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" Independent will is defined by Covey as "the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with them. It is the ability to act, rather than be acted upon" (148). This goes back to Covey's original principle regarding being proactive.
While the ideas of being proactive and prioritizing are widely accepted as essential parts of effective management, where Covey seems to go off track a bit in this chapter is his downgrading of the importance of efficiency. Covey believes that there is too much focus on efficiency and not enough focus on developing rich relationships. This may very well be the case, but in today's technology-driven environment, efficiency is king, and it is highly unlikely that it will be dethroned anytime soon.
Where Covey's model does make sufficient sense for the working world of the 21st century is in regard to prioritizing. Certainly not a new or groundbreaking idea, putting items and tasks in the order of importance has almost invariably been shown to be a wise decision. Prioritizing is a particularly essential part of time management, as often times everything that needs to get done simply doesn't, so it is critical that the most important things get done first. Again, there is nothing really new or groundbreaking here, but Covey does manage to provide enough interesting and applicable scenarios, charts and diagrams to keep the chapter relatively fresh.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
With chapter 4, we enter the "public victory" section of the book. This is where the book transitions from a focus on independence to interdependence. The bulk of this chapter is devoted to a metaphor devised by Covey that he calls the "Emotional Bank Account." According to the author, the bank represents the amount of trust and ease you feel with other people. You can either make deposits or withdrawals from this bank account based on how your relationships develop. You can also build up a reserve, by depositing positive emotions such as courtesy, kindness and honesty. However the bank can just as easily be overdrawn, when more is taken out than is put in. Covey tops the metaphor off by stating "Building and repairing relationships are long-term investments."
Covey then proceeds to outline six major deposits that will build the bank account into a healthy reserve of trust and respect. The first of these is "understanding the individual" which essentially entails a combination of good communication and the Golden Rule. The second thing of which you want to make plenty of deposits into your emotional bank account is "attending to the little things." Taking the time to do a kindness for a stranger or stop and smell the proverbial roses makes for a high value deposit, according to Covey. "Keeping commitments" is the third type of deposit Covey discusses, emphasizing that breaking your promise to someone is one of the most damaging thing you can do to a relationship. The fourth deposit 'material' is "clarifying expectations" which is supposed to prevent miscommunication, and the fifth is "showing personal integrity" which essentially equates to being a good and honest person. The sixth and final deposit Covey inserts into his metaphor is "apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal" (190-198). In other words, when you do something wrong, own up to it, and make sure whoever you betrayed knows that you are sincerely sorry for it, and that it will not happen again. It is not enough to merely speak the words, but you must follow through with your actions as well.
If you make more deposits than you make withdrawals, you should ideally, according to Covey, end up in a win-win situation. Of the six different paradigms of human interaction, which run the gamut from win/win to lose/lose, clearly win/win is the one for which we all should strive to achieve. However Covey makes this goal seem much easier than it tends to be in real life. Win/Win is extremely difficult to attain because it usually means that one or both parties have to give up something. Compromise cannot be achieved without sacrifice. While Covey makes effective arguments for why a situation might be considered lose/lose despite the perceptions of the parties involved seeing it as the opposite, he never makes it entirely clear how to achieve win/win. This is most likely due to the fact that win/win situations generally only occur when there is no conflict between what the negotiating parties are seeking.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood:
Principles of Empathic Communication
Empathetic communication begins with empathetic listening. According to Covey, people often tend to jump into quickly with potential solutions when they have not really listened to and understood the problem. This is a bad habit for many people in both their personal lives and their business dealings. Many people spend half the time the other person is speaking thinking about how they are going to respond. In the process they miss a lot of important information that seriously change the way they would respond if they were listening with the intent to understand.
This is an age old problem that has deterred effective communication since the dawn of man; and it will likely continue to be a problem well in to the future. After all, people find it difficult to concentrate on what someone else is saying when they have so many distractions and so many other thoughts racing through their brains. The cure to this ailment, according to Covey is to "diagnose before you prescribe." In other words don't name the disease until you've heard and analyzed all of the symptoms. It is critical to know what it is you are trying to fix before you start actually trying to fix it. As Covey points out "If you don't have confidence in the diagnosis, you won't have confidence in the prescription" (243).
Once you have gained a clear perspective about what you need to understand, the next step is to seek to be understood. It is not sufficient to develop a solution to the problem; you also have to communicate it effectively. Covey turns here to a discussion of how the ancient Greeks divided the art of persuasion into three distinct domains. These are: 1) Ethos, which refers to the credibility of the communicator; 2) pathos, which refers to the emotions of the audience; and 3) logos, which refers to the logic of the message. A truly persuasive speaker is able to use each of these domains to his or her advantage.
Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
According to Covey "synergy is the essence of principle-centered leadership" (262) and as we learned in his 'habit 2' discussion, principle-centered leadership is the ultimate goal of 'highly effective people.' Synergy is both a force of nature and a construction of man. It is a state where everything flows in harmony. Without synergy, the result is usually chaos.
High levels of synergy occur when there is a good flow of communication between individuals and groups of people, and a great deal of alignment of ideals, goals and values. Low levels of synergy, or discord occur in environments that are laden with conflict and miscommunication. When there are high levels of synergy in an organization, creativity thrives. Low levels, of course, mean that creativity is stilted.
Covey is quick to point out however that in order to have high levels of synergy, you do not have to have a group of people that all think, act and communicate the same way. To find that, you would have to join a cult or go to a robot factory. The type of synergy Covey is referring to is one in which people appreciate the differences in each other instead of fighting against them. This is a concept that is particularly relevant in the 21st century considering the substantial increases in workplace diversity that are occurring, and will continue to occur at exponential rates as the century progresses. The workplace of today is far more diverse in terms of gender, race, and ideologies than it has ever been in the past. This diversity can be a breeding ground for conflict and disharmony, or it can be a hotbed of creativity and unique ideas. Naturally, Covey advocates the latter.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal
Habit 7 is based on a holistic approach to success in which you renew and re-energize your physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional assets. According to covey, renewing your physical assets means taking care of your body through diet, exercise, plenty of rest and essentially everything your parents and doctors have been telling you since you could crawl. The spiritual dimension is not about attending church every Sunday, but is about getting in sync with your core values and beliefs, and finding what makes you peaceful and content. The mental dimension consists of making more fortifying choices in the activities we choose to engage or time…[continue]
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