renewal and continuous improvement. In other words this state is where conscious efforts are made to develop one’s personal production capability. Effectiveness at this stage requires striking the right balance between actual productivity and improving one’s capability to produce.
The point being made here is that attempt to maximise production without consideration for production capacity will ultimately undermine the capacity. It is the combination of production and production capacity that results in effectiveness. This idea of striking a between production and production capacity has serious implication for physical, financial, and human assets.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Let your attention be on what you can take decision and take action over. The change starts with you and within you. Work on what you can readily influence and change with or without anybody. This is how effective people work. And it has positive impact on their lives and the result they post. Do not be a reactive person.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Start what you are doing having in mind the end result. In other words, this habit is helping to address the question, what are we going to get at the end of this effort we are about to initiate? This requires developing a principle-centred approach. This of course will necessitate having a personal mission statement (PMS). This should incorporate both short and long term goals, depending on the personal principles of the person in question.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Do not run a ramshackle life! Let your decisions and actions be based on well identified needs and priorities. Concentrate your time and efforts working tasks on activities that are aligned with your person mission, taking into cognisance the need to maintain the proper balance production and building production capacity.
Habit 4: Think Win‐Win
There are three keywords involved here. They are integrity, maturity, and abundance mentality.
Integrity: This requires you to keep to your true and genuine feelings, values, and commitments.
Maturity: Think of the feeling of other people. Life does not revolve around you alone; others too need to meet their own needs.
Abundance Mentality: Pursue agenda that are mutually beneficial in your relationship with others. Believe that you and others can legitimately pursue your goals and still achieve them. Anything short of “win/win” should result in “no deal” agreement. In other words, you “Agree to disagree agreeably.” Always insist on rewarding “win/win” behaviour as a way of building positive behavioural culture. Avoid rewarding “win/lose” behaviour.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Develop the skill of communicating with people in the simplest manner even as you are also required to develop the culture of listening to other people. This is important in ensuring successful interpersonal relations. Effective listening goes beyond echoing what the other person is saying using your own personal experience as the guide. It also involves being empathic; putting yourself in the shoes of the other person to feel what he/she is feeling. This will enable you to have the clear meaning and feeling of the person you are listening to.
Habit 6: Synergize
In the course of useful, trustful and effective communication, rapports are created and bonds are facilitated. This should make it possible to discover ways to leverage individual differences and complimentary capabilities that will enable them create values that ordinarily would have been impossible without such efforts.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
This involves creating rooms and opportunities to grow your capacity building programme, developing the following areas of life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. This involves taking time out from production to enable you achieve this objective. This may involve taking a vacation.
Additional and complementary Publications to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
As a way of demonstrating that the book has relevance for people across strata and ages, some other publications have since been made to address certain sections of the population. They include the following:
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey (son of Stephen R. Covey)
- Beyond the 7 Habits
- The 8th Habit of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This was published in 2004
The book is strongly recommended for the following groups of people:
- Parents and guardians who are involved in parenting.
- Teachers and others that are involved in teaching and educational administration at all levels (public and private).
- Politicians and political office holders at local, state, national and international levels.
- Managers and executives of government ministries, departments and agencies.
- Business owners and entrepreneurs across industries.
- Managers and executives across different professional lines.
- Clerics and religious leaders across different faiths.
- Operators and those involved in the running and management of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
- Managers of health institutions in the public and private sectors.
- Others who are managing people or/and who are people being managed, including the teens.