The 7 Habits: Do they stand the test of time? Will they save us?

Once upon a time when I was a young management consultant/coach, I swallowed ideas on offer at swanky conferences by swanky peeps (especially when the hotel and wine were good).

My past four years in the ivory towers (doing a PhD) have taught me to question everything, to ask for the evidence.  I am now transitioning back into my coaching and training business with my right-hand woman (yes, my mum).  Although we did good work previously and our clients were happy  …. I have started to wonder, where were we letting them down? Where were we selling them things that felt good and seemed nice but ultimately were not supported by good scientific evidence?

Of course science does not have all the answers, and is itself, sometimes too far removed from practice to be helpful.  However there are ideas/tools sold to business that are well researched and shown to be at best ineffective.  So I do not want to charge our clients for such tools just because some of our competitors are.
Hence – I am returning, with my new eyes, to some of our old favourite tools and authors – to see which ones we should put back on the shelf.  Given my current blogging focus is habits it is obvious to revisit Stephen Covey’s famous – 7 habits of highly effective people.
So what is the verdict? Well, I can’t seem to find any academics slamming the 7 habits (but I have given it half a day not a month so do let me know what I missed).  On the contrary I found a few articles in top journals using his tools for their specialty (i.e., pharmacology and nursing).  I also see he was himself and academic.   So far so good …. I think I’ll go further.
But first I have long forgotten what the 7 habits actually are, so let’s start with a recap for your sake and mine:

  1. Be Proactive – Wow this baby is big it is much more than Nikes ‘just do it’. It is doing it with self-awareness, with reference to your personal values, by leveraging your own unique awesomeness and more.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind – Get your mission statement going mate.
  3. Put First Things First – “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”
  4. Think Win-Win – This one sounds a wee bit too hippy dippy, law of attraction, abundance blah blah for me. But covey was a sensible man of intellect so I shan’t judge this book by its cover.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – Easier than it sounds.
  6. Synergize – that feels a bit last millennium, corporate bingo now huh?
  7. Sharpen the Saw – you never know when you need to prune a tree. Actually it’s about working on our four domains: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  I’d say this is very much interlinking with habit 1.

So there we have the 7 habits of highly effective people.   Over the coming weeks I’ll take each one and see what evidence exists for it.  Perhaps I’ll have a crack at each habit myself.  Although I have achieved much in the 45 years I have been on the planet in terms of work, investments, education, raising half a child – I am pretty sure that I have a long way to go to have Covey smiling down at me from above.
Maybe this is my year to make an old, dead man proud.  Who is with me?


You can enter journal titles and see their ranking here.  Understanding them is another thing – I’ll get around to a post on that eventually.

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