Stephen R. Covey's Book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Research Proposal

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Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Covey first published "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" in 1989. Over 20 years later, many of his concepts still apply to the modern business world, whereas others have been eclipsed by less idealistic modes of thinking. The book is based on seven principles that Covey sees as essential for successful organizational and personal leadership. These seven principles are:

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership

Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Personal Management

Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Empathic Communication

Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

The first three principles, or habits, are classified as "private victories" because they are based on setting and achieving personal goals. The next three habits are categorized as "public victories" and "paradigms of independence" because they extend outside the self and have a liberating effect. The final principle is classified as a "renewal" because it encourages an ongoing state of rebirth and revelation.

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision

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The notion of being proactive -- that is, acting instead of simply reacting -- is perhaps even more applicable today than it was 20 years ago when Covey designated it as his first principle of leadership success. His emphasis on self-awareness and environmental determinism in this chapter lay the groundwork for his equalization of the terms proactive and effective. Covey explains that being proactive means more than just getting ahead of the game or taking an offensive stance. It is actually about taking responsibility for our actions and decisions and not blaming external stimuli for the situations we end up in. The mantra "Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions" (71) effectively sums up the sentiments of Covey's proactive model.

Research Proposal on Stephen R. Covey's Book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Assignment

In the 21st century, this model could go a long way in teaching executives to stop deflecting the blame for their managerial failures and take personal responsibility for the decisions they have made. Government bailouts are just a band-aid to the real problems of mismanagement, corruption and the omnipresent 'blame game' that permeates the modern business environment. Unfortunately, Covey may be thinking a bit too idealistically, considering that it seems to be human nature to deny responsibility when things go wrong and demand it when things go right. Of course, Covey is not attempting to paint a picture of the world as it is; he is trying to show readers how it could be if they were to follow his formula. Thus, in that sense, the level of idealism is warranted.

Covey also makes a point in this chapter about how to use proactive language as opposed to reactive language to achieve better results. The way we phrase things, according to Covey, can have a dramatic impact on the results of just about any situation. Language is something that we can control. Therefore it is our responsibility to use it effectively. If we do not make the effort to do so, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. Some examples he provides are, instead of saying "There's nothing I can do," you should say "Let's look at our alternatives." or, instead of complaining that "he makes me so mad," you should tell yourself "I control my own feelings" (78). Covey claims that once people begin to get used to these proactive ways of thinking and speaking, they will become habits -- that is, they will come natural to them instead of having to force themselves to think or speak this way. This is important, Covey asserts, because reactive language can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At the end of the chapter, as in all of his chapters, Covey provides "application suggestions" that show how this principle can be used in everyday life. While they come off sounding like homework assignments, the intent seems to be to show readers the viability of being proactive in a variety of different real-world situations.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership

In this chapter, Covey encourages readers to envision themselves at their own funeral and think about what they would want the attendees to say about them. The ultimate aim of this chapter, and this principle, is "to begin today with the image, picture or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined" (98). The idea is that as long as you keep in mind the things that you value and thus the criterion that you want to be judged on in the end, then your choices will be in alignment with those aims.

This advice is in opposition to the more current self-help propaganda not aimed at businesses, which urges people to 'live in the moment'. By focusing on the destination, as opposed to the journey, like Covey suggests, might be considered inadvisable today in one's personal life, in business, there is something to be said for setting goals and 'keeping your eyes on the prize'. Without goals, and with a focus solely on the day at hand, not much would get accomplished in this world. Thus although Covey's recommendations are at odds with the 'live in the moment/one day at a time' mantras of our current self-help gurus, they may in fact be more prudent both in personal lives and in business.

As Covey points out, every business must have a set of objectives that it is trying to achieve, as well as a plan, or a blueprint, for achieving those objectives. However, in accordance with the old carpenter's rule, "measure twice, cut once" (99) Covey makes it clear that there are two steps to any design process -- the first is an idealized vision and the second is the actual construction of that vision. He uses the example of building a new home to illustrate his point. He notes that when you plan on building your new home, you have a head full of ideas of how you want it to be. That is the 'first creation.' But it is the second creation that really counts, because the second creation injects a healthy dose of reality into the mix. Once all of your ideas are actually put into a physical blueprint, it usually becomes clear that certain changes need to be made. If you were to skip the second stage and jump right into building your home, you would likely have an expensive mess on your hands. This why, Covey exclaims, everything has to be created twice.

Covey then applies these concepts to leadership and management. Leadership, according to the author, is the first creation and management is the second creation. In other words, the leader is the one in charge of the 'big ideas', the visions. The manager is in charge of the details that can make those visions happen. Without effective leadership, no amount of effective management will succeed; a concept he equates with "straightening deck chairs on the Titanic" (102). This is an excellent analogy for what Covey is trying to convey; the details are not going to float if the vessel carrying them sinks.

Because this chapter is about personal leadership, the primary focus is on how to become your own 'first creator.' This task begins, explains Covey, by writing your own personal mission statement. He breaks the components of the mission statement up into four interdependent categories: security, guidance, wisdom and power. These are our life support factors, and they all revolve around a central set of proclivities. The 'center square', so to speak, can be comprised of anything from family to money to work to pleasure. Whatever a person considers to be the most valuable entity in his or her life is the core, and the four branches that protrude from that center are security, guidance, wisdom and power. The goal, however, is to be 'principle-centered' meaning that your life (or your company) revolves around a core set of values as opposed to specific items or people. Covey provides a chart to help the reader determine which of their personal principles matches with each of the four categories, as a means of helping the reader to identify their "center." Having this information will, according to the author, assist greatly in helping both individuals and businesses develop an effective and successful mission statement.

Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Personal Management

The distinction between leadership and management plays a substantial role in habit 3, as it is not so much concerned with the 'whole' as it is with 'the sum of its parts.' If someone is to become 'principle-centered' then they will need to become adept at taking the steps to get there. The concept at the core of the process… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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