Considered a classic of the ‘self help’ genre, “7 habits of highly effective people” is essential reading for anyone who is going through a period of personal self diagnosis, wanting to make a change in their life, be it professional or personal. Published in 1989 it has now sold over 30 million copies worldwide, where the focus of the book is to enable progression from a negative mind to positive and from dependency to interdependency.
The book starts by introducing the concept of P/PC, the idea that overly focusing on producing (i.e. producing as much as you can now) will in the long run lead to diminishing returns, hence there needs to be a balance between that, and production capability, so investing in yourself to enable your production to increase over time. The seven habits he then goes on to outline, are designed to enable us to then fully achieve our potential, where with each chapter, he tackles a different aspect.
So for example, the first habit is about being proactive. This on its own is intuitive, equally the insight he offers with that, it is only through creating a culture where people want to engage with us that we can succeed, and goes through models to create alignment. From there he discusses the different types of motivations that we have and how depending on what we make our priority, this then dictates our response. He then challenges us to move away from a work centred model or family centred model, but to transcend to a principle based model, where our actions become a function of our belief system, which then governs what we do from there. This segment is highly recommended.
Another very interesting segment is when he discussed time management. He goes to great lengths to outline the different types of ways we spend our time, within a important v urgent matrix. He argues that too little of our time is spent working on things that are important for us to develop, but not critical in terms of when they need to be done by. What this means is we either spend our time non-stop fire-fighting critical issues that are important, in areas where actually what we are doing has no great importance to our life, resulting in feeling either burned out or not in control. If nothing else, this segment is must read and the model he provides is a highly valuable exercise to taking back control of our time.
The second half of the book then looks at the habits required to achieve virtuous interdependence, so we can then achieve more whilst doing the same amount, through inspiring others to improve their own productivity. He talks about the power of values and when you have alignment on values and teamwork, how this then benefits in terms of results. For any business manager, looking to better develop teamwork this half of the book is really very interesting as he gives case studies of businesses who have done this successfully.
It is during this part of the book he discusses the need for a win-win framework and how to go about achieving it, and how it starts with empathy and actively listening to what the needs of the other person are, where without that we lack the ability to construct the motivation in the other person to want to engage. In summary, despite the age of this book, it is still relevant today. For anyone who wants to change their life path, his simple models from time management to creating a personal mission statement are both interesting and useful. His final insights, to do with how people are programmed to behave in accordance with their experiences, where for those with negative programming, the need to then both realise this and reverse it to achieve our potential, is as true today as then, and something for us all to consider in our day to day conduct.