7 Habits

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In my last blog I wrote about Albert Grey and his essay about ‘the common denominator of success’.

In it we discussed that success is about developing the habit of doing things that others don’t like to do… They don’t necessarily like doing them either, but they are influenced by achieving their goals more than the dislike of doing the actions.

In other words: Success is unusual because people who have the ability to do what it takes to get the right results are the people who have the habit of being continually self-disciplined.

Whereas the normal way of acting is that people have a desire for pleasing methods.

The successful people, on the other hand have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habits of doing these things they don’t like to do.

So, as ever, this type of information is very easy to understand. But the real question is: what can each and every one of us actually do on a day to day basis to make our lives more effective and more successful?

A few years ago, I was running a pub and hotel on the edge of Dartmoor.

My wife was pregnant with our first child, and we had a very large business loan to service.

At this time, the government pulled us out of the European exchange rate system and interest rates went through the roof…. To cut a long story short, we ended up paying 16 1/2% interest on this large loan, whilst business was badly affected by a recession.

We were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

I became very stressed and ill and ended up having a nervous breakdown, and eventually I went for therapy in order to help me get through and get back on my feet.

While I was having this therapy, I was recommended reading a book called ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Dr Stephen Covey.

And, When I read it, it was like one of those light bulb moments you see in the movies: I could clearly understand that all of these seven habits were blindingly obvious common sense… But I was doing few, if any, of them and consequently my life was a bit of a mess.

And I was wanting to blame everyone else around me.

  • I wanted to blame the government for the interest rates.
  • I wanted to blame my wife for not being Superwoman.
  • I wanted to blame the customers for not spending more money on each visit.
  • I wanted to blame the weather for not always being sunny.
  • I wanted to blame anything apart from looking at myself and say: ‘What is it that you could be doing that’s more effective, and how can you get on with that on day to day basis?’.

So, in a nutshell, the seven habits opened my eyes to how I could act more effectively and how I, in this terrible situation, could start to develop a purpose strong enough to make me form habits of doing things I didn’t like to do, (because if I had like doing them, I would already have been doing them) and, through this, to start being more effective, less stressed and much more successful in my life!

Since that time, I have endeavoured to learn and apply the seven habits to my life, step by step, year by year, month by month, week by week, and day by day.

I started to develop the habits of doing the things I don’t necessarily like to do, in order to get better results and to be more effective and successful in my life.

So, to go back to the original question:

‘All this stuff is relatively easy to understand, but what can we actually do, on a daily basis, to make this happen for each and every one of us?’

My response to this would be to learn and apply the seven habits in our lives.

So here is a brief overview of the seven habits to help you find your own answers to this question.

And please note that the seven habits are built into all of the slow selling systems, so anything you learn from them will be complementary and helpful to your study of slow selling.

And if you join the slow sellers association, you will be able to learn much more about ‘the seven habits of highly effective people’ because we cover it in our training sessions within the membership.

So, here is a brief outline of the seven habits.

Habit 1. Be Proactive.

This is the habit of personal responsibility and choice. And Dr Covey always used to say:

‘Between stimulus and response is a gap, and in that gap, we make a choice over how we respond to whatever has come our way.’

And in that gap lies our power as human beings to influence our destiny and our success in life.

So, it’s about taking responsibility over our responses to what comes our way … and choosing our responses.

  • Either: On ease of response
  • Or: on desirability of outcome.

As Albert Gray stated.

It’s a choice.

Applying this habit personally:

  • We have a choice how we look after our bodies and what we eat and how we exercise.
  • We have a choice on how we interact with people and develop our relationships.
  • We have a choice in how we develop ourselves and where we put our energies.
  • And we have a choice as to what our beliefs are that will drive all our actions.

And at work this habit is about the choices we make:

  • The systems we put in place
  • The relationships we develop
  • The planning systems we embrace
  • What tools we use to interact with people
  • and how we make things happen around us.

As with all the habits you will see quite clearly that as Mr. Grey says: It is easier not to do the successful thing than it is to do it.

