8 Things I Learned From the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

covey, 7 habits, leadership

This book came out in 1989 and I read it in 1990 or 1991. Now it has sold over 25 million copies and been translated into 38 languages. Even though I first read this book 25 years ago, I remember a few things about how it shaped me.

1.  The market was not yet saturated with books like this. It was a genuine standout book. Get into the "market" early and be an influencer. Covey did that. 

2.  I learned the power of a short list of memorable ideas. Covey had 7 of them, each one loaded with transformative potential. While Covey took careful and significant time to explain each idea, the TAG LINE made them powerful. You don't use what you don't think about. You don't think about what you can't remember.

3.  I learned the even greater power of a system. While each idea could stand by itself and make a difference, Covey put them together in a system. In that system a synergy took place. They enhanced each other, penetrated each other with energy and vitality, and as a collection or ordered ideas, they soared. Better, they helped the reader soar. Systems of ideas matter. Ideas arranged in progressive order matter. Don't just make a list of ideas. Create a system where the ideas stand in a specific relationship with one another.

4.  This was a major upgrade to ideas of time management that had been around for some time. Covey introduced the themes of priority and life management. Time was meant to be used for the most important things, for our priorities, for our mission-critical work. It was not just a matter of arranging a few things on your week's calendar. There were habits of the heart that had to be formed and in place. Internal practices would make external management possible and then fruitful.

5.  As I look at his list, I realize that every one of the 7 Habits, is indeed a habit for me. Each one is part of my leadership worldview. Some of the earliest influences are the most powerful and lasting. Numbers 2,3, 6 & 7 are supremely defining of the way I lead. Number 6 - synergize describes my approach to life. I am a Deep Generalist who loves to see ideas from new fields of interest mix and mingle and produce new ways of thinking about my major areas of work. Number 7 - sharpen the saw, I call it life long learning. 

6.  The goal was to become Highly Effective. Effective was carefully chosen. Effective, in Peter Drucker's definition is doing the right things to get the results you need. Doing the wrong things doesn't get results. Think about what matters most. Make those things your life business. 

7.  Even the best systems can be improved. Later Covey came out with The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. I so value this. As Covey continued to sharpen his saw, he continued to learn and grow. He improved on his very best material to make it better. That is so motivating for me. How can I make my best stuff even better?

8.  There is great benefit from REALLY ENGAGING with a book. Don't just read it. Grab hold of it. Wrestle with it. Argue with it. Reflect on it. Consider how you apply its insights to your own life. While I do this automatically, I know many people need more guidance on how to engage with a book then most books provide. That is why my own preferred mode of writing is to create workbooks. The workbooks provide the content and a mentored process to engage that content.

I could go on and on with lessons learned from Covey and his 8 Habits. Several times a year I pull the 7 Habits off the shelf and "rummage through the pages." I like to do that with good books. Pull them off the shelf, dip into them, explore a little for some fresh stimulation.

How about you?
Did you ever read this book?
Were there any major take-away, life changing lessons for you?


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org