The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

‘It is possible to be busy, very busy without being effective.’

If you feel you are working hard and not getting anywhere this book is a must.  The Seven Habits is a master class in increasing your self-knowledge and effectiveness and then transferring this to enable you to work effectively with others.

The title of the best-selling book makes it sound very functional.  But it is far from that, it’s a book that introduced new ideas and concepts that are now everyday management speak such as win/win and work life balance. Rather than being a book that’s all about behaviours this book encourages the reader to first identify their values, build their daily habits around these values and with perseverance success will follow.

So what are the seven habits?


  1. Be Proactive

What is the one key difference between animals and humans?  We are self aware.  Animals react instinctively to stimulus; however as humans we have the ability to choose our response.  Proactivity is the ability to control our circumstances through choosing our responses rather than being simply being reactive and therefore being a victim of our environment and our conditioning.

  1. Begin with the end in mind

All things are created twice, first in the head then in reality.  Before a house is built an architect draws up the plans.  To be successful in life you need to first picture what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it, you can then use these plans to achieve the success you desire.

  1. Put first things first

Many of us get lost in the busy-ness of life.  If you have read and understood habits 1 & 2 you will know that you have the ability to choose your response and you will know what you want to achieve. The next step is to realise the value of time and that you need to manage it in such a way that the most important things get done first.

  1. Think Win Win

Win Win is a frame of mind that constantly seeks to find solutions that suit all parties involved. Covey argues that in management and leadership we commonly use competitive or win / lose incentives and then are surprised when our team members don’t work well together. Finding Win Win solutions means that people work together which is far more effective than a team of individuals all trying to get one up on the others. It is also a highly effective method for solving conflicts and disagreements.

  1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

For truly effective interpersonal communication you need to identify the other person’s needs / wishes before pushing your own on them. If someone doesn’t understand you try taking the time to understand them, better first rather than trying to explain yourself.

  1. Synergise

The second half of the book is all about what Covey refers to as public victories.  The ultimate public victory is achieving synergy.  A team of people working together in synergy is far more effective and will achieve far greater success than any one person can achieve on their own.  Therefore the successful manager is always looking to work in synergy with others because he knows he will be more successful this way

  1. Sharpen the saw

Imagine a woodcutter trying to cut down a tree with a blunt saw.  Covey argues that it is better for him to stop cutting, sharpen his saw and then continue.  This way he will cut the tree down a lot faster, and with less effort, than if he kept hacking away with the blunt saw. Covey argues that an important part of being an effective person is knowing when your ‘saw is blunt.’  When you realise your methods are no longer effective you then need the discipline to stop what you’re doing, take a step back and find a new, better way of doing things.

Ten things you can learn from Covey’s 7 habits:

  1. Spend time identifying what your values are.
  2. Make and keep promises / commitments
  3. Admit your mistakes readily and openly
  4. Choose your response to every situation; don’t just react according to your ‘programming.’
  5. Always know what you want the end result of your efforts to look like
  6. Always prioritise tasks so that the most important tasks are at the top
  7. To solve conflict or differences of opinion look for a win/win solution
  8. Try an understand others  rather than force your thoughts on them
  9. To be truly successful work in synergy with others
  10. When things aren’t going according to plan take the time to step back and ‘sharpen your saw.’