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Dr Stephen Covey is a hugely influential management guru, whose book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ has become a blueprint for personal development. The habits framework is especially applicable to leaders and managers. According to Covey, our paradigms affect how we interact with others, which in turn affects how they interact with us. He believes that we must start by examining our own character, paradigms, and approach.

1.      Be proactive – Managers need to plan in advance and anticipate needs before they become issues. They also need to develop the attitude of exploring new avenues and generating ideas for future business growth.

2.      Begin with the end in mind – The manager needs to be able to concentrate on relevant activities in order to see the broader business picture and assess how each activity links with the business and personal goals.

3.      Put first things first – Managers need to prioritise, plan and manage time and implement activities, which aim to achieve the second habit – looking to the desired outcome.

4.      Think win-win – This is the most important aspect of interpersonal leadership, because achievements are largely dependent on cooperative efforts with others. Win-win is based on the assumption that there is plenty for everyone, and that success follows a cooperative approach more naturally than a confrontational win-or-lose one.

5.      Seek first to understand and then to be understood – By developing and maintaining positive relationships through good communications, the manager can be understood, and can understand the subordinates.

6.      Synergies – This is the principle that collaboration often achieves more than can be achieved by individuals working independently at attaining a purpose and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

7.      Sharpen the saw – Managers should learn from previous experience and encourage others to do the same. This is the habit of self-renewal, and it necessarily surrounds all the other habits, enabling and encouraging them to happen and grow.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan

First published in the DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 24, 2005