One of the management books from the reading list of a recent leadership development program conducted by Dalmau Consulting, which has absolutely stood the test of time, is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by the late Stephen Covey.
What follows is an excerpt from one of the book reviews written by a participant and colleague in this program, Spiros Dimas. We think Spiro’s review, amply confirms that Covey’s landmark work is still as relevant today as when it was first published 24 years ago.
Author’s purpose and intended audience
… firstly understand oneself and then explore ways to be more effective.
At first glance I thought the audience was …aspiring managers and leaders but nothing could be further from the truth. The book is useful for all people of all walks of life – especially for young parents with families – just like me!
Paradigms –there is always a different perspective on things. People see things through different lenses. Sets the scene for the reader to take on the 7 habits he describes in his book.
Habit 1: Be Proactive – make things happen instead of reacting – take the initiative and be responsible for your choices…
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind – writing a personal mission statement. Identify…. – your character values and life goals.
Habit 3: Put First Things First – … pay special attention to Quadrant 2 in the time management matrix
Habit 4: Think Win-Win – strive for a win on both parties and be careful of using competition to achieve staff development.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood– using empathic listening skills to be more effective.
Habit 6: Synergize – Help join people together by amassing their strengths using teamwork.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw – create a sustainable lifestyle , making sure you cultivate your physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual – get BALANCE !.
Interest and usefulness to intended audience
Definitely useful…for all types of readers from family people to managers and prospective leaders.
Reflection on author’s propositions
At first I thought the author was making the changing habit sound easy and thought “who is this guy kidding?”. As I read on, I realised he was acknowledging these habits were indeed hard to achieve and almost a lifelong aim.
…I am not sure that his teachings are as easy to apply in all cultures – it may be okay for the Anglo-Saxon type culture. I am sceptical how these would go in Chinese culture.
With respect to writing a personal mission statement for our family, as Covey suggests – it seems to me a bit over the top and unnecessary.
Key learnings or insights
The distinction between leaders and managers was terrific for me. (Leaders focus on doing the right things; managers focus on doing things right)
I have been searching for years as to a succinct definition of these … terms. I reflected on my own work and realised that I am not putting as much effort into ‘real’ leadership as I may have thought – much of it is just management!
Time management matrix was especially helpful – …a real challenge in delegating stuff!
Emotional bank account – makes sense that people do work like this – interesting life examples.
Concept of people wanting a Lose/Win result struck a nerve with me – I need to learn from this!
Effective (dedicated to people) versus efficient (dedicated to time) – I never really ever understood the difference of these – so I absolutely loved this clear distinction – a BIG AHAA MOMENT for me !
Leaders are not born…, but are simply good managers that have taken on life-long education and slowly adopted principles and behaviours to become leaders.
The 7 habits of effective people do not come from work alone. These are values or learnings that must be applied to your whole life and be connected through your physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual being.
I would like to see these 7 habits manifest themselves into organisations’ business plans. I am certainly going to calibrate my team’s business plan against these!
Would you recommend this book to a colleague?
Definitely. In fact my wife is reading it!
It gave me an opportunity to delve into these topics of personal development that I sort of knew existed …
… Concepts were backed up by real life examples that made it practical and realistic instead of some psychologist’s theoretical explanation of human dynamics. It felt to me that this guy had struggled with these concepts himself, to my mind, increasing his credibility.
This book affected me so much that I went out and bought a personal copy (returned the borrowed one!) to continue to dip into as a resource.
Spiros Dimas, participant and colleague