Becoming an Effective leader within a dynamic environment

Becoming an Effective leader within a dynamic environment

Seven Habits of Highly effective people

The last three days were intense. Our focus was learning how we can be effective leaders in a dynamic environment. Part of the learning was a focus on the 7 habits of the highly effective people, modeled after Stephen Covey book 7 habits of highly effective people.

Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.

HABIT 1: Be Proactive

The first habit that Covey discusses is being proactive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, to control our own effectiveness.
Put simply: In order to be effective, one must be proactive.
Reactive people take a passive stance – they believe that the world is happening to them. They say things like:
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“That’s just the way I am.”
They think the problem is “out there” – but that thought is the problem. Re-activity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control.
Proactive people, however, recognize that they have responsibility – or “response-ability.”
In order to be proactive, we must focus on the Circle of Influence that lies within our Circle of Concern – in other words, we must work on the things we can do something about.

HABIT 2:Begin With The End In Mind

Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us.
Most of us find it rather easy to busy ourselves. We work hard to achieve victories – promotions, higher income, more recognition. But we don’t often stop to evaluate the meaning behind this busyness, behind these victories – we don’t ask ourselves if these things that we focus on so intently are what really matter to us.
Habit 2 suggests that, in everything we do, we should begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination. That way, we can make sure the steps we’re taking are in the right direction.
Covey emphasizes that our self-awareness empowers us to shape our own lives, instead of living our lives by default, or based on the standards or preferences of others.
Beginning with the end in mind is also extremely important for businesses. Being a manager is about optimizing for efficiency. But being a leader is about setting the right strategic vision for your organization in the first place, and asking “what are we trying to accomplish?”


HABIT 3: Put First Things First

In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.

In Habit 2, we discussed the importance of determining our values and understanding what it is we are setting out to achieve. Habit 3 is all about actually going after these goals, and executing on our priorities on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.

In order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our goals, we need to have the willpower to do something when we don’t want to do it. We need to act according to our values rather  than our desires or impulses at any given moment.

HABIT 4: Think Win-Win

Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction:

  1. Win-Win: Both people win. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties.
  2. Win-Lose:“If I win, you lose.” Win-Lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, and personality to get their way.
  3. Lose-Win:“I lose, you win.” Lose-Win people are quick to please and appease, and seek strength from popularity or acceptance.
  4. Lose-Lose:Both people lose. When two Win-Lose people get together – that is, when two determined, stubborn, ego-invested individuals interact – the result will be Lose-Lose.
  5. Win:People with the Win mentality don’t necessarily want someone else to lose – that’s irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want.
  6. Win-Win or No Deal:If you can’t reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial, there is no deal.

The best option is to create Win-Win situations. With Win-Lose, or Lose-Win, one person appears to get what he wants for the moment, but the results will negatively impact the relationship between those two people going forward.
The Win-Win or No Deal option is important to use as a backup. When we have No Deal as an option in our mind, it liberates us from needing to manipulate people and push our own agenda. We can be open and really try to understand the underlying issues.

HABIT 5: Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood

Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening.

Let’s say you go to an optometrist and tell him that you’ve been having trouble seeing clearly, and he takes off his glasses, hands them to you and says, “here, try these – they’ve been working for me for years!” So you put them on, but it only makes the problem worse. What are the chances you’d go back to that optometrist?

Yet in our everyday interactions with others, we do the same thing. We prescribe a solution before we diagnose the problem. We don’t seek to deeply understand the problem first.

Habit 5 says that we must seek first to understand, then to be understood. In order to seek to understand, we must learn to listen.

To listen empathically requires a fundamental paradigm shift. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they’re either speaking or preparing to speak.

When we listen autobiographically – in other words, with our own perspective as our frame of reference – we tend to respond in one of four ways:

  1. Evaluate:agree or disagree with what is said
  2. Probe:ask questions from our own frame of reference
  3. Advise:give counsel based on our own experience
  4. Interpret:try to figure out the person’s motives and behavior based on our own motives and behavior

But if we replace these types of response with empathic listening, we see dramatic results in improved communication. It takes time to make this shift, but it doesn’t take nearly as long to practice empathic listening as it does to back up and correct misunderstandings, or to live with unexpressed and unresolved problems only to have them surface later on.

The second part of Habit 5 is “… then to be understood.” This is equally critical in achieving Win-Win solutions.

HABIT 6: Synergize

By understanding and valuing the differences in another person’s perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity.

The combination of all the other habits prepares us for Habit 6, which is the habit of synergy.

Synergy allows us to create new alternatives, open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones.

Achieving synergy is often exciting, and is often felt so strongly when it happens that some people attempt to recreate a particular synergistic experience. This can’t often be done; however, we can seek new synergistic experiences around new and different purposes.

The real essence of synergy is valuing the differences – the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people.

HABIT 7: Sharpen The Saw

To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit.  Habit 7 is focused around renewal, or taking time to “sharpen the saw.” It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset – yourself.There are four dimensions of our nature, and each must be exercised regularly, and in balanced ways:

Physical Dimension:
The goal of continuous physical improvement is to exercise our body in a way that will enhance our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy.  To renew ourselves physically, we must: Eat well Get sufficient rest and relaxation Excercise on a regular basis to build endurance, flexibility, and strengthFocusing on the physical dimension helps develop Habit 1 muscles of proactivity; we act based on the value of well-being instead of reacting to the forces that keep us from fitness.

Spiritual Dimension:

 The goal of renewing our spiritual self is to provide leadership to our life and reinforce your commitment to our value system.  To renew ourselves spiritually, we can:   Practice daily meditation or prayer Communicate with nature Immerse yourself in great literature or musicA focus on our spiritual dimension helps us practice Habit 2, as we continuously revise and commit ourselves to our values, so we can begin with the end in mind.

Mental Dimension:

The goal of renewing our mental health is to continue expanding our mind.  To renew ourselves mentally, we can:  Read good literature Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences, and insights Limit television watching to only those programs that enrich your life and mindFocusing on our mental dimension helps us practice Habit 3 by managing ourselves effectively to maximize the use of our time and resources.

Social / Emotional Dimension:
The goal of renewing ourselves socially is to develop meaningful relationships.  To renew ourselves emotionally, we can:   Seek to deeply understand other people Make contributions to meaningful projects that improve the lives of others Maintain an Abundance Mentality, and seek to help others find successRenewing our social and emotional dimension helps us practice Habits 4, 5, and 6 by recognizing that Win-Win solutions do exist, seeking to understand others, and finding mutually beneficial third alternatives through synergy.


The real beauty of the 7 Habits is that improvement in one habit synergistically increases our ability to improve the rest.

Renewal is the process that empowers us to move along an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.

Group photo after the end of the 3 days of learning:



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