One of the most influential business books on the market is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. For those of you who haven’t read it (which is staggering, since over 15 million copies have been sold!), it’s a life-changing book that outlines the seven key habits that you should adopt to be successful.
Read on to find out how you, too, can transform your approach to business, whether that involves developing your team or boosting the effectiveness of your software system, as well as your daily life.
This may sound easier said than done, but Covey suggests simple steps to becoming more proactive, such as changing your language and no longer using negative phrases such as ‘If only’, ‘I can’t’ and ‘I have to’. Instead, try ‘I can’ and ‘I will’.
In addition, when confronted with a problem, identify the first step to resolving it and take it, rather than allowing the problem to fester. Then make a daily commitment to being more proactive for at least 30 days for your new approach to become a habit
Begin with the end in mind
Visualise your end goal, be that a leaner business model or a cloud-based software system; you’ll only arrive at your desired destination by visualising this goal throughout your journey to achieving it. As Covey says, you wouldn’t start a journey without planning the best route to get there, or invest in a landscape garden without first planning out the finished result in your mind, and your approach to business should be no different.
As part of this process, understand the difference between leadership and management. You need to identify one individual to create and lead the journey to your goal if that isn’t you, and then a separate individual or team to manage this process.
Covey says: “In business, the market is changing so rapidly that many products and services that successfully met consumer tastes and needs a few years ago are obsolete today. Proactive, powerful leadership must constantly monitor environmental change, particularly customer buying habits and motives, and provide the force necessary to organise resources in the right direction.
Put first things first
According to Covey, we should categorise tasks as important/not important and urgent/not urgent. He defines ‘urgent’ items as those that require immediate action and ‘important’ items as those that require more initiative and proactivity.
He warns against the tendency to prioritise ‘urgent’ items, such as crises, and instead focus on preventing crises, as well as allowing sufficient time for people-related tasks.
In the case of your software system, this may mean working with your software provider to identify and resolve the cause of any recurring issues and spending time with staff to resolve their frustrations and ensure that they’re using the system in the right way.
Covey describes the essence of time and life management as the ability ‘to organise and execute around balanced priorities’, which he suggests can be done effectively by organising a flexible schedule on a weekly basis.
Covey recommends committing to maintaining a balance between courage and consideration when attempting to reach an agreement or negotiate a solution.
A really useful suggestion for this habit involves repositioning your approach, so rather than thinking in terms of win/lose, you think in terms of win/win and try to work towards a mutually agreeable outcome from which you gain as much as your ‘opposing’ party.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Covey observes the human propensity to rush into a situation in an attempt to fix it, without really understanding what’s really going on and causing an apparent problem.
An easy (to explain, not necessarily do) solution is to listen to all concerned parties with the intention of really listening to all sides of the issue, not just going through the motions of appearing to want to take a balanced view.
Of course, this relies on the involved parties being willing to air their views in an honest and constructive manner.
This habit involves putting into practice the previous five habits. This means striving for synergies by seeking to empathise with and understand colleagues with opposing points of view and ideas and looking for a mutually agreeable outcome. This also means creating the right working environment for this process to be possible.
Sharpen the saw
The last habit focuses on the renewal of self. In short, Covey believes that your ability to tackle the first six habits rely on your ability to be the best version of yourself.
“It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional,” he suggests.
So, commit to activities that would help to renew each of these areas in your life and monitor your effectiveness as a result.
The run up to Christmas is the perfect time to read and digest Covey’s work, so that you’re well positioned to put into practice his habits for 2019.