From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Understanding, developing and applying these habits enable us to better respond to stimuli, making us more effective people.

I am excited to tell you that Utility Business Media Inc. recently published “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” a book that I wrote. During the research and writing process, I read a lot of books and want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the bestselling book authored by Stephen R. Covey. I hope that you find the article useful, and I hope it inspires you to read both Covey’s book and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development.

Most people are familiar with the title “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” but they may not be aware of the book’s subtitle: “Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” That’s why I am highlighting this book first in this series of articles – because, as Covey said, “If I want to change my situation, I have to focus on the one thing I can control – myself.”

This establishes a theme that will continue throughout each of the books I have chosen for this series. Successful and effective people are accountable and responsible to and for themselves and their teams. And perhaps most importantly, they understand how to use the gap between a stimulus or an event and their response with a focus on their desired outcome in decision-making.

In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Covey defined a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. The first three habits he wrote about focus on personal victory and significantly increased self-confidence. The next three are about public victory and relationships. The seventh habit renews the first six and, if deeply internalized, will help to make you truly independent and capable of effective interdependence.

Now, let’s take a brief look at each habit.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive.
I love Covey’s take on proactivity; he said that we as human beings are responsible for our own lives. Proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behavior. Instead, their behavior is a product of their own conscious choices based on values rather than a product of their condition based on feelings.

This habit challenges us to act or be acted upon and also addresses the famous Circles of Influence and Concern, to which I’d like to add a Circle of Control. Here’s a quick self-check: How often do you use reactive language – such as “There’s nothing I can do” or “They won’t allow that” – versus proactive language, such as “Let’s look at our alternatives” or “I can create an effective presentation.”

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind
Start with a clear understanding of your destination and establish what is deeply important to you. Know where you want to go so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are in the right direction. If the ladder is not leaning against the correct wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

Habit 3 – Put First Things First
Habit 3 is the practical fulfillment of Habits 1 and 2. Habit 1 tells us we are in charge and Habit 2 is the identification of what we want. Habit 3, then, is the creation of what we want. It’s the exercise of independent will toward becoming principle-centered.

Habit 4 – Think Win/Win
Win/win is a philosophy, a frame of mind and a mutual benefit in human interactions. I can’t help but thinking of the Dual Concern Model from “Negotiation in Social Conflict” by Dean G. Pruitt and Peter J. Carnevale, in which self-interest is the x-axis and the interest of others is the y-axis. From there they define four quadrants: yield, avoid, compete and cooperate, with compromise in the middle. In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Covey does a great job of explaining how cooperation (i.e., win/win) is possible and preferable to compromise.

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 5 begins with the premise that communication is the most important life skill and points out how much education and training we receive on reading, writing and speaking. But what about listening – specifically, empathic listening inside another person’s frame of reference? Seek first to understand, diagnose before you prescribe and then seek to be understood.

This reinforces the human performance tool of effective communication and the communication process we teach in the Frontline program (https://frontlineutilityleader.com). The difference between communication (which is easy) and effective communication (which is more difficult) is mutual understanding. For mutual understanding to occur, there must be a feedback loop, and the sender should focus more on the receiver and their feedback than themselves and their message.

Habit 6 – Synergize
Simply defined, “synergy” means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship that the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. Consider this especially in light of the current social environment in which we live and the challenges associated with demographic differences, such as multiple generations in the workplace. The essence of synergy is to value differences – to respect them, to build on strengths and to compensate for weaknesses.

Here I want to single out a section of this habit on synergy and communication that I find fascinating. In his book, Covey established that synergistic (win/win) communication can only happen where high levels of trust and cooperation exist. The opposite is defensive (win/lose or lose/win) communication, with respectful compromise in the middle.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw
Habit 7 is all about preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you – in the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional. Sharpening the saw means expressing and exercising all four dimensions of our individual natures regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.

How do you use the gap between stimulus and response? Within that question lies the essence of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Understanding, developing and applying the seven habits allow us to better respond to stimuli, making us highly effective people.

In closing, I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it inspires you to read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” and my book, “Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle.” Be sure to join me for a complimentary webinar about this article on January 12.

About the Author: David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM, is the director of professional development for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com) and the author of “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle.” He has extensive experience and expertise in leadership, human performance, safety and operations. McPeak is passionate about personal and professional development and believes that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are key to success. He also is an advanced certified practitioner in DISC, emotional intelligence, the Hartman Value Profile, learning styles and motivators.

About Frontline Fundamentals: Frontline Fundamentals topics are derived from the Incident Prevention Institute’s popular Frontline training program (https://frontlineutilityleader.com). Frontline covers critical knowledge, skills and abilities for utility leaders and aligns with the Certified Utility Safety Professional exam blueprint.

Webinar: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
January 12, 2022, at 1 p.m. Eastern
Visit https://frontlineutilityleader.com/webinar for more information.

Learn more from David McPeak on the iP Institute Podcast. Visit https://ip-institute.com/podcasts/#frontline

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David McPeak, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM, CUSP, is the director of professional development for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute (www.ip-institute.com). His experience includes operations management, safety and training roles. McPeak holds multiple safety and training certifications and has received numerous awards. He also has served as chairman of Task Team One of the OSHA ET&D Partnership, as a member of Incident Prevention’s editorial advisory board and as a member of the North Carolina Apprenticeship Council. Reach him at david@utilitybusinessmedia.com.

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