Orange County Branch Newsletter

January 2010

Secretary's Column

The 7 Habits

By Tapas Dutta, PE

Dr. Stephen Covey, a management consultant, published his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in 1990. Althoigh the book was a great success; it can be a hard read. Franklin Covey provides three- day and one- day seminars based on the book.  This article is based on a one- day seminar that I attended some years ago.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Being procative means having the freedom to choose thereby increasing your influence. You choose on how you react to a situation rather than automatically react to them.

 A reactive stance is a reaction to a stimulus or event without thinking or control over the reaction. Reaction is based on an emotion in the heat of the moment. Reactive behavior often includes:

  • Getting angry and saying things you regret
  • Whining and complaining
  • Blame other people and things
  • Act like victims
  • Don’t take responsibility for your actions

Common reactive behavior language is:

  • “You make me so angry”
  • “It’s not my fault”
  • “I couldn’t help it”
  • “That’s just the way I am”
  • “I have to do it”

Procative behavior involves stopping long enough to having a well thought out response based on values and principles. Proactive behavior encompasses the following:

  • Remaining calm
  • Focussing on solutions
  • Taking responsibility
  • Taking initiative to make things happen
  • Thinking before acting

Procative language includes:

  • “I can”
  • “I’m  sorry”
  • “I choose”
  • “Let’s look at all the options”
  • “There is got to be a way”

Events may be divided into two categories, thinges you can influence through choice (Circle of Influence) and things that may concern you but that you have little or no influence over (Circle of Concern). Procative behavior focus on the Circke of Influence while Reactive behavior focus on the Circle of Concern.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Having the end result in mind while working on a task provides purpose, vision and a mission.  It provides a clear roadmap of the process with which to achieve the conclusion.  Without the end in mind, the journey can be out of focus, meandering and inefficient.

Having first created the mental vision of the end result one must the physical means to achieve it.

One effective way to practice Habit 2 is to write a Personal Mission Statement.  A mission statement expresses your personal sense of purpose and meaning in life.  It can be in the form of a document, poem, collage or song.  For example, a Personal Mission Statement can read: “My mission is to live with integrity and to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Habit 3: Put First Things First

How often have we made a list of “to Do” items. What we often do not focus on is priority.  Our natural tendency is to do the easier items on the list first rather than the ones with “high priority”.  Setting up a priority list will help us identify and eliminate unimportant activities that rob us of our time.  Focusing on the important items, first, is the key to a successful personal and professional life.

The “Time Matrix” helps us achieve this.  This comprises a 2X2 matrix with row headers: Important and Not Important and column headers: Urgent and Not Urgent. All tasks can be accordingly categorized by one of the four quadrants of the matrix:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important and Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

Items in quadrant one above has to be dealt with immediately.  Sometimes, an activity such as attending to a sick child or fixing a flat tire is out of our control and has to be dealt with accordingly.  However, deadlines and crisis situations also fall in this quadrant.  Often times poor planning can lead to the crisis situation or lead to circumstances that a project deadline may not be met.  Since work in this quadrant needs to be attended to immediately there is instant gratification associated with this quadrant and a “feel good” emotion at having met a crisis situation.  Other than unexpected event on which we may not have any control, it is advisable to minimize the time spent in this quadrant.

Quadrant 2 is the quadrant of effectiveness and we should strive to maximize our time in this quadrant.  The activities in this quadrant include planning and preparation, education and training and relationship building.

Quadrant 3 is also known as the deception quadrant.  Activities in this quadrant are urgent but are not important.  Examples are interruptions, pausing to answer emails or working on other people’s priorities. A lot of valuable time is wasted in this quadrant.

Quadrant 4 is the quadrant of waste.  Time is spent on activities that are neither important nor urgent.  Common examples are excessive time wasted on television or video games.

Some suggestions on effectively planning your time are:

  • Plan your week in advance
  • Prioritize important work first

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Unfortunately, a lot of business practices think in terms of win-lose.  In other words, the premise used is that if I win, you must lose.  This is an unsound policy and does little to foster long term relationships. There are weak individuals who think lose-lose.  In other words, if I lose, you are going down with me.

The only effective way to conduct oneself in to think WinWin.  This is based on the principle that effective, long-term relationships require cooperation by seeking mutual benefits – solutions that allow everyone to succeed.  

There is a concept of Emotional Banking in interpersonal relationships.  It is a metaphor for the amount of trust that exists in a relationship.  You make a “deposit” when you:

  • Keep promises
  • Are courteous
  • Listen
  • Set clear expectation

On the other hand, you make “withdrawls” when you:

  • Break promises
  • Be discourteous
  • Do not listen
  • Be arrogant
  • Create false expectations

The Win-Win philosophy makes deposits in to each other’s accounts for long term successful relationships.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood

This is one of the most difficult Habit to master.  This habit is based on the principle that understanding comes through listening, first.  By seeking to understand others first before expressing your views, you become a trustworthy person.  

Empathic listening is key in understanding in what the other person is feeling and based on it you can now make effective statements.  Empathic listening does NOT include judging , advising or asking probing questions of the other person.

Habit 6: Synergize

There are many methods to tackle a problem.  Rather than use the “my way or the highway” approach, it is effective for leaders to listen to all point of view and then combine some of the opinions into a solution which is stronger and better than the individual elements.  This is called the Third Alternative and is different from the Either/Or approach.  Valuing differences is the prerequisite to and the foundation of achieving synergy.

The cost of not valuing differences may include:

  • Disorder
  • Lack of originality
  • Discrimination
  • Conflict
  • Distorted perception

The benefits of valuing differences are:

  • Dynamic and creative teams
  • Enhanced communications
  • Trust and integrity
  • Unity
  • Acceptance

The steps to creating a synergistic solution are:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Seek solution from others
  3. Forward your solution
  4. Brainstorm
  5. Find the best solution

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This habit entails training every aspect of the being: body, heart, mind and soul.  A lifelong habit of continuous training goes a long way of being effective and productive.  This includes rest and relaxation.  It is important that we schedule time for Habit 7 in our weekly timetable.

Some of the tips that can aid in overcoming obstacles are:

  • Start small
  • Keep it going
  • Take your time
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself
  • Continually adjust
  • Be self-aware
  • Have the buddy system 

Related Groups/Committees