About 15 years ago my leadership journey began. Stephen Covey’s books 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First were significant influences. Today I read of the passing of Mr Covey and would like to pay tribute to his work that has influenced millions of people to contribute meaningfully to their short life on earth.
Here are some of my thoughts on Stephen Covey’s legacy.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw
Habits 1, 2 and 3 focus on self-mastery. As leaders we need to take initiative, clarify and prioritise. Our internal leadership needs attention before we can effectively lead others.
The is followed by iinterdependence, habits 4, 5, 6. Leaders must be able to work with others, ‘with’ being the operative word. Mutually beneficial solutions, empathy and the ability to combine strengths are essential strings in the leaders bow.
Finally, habit 7, to lead and be effective leaders for the long haul we must balance and renew.
There are a few key principles from Covey’s work that continue to influence me today. Most significantly:
Circle of influence and circle of concern: Think of two circles. One in the middle, the other larger circle around it. The one in the middle is the circle of influence – these are things I can do something about – and should act on, I am able to influence. The circle of concern are the things that I am concerned about, but have insufficient influence to bring change. So where do I put my energies? In the circle of influence, where I can make a difference. If I spend too much time on my circle of concern, my energy is misplaced and I lose effectiveness. My goal, as a leader is to grow my circle of influence.
Clock and the Compass: When we put first things first we are guided by the clock and the compass. The clock represents the immediate – appointment, commitments, schedules and activities – how we manage our lives. The compass represents vision, values, principles, mission and direction – how we lead our lives. Both are important, but the principle of first things first gives priority – the compass comes before the clock. We are more effective in the day-to-day when our compass guides our clock.
Urgent and/or Important: The four quadrants are probably one of the best tools to think about what I do and when I do it. Think of a square, divided into four, along the vertical side are ‘not important’ and ‘important’, and the horizontal sides are ‘urgent’ and ‘not urgent’. This gives four categories:
- important and urgent
- not important and urgent
- not urgent and important
- not urgent and not important
Covey’s writing challenged my on this. I am more effective when I can prioritise my work and life to primarily focus on ‘not urgent and important’. When I do, it gives me the space to deal with the ‘important and urgent’ when it flies
I appreciate Stephen Covey for sharing his wisdom with the world.