Updated: Sep 23
Rosie Seldon, MD of Digital Qube, describes how training based on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People changed the way she worked for ever
During the course of my career, I’ve attended and run a LOT of training programmes and workshops. Some of them have been life changing. Some of them, not so much. But I have to say, even to this day, I remember Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The three-day training took place many years ago in London. It was inspired by Stephen Covey’s famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (2004). At the time, I was working for a big company and we were launching the very first share-trading platform in the UK. Needless to say, it was an exciting but nerve-wracking time. The dot com boom was underway, we were at the start of the internet revolution, and every day presented a new IT challenge. The atmosphere was inspiring but chaotic, so everyone in the business was invited to the workshop. It was a great strategy, to bring everybody together like that, from the top down, because it gave us all a sense of shared purpose.
Anyway, that workshop involved employees role-playing each of Stephen Covey’s seven habits, and looking back, I’d say it had a profound impact on the company. It affected me, too, and three things in particular have stuck with me. Barely a day goes by when I don’t actively implement one of these “rules”, so here they are. I hope you find them as useful as I do.
#1 Circle back to what’s important
Writing about his first habit, Covey describes the “Circle of Concern“ and the “Circle of Influence“. He’s basically talking about the things we can and can’t control. The message is that if you CAN’T control something, DON’T waste energy worrying about it! Save that energy for the things you CAN influence. Before the training, we were all stressed about things we cared about but couldn’t control. We were working in a fast-moving environment, it was the years of the dot com boom, and the speed of change – well, it was draining. Covey’s concept lifted a weight from our shoulders! We started to focus on the things we could influence, not the 100s of IT and management challenges we couldn’t.
#2 Urgent or important?
Describing his third habit, Covey defines the difference between URGENT and IMPORTANT. This lesson has really stayed with me, because what’s really important shouldn’t get shoved out of the way just because the intern is tapping on my shoulder and shouting that his jobs are super-urgent! It's important to control where you put your attention. It’s easy to confuse things that are important with things that urgently require immediate attention but I find it helpful in business to ask myself every day: “What’s actually important?” I can then focus on that with laser-sharp attention and don’t let anyone or anything get in its way! With this mindset it's amazing what you can achieve.
#3 Listen first
The fifth habit highlights the importance of listening to other people before trying to give them advice. For me, this is the single biggest thing to remember when you are in a meeting, especially when you are meeting a client for the first time. Listening FIRST helps you understand your client’s objectives and goals. It is only when you understand what these are, that you can present a truly helpful and useful response that actually matches what they need.
7 Habits “Cheat sheet”
Okay, I know you love the sound of it, but if you haven’t got time to read Stephen Covey’s book, here’s my five-minute summary. Read them and live by them!
#1 Be proactive
Start with yourself. Like the next two habits (outlined below), this is about taking responsibility for your life and cultivating a proactive mindset. To put it another way, don’t be the passenger, waiting for things to happen to you – be the driver of your own life! Take the initiative – for example, set yourself small goals and then stick with them.
#2 Begin with the end in mind
Covey explains how creating a personal mission statement can form the guide to the way you live your life. For example, when writing a business plan, visualise where you want the business to be in five years time. Start with the end in mind, then work out how you get there!
#3 Put first things first
This highlights the importance of effective daily self-management.
#4 Think win-win
Aim for win-win (to everyone’s benefit), rather than alternative scenarios like win-lose (or even lose-lose). How we all wish the governments of the world could live by this mantra. It is all about finding a common goal and way ahead, through communication and teamwork.
#5 Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Here, Covey highlights the impact that you can have when you listen carefully and empathetically before trying to communicate your own opinions. It's amazing how grateful people can be, even your own kids, when you take the time to sit down and really listen to them. Don’t pass judgment, don’t give advice, just nod and listen.
Synergy. Isn’t that the most satisfying feeling in the world? When you are in total synergy with your colleagues and team. It requires a successful blend of skills and a win-win mentality, in which everyone benefits, based on empathetic communication.
#7 Sharpen the saw
“Sharpening the saw” is essentially self-care, everything from good nutrition and exercise to nurturing friendships. It’s about strengthening different elements of yourself – the physical, spiritual, mental, social and emotional – to ensure an “upward spiral” of growth and continuous improvement.
Because great training has benefited me personally, I wanted Digital Qube to be able to offer similarly inspiring training. We have courses on ways to enhance your work performance, including the values necessary to be successful in work, available for individuals and companies – practical/theoretical training and its application to real-life projects. If you are ever interested in doing any training, please get in touch.
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