Dr. Stephen R. Covey wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” more than 30 years ago. So timeless are the concepts he developed that they are still instrumental in creating strong businesses today.
The book has sold more than 25 million copies, and in 1996, Time magazine named Dr. Covey one of the 25 most influential Americans. Forbes magazine called “Seven Habits” one of the top 10 business management books ever written and Dr. Covey’s signature program has been taught at two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies.
In 2004, I started an HVAC contracting company using the leadership, organization, communication and time management principles I learned from “The 7 Habits.” Within five years my company grew from $0 to $20,000,000, and in 2009, was selected by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America.
That same year I was privileged to meet and work with Dr. Covey, and he endorsed my first two books. Since that time I have continued teaching these powerful habits to contractors through a program I developed with the Franklin/Covey Organization, called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Contractors.
Over the next several months, I will write a series of online exclusive columns outlining these transformational organizational principles and how they apply to the contracting business. Here is brief overview of the habits, detailed discussions of each habit will follow over the coming months.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People transformed the way successful organizations viewed the skills of personal responsibility, planning, time management, negotiation, communication and problem solving. Organizations learned that to truly realize their financial performance potential, each individual within the organization must realize the “private victories” of Habits 1, 2 and 3.
Then, and only then, could those individuals move beyond a state of “dependence” and graduate to the independence of “public victories” in habits 4, 5, and 6. Habit 7 of “Sharpening the Saw” was designed to teach the constant renewal to sustain our human ability to create business results.
Habit 1: "Being Proactive." Dr. Covey outlined Habit 1 as “Being Proactive” as the habit of choice. Essentially, in the moment of time between something happening to us and our response there is a space where we make a choice. That choice is what determines our success and/or failure in life and business.
Proactive people reveal their sense of personal responsibility in their language and where they focus their time. Proactive people speak in empowered terms whereas reactive people come from a perspective of blaming, and their impotence is reflected in their speech. Proactive people focus their thoughts in areas where they have influence; reactive people focus their time on whining and complaining about things over which they have no control.
Habit 2: “Begin With the End in Mind.” This habit outlines the value of knowing what the endgame looks like. As Dr. Covey states, “all things are created twice,” once in our mental creation and again on our physical creation. Whether it’s building a house, a life or a business, all things benefit from having a plan and a clear vision of the desired outcome.
Habit 3: “Putting First Things First.” Dr. Covey’s explanation of time management went far beyond the use of the clock and introduced the need to employ the compass as well. It’s not enough to do things right, we must also do the right things.
In this habit Dr. Covey classified time into four quadrants and brilliantly demonstrates the need to spend time in the “quadrant of effectiveness” if we want to build successful companies, departments and lives. We’ve all heard the expression that we must spend more time “working on our business than working in our business.” Habit 3 is the foundation on which contractors can manage their time and spend more time working on their businesses.
Habit 4 : “Think Win/Win.” In many cases contractors are not truly practicing win/win. They are instead practicing lose/win, because often the contractor is losing by discounting prices to such a point that he is not actually winning the profitability game. The customer “wins” because the contractor does a quality job, but the contractor “loses” because he gave steep discounts to get the job.
A true win/win is a quality job for the customer and a reasonable profit for the contractor. If you are doing great work but you are dissatisfied with your company’s financial performance, you are de facto practicing lose/win. According to Dr. Covey, practicing win/win requires courage and consideration, the consideration to be fair with customers and the courage to ask for a price we deserve.
Habit 5: “Seek First to Understand then be Understood.” This is the habit of empathic listening and learning to listen with the intent to understand, not listening with the intent to respond. While many contractors may initially see this habit as being inefficient communication, Dr. Covey demonstrates that with human relationships “fast is slow.” In other words if you truly want to get to the root of business or professional problems quickly, it is necessary to slow down the process of communication.
Habit 6: “Synergize.” This is the habit of 1 + 1 = 10 or in some cases even more. It is the habit of creative cooperation where synergies are formed and new and better solutions are arrived at. New solutions are the “third alternative” and are the result of celebrating different perspectives to arrive at better ideas. It’s not your way or my way, it is our way, which is a better way.
Habit 7: “Sharpening the Saw.” This is the habit of constant renewal. Dr. Covey examines the need to take care of ourselves along four dimensions of life and business. Habit 7 is essentially the habit of taking care of the resources that produce the results in your life and business: namely YOU!
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a powerful tool of business leaders in building cultures of personal responsibility and empowered workers. By implementing the habits on a consistent basis companies experience improved moral, productivity and ultimately increased profits.
Stay tuned! Over the next few months I will go through each habit in detail and outline how these habits can change the financial performance of your contracting business.
Weldon Long is the NY Times Bestselling Author of The Power of Consistency and one of the nations leading experts on building profitable contracting companies. His clients include Direct Energy/Clockwork Home Services, FedEx, Dex Media, Carrier/Bryant Corporations, Goodman Manufacturing, Rheem/Ruud and many of the best service contractors in the nation. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Tom Hopkins, Tony Robbins and the Napoleon Hill Foundation have endorsed his work and books. Learn more at www.HVACSalesAcademy.com or www.WeldonLong.com.