After completing the reading, video, and website assignments for this week, Write a 350 to 500 word well written essay to address the following questions: 1) What have you learned about the FranklinCovey organization this week? 2) How has your perception of this course changed this week? 3) How do the courses and products of the FranklinCovey organization help to develop and assist leaders? Please note: A “well written essay” should include a brief introduction, a few substantive paragraphs in the body, and a brief conclusion.

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QuickMBA / Management / 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Summary of Stephen R. Covey’s
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
In his #1 bestseller, Stephen R. Covey presented a framework for personal
effectiveness. The following is a summary of the first part of his book, concluding
with a list of the seven habits.
Inside­Out: The Change Starts from Within
While working on his doctorate in the 1970’s, Stephen R. Covey reviewed 200 years
of literature on success. He noticed that since the 1920’s, success writings have
focused on solutions to specific problems. In some cases such tactical advice may
have been effective, but only for immediate issues and not for the long­term,
underlying ones. The success literature of the last half of the 20th century largely
attributed success to personality traits, skills, techniques, maintaining a positive
attitude, etc. This philosophy can be referred to as the Personality Ethic.
However, during the 150 years or so that preceded that period, the literature on
success was more character oriented. It emphasized the deeper principles and
foundations of success. This philosophy is known as the Character Ethic, under
which success is attributed more to underlying characteristics such as integrity,
courage, justice, patience, etc.
The elements of the Character Ethic are primary traits while those of the Personality
Ethic are secondary. While secondary traits may help one to play the game to
succeed in some specific circumstances, for long­term success both are necessary.
One’s character is what is most visible in long­term relationships. Ralph Waldo
Emerson once said, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what
you say.”
To illustrate the difference between primary and secondary traits, Covey offers the
following example. Suppose you are in Chicago and are using a map to find a
particular destination in the city. You may have excellent secondary skills in map
reading and navigation, but will never find your destination if you are using a map of
Detroit. In this example, getting the right map is a necessary primary element before
your secondary skills can be used effectively.
The problem with relying on the Personality Ethic is that unless the basic underlying
paradigms are right, simply changing outward behavior is not effective. We see the
world based on our perspective, which can have a dramatic impact on the way we
perceive things. For example, many experiments have been conducted in which two
groups of people are shown two different drawings. One group is shown, for
instance, a drawing of a young, beautiful woman and the other group is shown a
drawing of an old, frail woman. After the initial exposure to the pictures, both groups
are shown one picture of a more abstract drawing. This drawing actually contains
the elements of both the young and the old woman. Almost invariably, everybody in
the group that was first shown the young woman sees a young woman in the
abstract drawing, and those who were shown the old woman see an old woman.
Each group was convinced that it had objectively evaluated the drawing. The point
is that we see things not as they are, but as we are conditioned to see them. Once
we understand the importance of our past conditioning, we can experience a
paradigm shift in the way we see things. To make large changes in our lives, we
must work on the basic paradigms through which we see the world.
The Character Ethic assumes that there are some absolute principles that exist in
all human beings. Some examples of such principles are fairness, honesty, integrity,
human dignity, quality, potential, and growth. Principles contrast with practices in
that practices are for specific situations whereas principles have universal
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People presents an “inside­out” approach to
effectiveness that is centered on principles and character. Inside­out means that the
change starts within oneself. For many people, this approach represents a paradigm
shift away from the Personality Ethic and toward the Character Ethic.
The Seven Habits ­ An Overview
Our character is a collection of our habits, and habits have a powerful role in our
lives. Habits consist of knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge allows us to know
what to do, skill gives us the ability to know how to do it, and desire is the motivation
to do it.
The Seven Habits move us through the following stages:
1. Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to
take care of us.
2. Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions
and take care of ourselves.
3. Interdependence: the paradigm under which we cooperate to achieve
something that cannot be achieved independently.
Much of the success literature today tends to value independence, encouraging
people to become liberated and do their own thing. The reality is that we are
interdependent, and the independent model is not optimal for use in an
interdependent environment that requires leaders and team players.
To make the choice to become interdependent, one first must be independent, since
dependent people have not yet developed the character for interdependence.
Therefore, the first three habits focus on self­mastery, that is, achieving the private
victories required to move from dependence to independence. The first three habits
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habits 4, 5, and 6 then address interdependence:
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize
Finally, the seventh habit is one of renewal and continual improvement, that is, of
building one’s personal production capability. To be effective, one must find the
proper balance between actually producing and improving one’s capability to
produce. Covey illustrates this point with the fable of the goose and the golden egg.
In the fable, a poor farmer’s goose began laying a solid gold egg every day, and the
farmer soon became rich. He also became greedy and figured that the goose must
have many golden eggs within her. In order to obtain all of the eggs immediately, he
killed the goose. Upon cutting it open he discovered that it was not full of golden
eggs. The lesson is that if one attempts to maximize immediate production with no
regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost. Effectiveness is a
function of both production and the capacity to produce.
