Habits of Effective people - Success and Motivation - A review


Prof R.K. Gupta
Sobhagya Consultancy & Marketing Services-India
Senior Consultant & Professor of Management
E-mail: cityju@rediffmail.com

Dr Stephen Covey is a hugely influential management guru, whose book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (15 million Copies sold) became a blueprint for personal development when it was published in 1990.

The Seven Habits are said by some to be easy to understand but not as easy to apply. Don't let the challenge daunt you: The 'Seven Habits' are a remarkable set of inspirational and aspiration standards for anyone who seeks to live a full, purposeful and good life, and are applicable today more than ever , as the business world becomes more concentrating on humanist concepts. Covey's values are full of integrity and humanity, and contrast strongly with the process-based ideologies that characterized management thinking in earlier times.

Stephen Covey, as well as being a renowned writer, speaker, academic and humanist, has also built a huge training and consultancy products and services business 'Franklin Covey' which has a global reach, and has at one time or another consulted with and provided training services to most of the world's leading corporations.

Stephen covey's seven habits of highly effective people®

Habit 1 - be proactive

This is the ability to control one's environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances

Habit 2 - begin with the end in mind

Covey calls this the habit of personal leadership - leading oneself that is, towards what you consider your aims. By developing the habit of concentrating on relevant activities you will build a platform to avoid distractions and become more productive and successful.

Habit 3 - put first things first

Covey calls this the habit of personal management. This is about organizing and implementing activities in line with the aims established in habit 2. Covey says that habit 2 is the first or mental creation; habit 3 is the second or physical creation. (Cross Reference Time management.)

Habit 4 - think win-win

Covey calls this the habit of interpersonal leadership, necessary because achievements are largely dependent on co-operative efforts with others. He says that win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a co-operative approach more naturally than the confrontation of win-or-lose.

Habit 5 - seek first to understand and then to be understood®

One of the great maxims of the modern age, this is Covey's habit of communication, and it's extremely powerful. Covey helps to explain this in his simple analogy 'diagnose before you prescribe'; Simple and effective, and essential for developing and maintaining positive relationships in all aspects of life. ( Cross References : Empathy, Transactional Analysis, and the Johari Window.)

Habit 6 - synergize

Covey says this is the habit of creative co-operation - the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which implicitly lays down the challenge to see the good and potential in the other person's contribution.

Habit 7 - sharpen the saw

This is the habit of self renewal, says Covey, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow. Covey interprets the self into four parts: The spiritual, mental, physical and the social/emotional, which all need feeding and developing. 

Stephen Covey's Seven Habits are a simple set of rules for life - inter-related and synergistic, and yet each one powerful and worthy of adopting and following in its own right. For many people, reading Covey's work, or listening to him speak, literally changes their lives.

In his more recent book 'The 8th Habit', Stephen Covey introduced (logically) the eighth habit, which deals with personal fulfillment and helping others to achieve fulfillment too.

The book also focuses on leadership (a crisis Indian Corps and NGOs are facing). Time will tell whether the 'The 8th Habit' achieves recognition and reputation close to Covey's classic original 7 Habits work.

Covey says the success components are: Knowledge, Skill and Desire (motivation) or the 'what, how and why' and these tend to form habits of any person when done repeatedly. Repetition of actions and transaction leads to habits (both metal and physical).

So is success merely caused by right habits?

There is another model that I have been using for personality development; Called K-A-S-H model which means knowledge, skill, attitude and habits with first three forming corners of a success triangle and fourth lies at centre of that. As I believe habits are not sum total of the first three but is a separate component and is formed by your attitude, your work culture, your upbringing, your health and lifestyle.

It is like an Arabian horse. It may be strong and beautiful looking stallion but if does not run or has habit of only kicking, its worth is no more than a mule.

Degrees one acquires are only indicators of quality of knowledge and to some extent a few skills to which one got opportunity to be exposed to during degree acquisition process. It also puts certain level of expectations on the holder of such degrees. But whether it has worked or not, only post degree conduct and performance will show. Unfortunately, in countries like India where people are mostly having degree fixation and job orientation, it is difficult to remove these bottlenecks as they act as mental blocks suppressing natural qualities of person and her potential. The degree generally becomes pedigree to be flaunted around in air. Not a matter of humor but a serious personality flaw developed in some people. It applies from Harvard to Oxford and from an IIM to IIT.

Success and Motivation tools

Success, as spelled out by Covey doesn't depend just on degrees. One also has to first define what is success for you? It was different for Mother Teressa, Nehru, Birla and Bill Gates or take example of Warren Buffet who still lives in same modest house when he started investing. Arrogance, degrees and attitudes become a heady mixture which may destroy one's natural potential.

Hence habits take centre stage of success triangle.

Another dimension I wish to add is two more ways to look at things:

1. Will a skilled pot maker keep spinning molding wheel if he notices clay is not okay or the desired shape is not coming even after repeated spinning? No? Same way one should get off a spinning wheel if it is not producing results or not taking you anywhere or farther towards your goals. No need wasting time with old habits, routine and tools.

2. CMPA (Consistent Positive mental Attitude) is what people need and not only positive attitude. It is difficult to change attitudes and habits. I know personally of several people, who although educated in top schools in India or in world are as cheap and uncultured and ineffective as anybody not even gone to school. Schools do not necessarily teach a person- right attitudes and culture or what we call 'Samskaras'. They normally even fail to teach skills including soft ones.

Attitudes keep fluctuating and it is consistency in this positive-ness that matters. It is a long period game and sustained efforts are needed for that and that is why CPMA is more important than mere Attitude or Positive attitude that can waver and peter out over short span of time. It is like going to a movie when you get charged by a role of the screen hero, but the balloon fizzles out by the time you reach back to home. We may call it instant motivation like creating a crowd effect or for destructive work which often politicians do or the scoundrels use to cheat people in groups. Beware of that.

That is why achievement motivation is more effective than awards motivation which becomes bribery at end.

Covey a great management expert and writer has done a good job in bringing at one place some of characteristics of successful people in world. But we shall do well to read ancient Indian wisdom literature that beautifully explains by stories, tales and cases how public policy, public administration, human interpersonal activities are influenced and how these should be handled.

Finally it is the 'Junoon' in right direction that may take you to your desired heights. There is no point trying for moon when you don't even possess a wing. You can't ever fly to the moon on your own? Can you? So why not change your direction for growth and your goals? Moving into right direction is also one of important quality and the key that Covey has also dealt with in the book


    1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (book)

    2. www.businessballs.com

    3. www.rediffmail.com

    4. The Trainers' Manual

Prof R.K. Gupta
Sobhagya Consultancy & Marketing Services-India
Senior Consultant & Professor of Management
E-mail: cityju@rediffmail.com

Source: E-mail June 6, 2008



Articles on Management Main Page