BOOK SUMMARIES

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Book:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author:  Stephan Covey

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Covey, S. & Collins, J. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people : powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Three Big Takeaways:
 
  1. The greater the change and more difficult our challenges, the more relevant the habits become. The reason: Our problems and pain are universal and increasing, and the solutions to the problems are and always will be based upon universal, timeless, self-evident principles common to every enduring, prospering society throughout history. One of the most profound learnings of my life is this: if you want to achieve your highest aspirations and overcome your greatest challenges, identify and apply the principle that governs the results you seek. (pg. 15)
     

  2. The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals. That’s why it’s so important whenever you come into a new situation to get all the expectations out on the table. We create many negative situations by simply assuming that our expectations are self-evident and that they are clearly understood and shared by people. We must make expectations clear and explicit in the beginning. This takes a real investment of time and effort up front, but it saves great amounts of time and effort down the road. When expectations are not clear and shared, people begin to become emotionally involved and simple misunderstandings become compounded, turning into personality clashes and communication breakdowns. Clarifying expectations sometimes days a great deal of courage. It seems easier to ast as though differences don't exist and to hope things will work out than it is to face the differences and work together to arrive at a mutually agreeable set of expectations. (pg. 204)
     

  3. Set up one-on-one time with your employees. Listen to them, understand them. Set up system to get honest, accurate feedback at every level. You save tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money when you tap into the human resources at every level. When you listen, you learn. And you also give the people who work for you psychological air. You inspire loyalty that goes well beyond the 8-5 demands of the job. (pg. 271)
     

Other Key Ideas:​​

The real beginning of influence comes as others sense you are being influenced by them - when they feel understood by you - that you have listened deeply and sincerely, and that you are open. But most people are too vulnerable emotionally to listen deeply - to suspend their agenda long enough to focus on understanding before they communicate their own ideas. (pg. 18)

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want - while my character is flawed - then in the long run I cannot be successful. In most one-shot human interactions, you can use your personality to get by and make favorable impressions. But secondary traits have no permanent worth in long-term relationships. Eventually, if there isn’t deep integrity and character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface. (pg. 29)

Highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, rather than a product of their conditions. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment, while proactive people “carry their own weather" with them and produce high quality work regardless of the environment. Reactive people are driven by feelings, while proactive people are driven by values. (pg. 78)

Our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the power and the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. (pg. 81)

If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control - myself. Sometimes the most proactive thing we can do is to be happy, just to genuinely smile. We can be happy and accept those things that at present we can’t control, while we focus on our efforts on the things we can. (pg. 97)

The most fundamental application of "begin with the end in mind" is to begin today with the image of the end of your life as your frame of reference by which everything else is examined. Each part of your life can be examined in the context of what really matters most to you. (pg. 104)

The most effective way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement or philosophy. It focuses on what you want to be and to do and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based. A personal mission statement based on correct principles becomes the same kind of standard for an individual. It becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with strength in the midst of change. (pg. 113)

As a principle-centered person, you see things differently. And because you see things differently, you think differently, you act differently. Because you have a high degree of security, guidance, wisdom, and power that flows from an unchanging core, you have the foundation of a highly proactive and highly effective life. (pg. 136)

A personal mission statement is not something you write overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce it in final form. It may take you several weeks before you feel really comfortable with it, before you feel it is a complete and concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances. The process is as important as the product. Writing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply and to align your behavior with your core beliefs. (pg. 137)

Many people refuse to delegate to other people because they feel it takes too much time and effort and they could do the job better themselves. But effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is. (pg. 180)

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience, and it doesn't preclude the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust. (pg. 187)

An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. If I make deposits through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments, I build up a reserve. I can even make mistakes but my trust level will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you'll get the meaning anyways. When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective. But if I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, betraying your trust ... eventually my emotional bank account is overdrawn. The trust level gets very low. Now I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say - its tension city. It's protecting my backside, politicking. And many organizations are filled with it. (pg. 198)

Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal. In fact, there’s probably not a more massive withdrawal than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not to come through. The next time a promise is make, they won’t believe it. (pg. 203)

One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present. While you might think you are making a deposit, you are actually making a withdrawal because you communicate your own lack of integrity. (pg. 206)

When we make withdrawals from the account, we need to apologize and we need to do it sincerely. It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. People will little internal security can’t do it. It makes them too vulnerable. (pg. 207)

People with a scarcity mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit. They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people. It's almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition. The abundance mentality flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in the sharing of prestige, recognition, profits, and decision making. (pg. 230)

Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look through it, you see the world the way they see the world - you understand how they feel. Empathic listening involves much more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are said. Empathic listening is the key to making deposits in emotional bank accounts - its’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person “psychological air.” Empathic listening is also risky - it takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It’s a paradox, in a sense, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand. (pg. 252)

Often when people are really given the chance to open up, they unravel their own problems and the solutions become clear to them in the process. When people are really hurting and you really listen with pure desire to understand, you’ll be amazed how fast they will open up. There are people who protest that empathic listening takes too much time. It may time more time initially, but it saves so much time downstream. People want to be understood. And whatever investment of time it takes to do that will bring much greater returns of time as you work from an accurate understanding of the problems and issues and from the high emotional bank account that results when a person feels deeply understood. (pg. 263)

Most of us think we don’t have enough time to exercise. We don’t have time not to. We’re talking about three to six hours a week - or 30 minutes a day every other day. That hardly seems an inordinate amount of time considering the tremendous benefits in terms of the impact on the other 162-165 hours of the week. (pg. 301)

As soon as we leave school, many of us let our minds atrophy. We don’t do any more serious reading, we don’t explore new subjects in any real depth outside our action fields, we don’t think analytically, we don’t write - at least not critically or in a way that tests our ability to express ourselves. Instead, we spend our time watching TV. Education - continuing education, continually honing and expanding the mind - is vital mental renewal. (pg. 307)

There’s no better way to inform and expand your mind on a regular basis than to get into the habit of reading good literature - you can get into the best minds that are now or have ever been in the world. I highly recommend starting with a goal of a book a month, then every two weeks, then every week. “The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read.” (pg. 308)

Writing is another powerful way to sharpen the mental saw. Keeping a journal of our thoughts, experiences, insights, and learnings promotes mental clarity. Writing also affects our ability to reason accurately and be understood effectively. (pg. 308)