HomeAnalysisExploring Covey’s habits of highly-effective employees

Exploring Covey’s habits of highly-effective employees

Every individual is bestowed with at least one special quality that makes him or her unique.

By Robert Mandeya

A leader obviously is imbued with so many good traits and qualities that influence others and the best part of the story is that he understands his own potential and employs the right skills at the right time.

It is basically a personal quality of character in a man that influences the behaviour of others in a productive manner. In his bestseller, Stephen Covey presented a framework for personal effectiveness

Habits, skills, knowledge

Our character is a collection of our habits, and habits have a powerful role in our lives. Habits consist of knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge allows us to know what to do, skill gives us the ability to know how to do it, and desire is the motivation to do it. Steven Covey give us insights into these habits:

Being proactive

Change starts from within, and highly-effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence, rather than by simply reacting to external forces.

A unique ability that sets humans apart from animals is self-awareness and the ability to choose how we respond to any stimulus. Proactive people use their resourcefulness and initiative to find solutions rather than just reporting problems and waiting for other people to solve them. For example, a company operating in an industry that is experiencing a downturn can develop a plan to cut costs and actually use the downturn to increase market share. Many people have only a few basic methods such as fight or flight. For problems over which we have no control, first we must recognise that we have no control, and then gracefully accept that fact and make the best of the situation.

The end in mind

According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” In the same vein, effective people begin by developing a principle-centred personal mission statement. This includes developing a vision or envisioning the ultimate goal that they want to achieve. Some prefer to call it a dream. It is, however, not enough to dream but to put in place an action plan to purse the dream. This dream can only be actualised by extending the personal mission statement into long-term goals based on personal principles.


Putting first things first is a habit which effective people master most. Effective people spend time doing what fits into their personal mission, observing the proper balance between productions and building production capacity.

They also identify the key roles that they take on in life, and make time for each of them. Time management is in itself a skill that one can develop. A lot of people fail on this aspect through procrastination and lack of self belief. This lack of “self-belief” is at times aggravated by lack of self awareness.

Think win/win

Effective people seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a “win/win” deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make “no deal” may be the best alternative. In developing an organisational culture, be sure to reward win/win behaviour among employees and avoid inadvertently rewarding win or lose behaviour.


First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood. Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one’s own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.

A lot much time we are so impatient to listen and understand where the other person is coming from and we always have this urge to interrupt the other in a conversation before they present their side of story.

Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person’s own solution.

In our area of concern, we may have direct control, indirect control, or no control at all. We have direct control over problems caused by our own behaviour. We can solve these problems by changing our habits. We have indirect control over problems related to other people’s behaviour.

Sharpen the saw

Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social or emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions. To be effective, one must find the proper balance between actually producing and improving one’s capability to produce.

The need for balance between production and production capability applies to physical, financial, and human assets.

For example, in an organisation the person in charge of a particular machine may increase the machine’s immediate production by postponing scheduled maintenance. Executive coaching has tools that help clients acquire the seven habits of highly effective people.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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