The key, of course is to develop the habits step by step, and inch by inch, so that you develop purposes and habits strong enough to do the things you don’t necessarily like to do in order to get those higher, better, and more successful results every day …

Habit 2 is ‘Begin with the end in mind’.

This is the habit of direction and goal setting.

If we have the choice as outlined in habit one, then the next step is to decide what direction we want to take:

  • in the short term… in actions, decisions and conversations
  • and in the long term … in plans, goals values and mission

Dr Covey tells the story of a group of people hacking through the jungle, and their managers are all around them… Putting on machete wielding and muscle development classes and positive attitude development workshops… until the leader climbs to the top of the tallest tree, surveys all around him and shouts out to the people below.

‘Wrong jungle!’

Whereas the people below shout back:

‘Shut up we’re making progress!’

So the key here, as Covey says, is to make sure that, before you climb the ladder of success (in anything) be sure that it is leaning against the right wall!

And the way to do this is to slow down for all decisions and be proactive … be clear, both in the short and long term on what you are REALLY trying to achieve before you get started.

On a personal basis. This is about developing habits, holding conversations, building relationships and taking actions with a clear choice of what your end in mind is aimed to be… Rather than just reacting to whatever comes your way

In a business context this is about:

  • setting goals,
  • planning meetings,
  • formatting systems that are consistent, customer focused and aligned with your customers real needs.

Habit 3 is: ‘Put First things First’.

This is the time management habit.

So if we are in control because we are proactive.

And if we’ve taken the time to clarify the end in mind properly, we now need to plan and be self-disciplined in all we do to actually put first things first.

What then are the first things?

And the answer to that is: the things that help you achieve the end in mind.

The key is to be proactive to choose to do them, rather than reactive to do the convenient or easy thing that is just coming our way because it happens to be the next thing coming up towards us.

This of course takes lots of self-discipline and self-organisation, and the tools that are taught for habit three, put first things first, are.

  1. The weekly compass. And this is a weekly planning tool to help you prioritise and be self-disciplined step by step, inch by inch in your personal life, in your roles with other people and in your goals and your business teams.
  2. The other main tool for putting first things first is the daily plan to help you protect your priorities, be self-disciplined, avoid interruptions … and to get yourself much more productive on a daily hour by hour basis.

Then next three habits all run together.

  • Habit 4: ‘Think win/win’
  • Habit 5: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’
  • and Habit 6: ‘Synergise’

Habit 4: ‘Think win/win’:  get your mind in the right place with the idea of:

  • Aiming to find solutions that BOTH are happy with no matter how hard the situation is
  • Being genuinely interested in other people: finding out what they genuinely want, and valuing them and their needs, no matter what.
  • Wanting them to have a successful outcome as well as standing up and having the courage to make sure that you also get your goals and desires recognised and acted upon.

This is the heady and powerful mixture of:

  • Consideration for being thoughtful, kind and humane to others’ issues and desires and
  • Courage to stand up and achieve your own goals.

Habit 5 (Seek first to understand, then to be understood) is the habit of effective communication.

Finding out exactly what is the other person wants, not just at a shallow level, but at a deep level. By asking open questions with the clear end in mind of thinking, win/win and doing a process called ‘peeling the onion’ to get at the core of the issue of the other party.

By doing this properly, you can earn their trust and interest in order to make sure you can then move on to the second half of this habit, (‘and then to be understood’) so that you can, step by step, inch by inch, get the results you both want.

And by communicating well and working together you start to achieve Habits 6 (Synergy) which is the fruit of practising all the other 5 habits.

Habit 6: Synergy, is about working effectively together, using prototypes and counter-types and finding 3rd alternatives that are better than either of you had thought of before the interaction.

By working together, genuinely and effectively, you find solutions that are higher and better than either of you could have created on your own.

Habits 4-5 and 6 also include the option of going for ‘no deal’: agreeing to disagree agreeably.

This is where… no matter how hard you tried and how well you have stuck to your habits and principled behaviours, you feel you cannot get to a synergistic outcome… For one of a number of reasons.

