“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
You may already be aware of Stephen’s Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. You may even have a copy on your bookshelf. If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend you take the time to read it. This book has had a huge influence on my life, both personally and professionally. I was first introduced to the ‘seven habits’ years ago through Sean Covey’s adaptation, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. This simplified version helped me wade through the stress of a competitive high school environment and actually enjoy my time there.
Both books follow a similar structure and their principles can be applied to nearly any area of life in which you’d like to see improvement. Below, I’ve outlined the ‘7 Habits’ and how you can apply them to reap the maximum rewards for your effort at work:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Proactivity is a powerful tool that forces you to look at problems in a different light, look for creative solutions, and then, most importantly, act on them. For example, you have an urgent work project and are seeking advice from a high-level subject matter expert in your company. They won’t respond to your emails and the deadline is approaching. Many people would tough it out on their own and hope for the best. A proactive person thinks of a different approach, maybe being so bold as to walk straight into their office, and executes with confidence.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
There are two types of goals everyone operates with; specific projects and the overall direction of your work. In both cases, it helps to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What do you want the project to look like in its final stage? How are all these projects helping you accomplish your end-of-day goal to have taken some small step forward in your career? Setting a clear goal is the first step to a successful finish.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
If you are not a list maker it’s time to take some notes! At the end of every day I write a list of tasks to accomplish the following day and number them according to priority. This allows me to hit the ground running in the morning since I avoid the usual morning wool-gathering phase.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
This can be difficult to do in a competitive job environment but the long-term benefits are worth it. Try flexing your win-win mentality in a team meeting. Once you’ve heard everyone’s ideas, come up with a solution that benefits both sides. Value other people’s success as much as you do your own and you’ll find this goodwill reflected back to you.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
Closely tied to #4. When approaching an issue at work, use your two ears first and your one mouth second. This takes patience, something I certainly had to learn, but I cannot tell you how many times hearing the other person out first saved me from saying something incorrect or irrelevant.
Habit 6: Synergize
The Holy Grail of business collaboration. Synergy is defined as, “elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions.” Sounds pretty impressive, and it is. Great teamwork is a perfect example of synergy and can be achieved more often than you think once you have mastered #4 and #5.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back sometimes, whether or not your manager notices your accomplishments. Take frequent walk breaks and avoid eating lunch at your desk. Pursue extracurricular activities that can help your career and provide a change of scenery such as a networking group, or a skill development class. A quiet cup of tea always helps me reset and focus better on my work, so I always make sure to have a few tea bags handy.