Stephen Covey renowned author of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” one of the best-selling books ever died last week at age 79. He was a giant in the self-help world and sold more than 20 million copies of his book, effectively communicating these habits in an easy-to-understand, practical manner.

The seminar on the book and the Franklin Covey time-management planner is probably one of the simplest and best ones—among hundreds—that I’ve attended.  You can apply the principles to everything you set out to accomplish. I’ve tried out many planners and found the Franklin Covey to be the best of the best.

Stephen Covey’s contribution to the art of leadership and the practice of communication are legendary.  I recommend that you either borrow the book from the library or purchase a copy.

Here’s a clear and concise version of the 7 Habits:

Habit 1: Be proactive. Covey believed that true leaders take responsibility for their behavior, as well as the choices they make in difficult times. This habit isn’t simply about being aggressive or assertive. Rather, Covey advocated never blaming others when things go wrong, but instead looking at our own actions and how we can improve ourselves before looking at the actions of others.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Covey argued that creating a “mental vision” for where you want a particular project or initiative to end up is essential to deciding how you will conduct yourself. Consider business meetings. If we asked ourselves how we want our meetings to conclude, how much more effective would our meetings be? Covey’s brilliance was arguing that we should start with the end first.

Habit 3: Put first things first. Covey said; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Easier said than done. Too often, we confuse activity with productivity. Covey wrote a wonderful book entitled “First Things First,” which some people consider a book on time management, but in many ways is a classic case study on how to prioritize your business and personal life. Great leaders decide on their priorities before they act, rather than simply acting out of the need to seem busy and engaged.

Habit 4: Think win-win. Instead of believing that in order for you to win, someone else needs to lose, Covey argued that there is an ever-expanding pie or, as he called it, “a cornucopia of opportunity.” Covey believed that when you think “win-win,” you are better able to resolve conflict and find ways to solve problems as opposed to achieving your goals while creating unnecessary enemies along the way.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. So many professionals argue that they are misunderstood. However, Covey said that great communicators and leaders work hard to make sure they understand where the other person is coming from. By doing so, they are better able to have their message understood. However, Covey warned, “Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness lies in balancing the two.”

Habit 6: Synergize. The word synergy is often nothing more than jargon, but the way Covey used it, the term was both practical and profound. Said Covey; “Synergy is about producing a third alternative — not my way, not your way, but a third way that is better than either of us could come up with individually.”
Covey was referring to the need for communicators and leaders to be creative negotiators that build powerful relationships with others.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.  Covey concluded that great leaders and communicators are never satisfied with the status quo. They are constantly working to improve themselves and those around them.
They never say; “We are good enough.” Covey believed that all professionals need to continually challenge themselves, read more and ask more questions.

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