  • Maybe you are just too far apart at the moment and the chasm is too great to bridge in one jump.
  • Maybe the other person has a win/lose mindset and is more interested in doing you harm than getting a real result for themselves, (and this is not as unusual as it sounds, even though it is incredibly stupid when you look at it logically!).
  • Or even if the other person is being too accommodating and allowing you to get a win too easily … the other person has rolled over and lost because they may have an inferiority complex or see you as more powerful in this situation

So, to sum up and answer the question:

‘Yes, this idea from Albert Grey is easy to understand, but what can we actually do?’

The process is.

  1. Employ habits 1, 2 and 3 so that you develop a trustworthy character and become a person people respect and want to do business with.
  2. Remember ‘the REAL win’: to ‘win’ does not mean to say you the exact outcome that you wanted. It means that you stick to your principles, behave in an effective way, and follow the 7 habits, no matter what the outcome is: period. You cannot dictate what the outcomes are: you can only control what the inputs are. This is very close to the idea we promote in slow selling of ‘Focusing on lead measures and developing these so that overtime the lag measures will also follow’. The real win is achieved by focusing on your lead measures … both personally and in business, so that you act in a principled and effective way no matter what the outcome. If you do this, the outputs will follow over time and without doubt. It’s just that this won’t be a completely planned and predictable result.
  3. Step #3 is genuinely valuing the other person. And being willing to show them understanding whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, and whatever happens between you. And, through this, being OK with the other person holding opposing views or even wanted to harm you. And sticking to your guns, no matter what happens.
  4. Make sure that your own voice is heard properly, and this of course can take some time if you are following the first 4 ½ habits effectively: because doing things effectively is much harder and more time consuming than doing things ineffectively … in the short term. You put the time in upfront by sticking to the seven habits. The results follow thick and fast later on down the road. But it does take the time and effort to be invested up front.
  5. Be OK for ‘No deal’ at any time: agree to disagree agreeably when needed. At any step in the process, and, over time, through doing this effectively and without malice, turning problems into win/win outcomes.
  6. Employ the ideas and tools of synergy, using prototypes and counter types in order to get much better outcomes no matter what the input.
  7. And step #7 is also habit #7. It is the habit of ‘sharpening the saw’. The last habit is the glue that holds all the habits together. If you keep sharpening your saw, you can keep sawing the trees down. If you keep developing and working on yourself effectively, you can keep sharp in order to treat others effectively and develop synergistic outcomes.

Habits 7: Sharpen the saw happens in 4 dimensions

  • Physical: your body. Through diet, exercise and sleep. And in the work process, it’s looking after the physical aspects of your people, your systems and your business effectively.
  • Mental: In a personal situation to always be looking to learn and grow … and in a business situation, to learn and evolve and develop and innovate as a team.
  • Social: Done in a personal situation, this is about having rewarding relationships that nourish you. And in a business situation, it’s also about having rewarding relationships that benefit both parties in the long term, with your people, your suppliers, your community and of course, your customers.
  • And spiritual: which is personally about having a clear set of beliefs and a reason to get out of bed in the morning to do what you do. And in a business situation, it’s about your mission and purpose. Having a purpose higher than simply being there to make money and please shareholders.

So, in a nutshell. ‘The 7 habits’ is a structure of habits, systems, ideas, tools and behaviours put in a powerful and simple and, above all, actionable way by Doctor Covey.

These habits help you discipline yourself and interact more effectively with others. So that you start doing the things that will get you much, much more successful outcomes.

Action plan.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this very brief synopsis of the seven habits. And there are two actions I can suggest that you take from this month’s information.

  1. Study ‘The 7 Habits’ inch by inch and learn and apply these habits step by step to your daily behaviour.
  2. Keep working on the ideas in ‘Slow Selling’ inch by inch in your business life, as all the Slow Selling systems already incorporate the 7 habits across every aspect.

Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses.

Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers of start-ups and small businesses who have limited time and resources and want to grow their business … without sacrificing principles or profits.

To find out more, please click here

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