Stephen Covey’s 1989 Guide is More Relevant Today Than Ever
The technological age has dramatically changed the way businesses go about things – but the underlying tenets for success remain the same.
When it was published in the late 1980s, Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People became an overnight success in self-help and business management circles. However, 30 years is a long time, particularly in business. Back then, nobody had heard of the internet, a computer was seen as little more than electronic typewriter and a Filofax was the height of mobile business technology.
How does Covey’s advice stack up in this modern era of remote working, resource manager software and the virtual economy? The answer might surprise you – let’s run through the seven tips.
1) Be proactive
Covey warns against accepting the status quo and waiting for a problem to arise that needs a solution. He advocates working from the centre of your influence to seek better ways of doing things. Clearly, there is more than a nodding reference to the concept of continuous improvement that underpins so many technological processes, from resource allocation to business strategy today.
2) Begin with the end in mind
This is fundamental to so many things in life – to paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, if you do not know where you need to end up, you are highly unlikely to find the best route to get there. This is a guiding principle of software selection, web design, branding and so many other aspects of modern business.
3) Put first things first
This explores the difference that exists between the concepts of Leadership and Management. It also discusses importance, urgency and how to differentiate between and prioritise them. One of the biggest challenges today’s managers face is resource allocation – not just in terms of the staff and material their business needs but also when it comes to where to allocate their own time and expertise.
4) Think win-win
This point talks about considering how different management choices affect different people. In today’s organisations, change is the only constant, and that is not always something that sits well with everyone. Looking at the bigger picture and seeking solutions that will benefit all will always have a positive knock-on effect – even if a different solution might seem to offer better short-term gains.
5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood
This one needs no explanation. This is often described as the communication age, but many mistake “communication” with “putting their point across” – when we communicate so much by blog, tweet and status update, perhaps that is unsurprising. There has never been a more important time for managers to remember that communication is a two-way street.
A great manager is one who can make the whole team be greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing has changed there, but today’s teams are often geographically dispersed, creating more challenges when it comes to helping them get the best out of themselves and each other.
7) Sharpen the saw
Finally, we return to the topic of resource management. Whether it is people, materials or knowledge, a business’s needs evolve over time. To succeed, managers need to constantly review their resource needs and assess whether they are fit for purpose. It’s as important today as it was 30 years ago – the only difference is that modern software makes it far easier to do.