The need for balance between production and production capability applies to
physical, financial, and human assets. For example, in an organization the person in
charge of a particular machine may increase the machine’s immediate production
by postponing scheduled maintenance. As a result of the increased output, this
person may be rewarded with a promotion. However, the increased immediate
output comes at the expense of future production since more maintenance will have
to be performed on the machine later. The person who inherits the mess may even
be blamed for the inevitable downtime and high maintenance expense.
Customer loyalty also is an asset to which the production and production capability
balance applies. A restaurant may have a reputation for serving great food, but the
owner may decide to cut costs and lower the quality of the food. Immediately, profits
will soar, but soon the restaurant’s reputation will be tarnished, the customer’s trust
will be lost, and profits will decline.
This does not mean that only production capacity is important. If one builds capacity
but never uses it, there will be no production. There is a balance between building
production capacity and actually producing. Finding the right tradeoff is central to
one’s effectiveness.
The above has been an introduction and overview of the 7 Habits. The following
introduces the first habit in Covey’s framework.
Habit 1:
Be Proactive
A unique ability that sets humans apart from animals is self­awareness and the
ability to choose how we respond to any stimulus. While conditioning can have a
strong impact on our lives, we are not determined by it. There are three widely
accepted theories of determinism: genetic, psychic, and environmental. Genetic
determinism says that our nature is coded into our DNA, and that our personality
traits are inherited from our grandparents. Psychic determinism says that our
upbringing determines our personal tendencies, and that emotional pain that we felt
at a young age is remembered and affects the way we behave today. Environmental
determinism states that factors in our present environment are responsible for our
situation, such as relatives, the national economy, etc. These theories of
determinism each assume a model in which the stimulus determines the response.
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the death camps of Nazi
Germany. While in the death camps, Frankl realized that he alone had the power to
determine his response to the horror of the situation. He exercised the only freedom
he had in that environment by envisioning himself teaching students after his
release. He became an inspiration for others around him. He realized that in the
middle of the stimulus­response model, humans have the freedom to choose.
Animals do not have this independent will. They respond to a stimulus like a
computer responds to its program. They are not aware of their programming and do
not have the ability to change it. The model of determinism was developed based on
experiments with animals and neurotic people. Such a model neglects our ability to
choose how we will respond to stimuli.
We can choose to be reactive to our environment. For example, if the weather is
good, we will be happy. If the weather is bad, we will be unhappy. If people treat us
well, we will feel well; if they don’t, we will feel bad and become defensive. We also
can choose to be proactive and not let our situation determine how we will feel.
Reactive behavior can be a self­fulfilling prophecy. By accepting that there is
nothing we can do about our situation, we in fact become passive and do nothing.
The first habit of highly effective people is proactivity. Proactive people are driven
by values that are independent of the weather or how people treat them. Gandhi
said, “They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” Our
response to what happened to us affects us more than what actually happened. We
can choose to use difficult situations to build our character and develop the ability to
better handle such situations in the future.
Proactive people use their resourcefulness and initiative to find solutions rather than
just reporting problems and waiting for other people to solve them.
Being proactive means assessing the situation and developing a positive response
for it. Organizations can be proactive rather than be at the mercy of their
environment. For example, a company operating in an industry that is experiencing
a downturn can develop a plan to cut costs and actually use the downturn to
increase market share.
Once we decide to be proactive, exactly where we focus our efforts becomes
important. There are many concerns in our lives, but we do not always have control
over them. One can draw a circle that represents areas of concern, and a smaller
circle within the first that represents areas of control. Proactive people focus their
efforts on the things over which they have influence, and in the process often
expand their area of influence. Reactive people often focus their efforts on areas of
concern over which they have no control. Their complaining and negative energy
tend to shrink their circle of influence.
In our area of concern, we may have direct control, indirect control, or no control at
all. We have direct control over problems caused by our own behavior. We can
solve these problems by changing our habits. We have indirect control over
problems related to other people’s behavior. We can solve these problems by using
various methods of human influence, such as empathy, confrontation, example, and
persuasion. Many people have only a few basic methods such as fight or flight. For
problems over which we have no control, first we must recognize that we have no
control, and then gracefully accept that fact and make the best of the situation.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve
their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting
to external forces.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Develop a principle­centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission
statement into long­term goals based on personal principles.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance
between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you
take on in life, and make time for each of them.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a
“win/win” deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make “no deal”
may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to
reward win/win behavior among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding
win/lose behavior.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood.
Stephen Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal
relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said
through the lens of one’s own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the
perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.
Habit 6: Synergize
Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to
create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and
understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would
have been obtained through either person’s own solution.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal
of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a
balance among these dimensions.
Recommended Reading
Covey, Stephen R., The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
QuickMBA / Management / The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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