Book Review - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Posted 9th June 2010

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I came across this book by accident, whilst looking up something on the internet.  It grabbed my attention, because as Case Managers we all aim to be ‘highly effective' for our clients.  I read the summary that I came across on the internet, and it intrigued me more, as the notion of ‘interdependence' is central to the success of being effective.   Interdependence in the context of the book means working alongside different supportive groups or widening of a support network.

It occurred to me that as well as being ‘highly effective' it is highly desirable for Case Managers that we aim to work with our clients ‘interdependently'.  We don't want our clients to be dependent on us, however, when we first meet them they are usually dependent on health and social care to support them, whether that is temporarily or permanently.  Independence always seems to be a desirable state for our clients to achieve, but having had experience of clients who try to remain staunchly independent, I know that this can get in the way of progress.  Helping them to participate in the process, communicate effectively with us and their health and social care team, becoming actively ‘interdependent' on the system, will help them achieve independence from the system more rapidly. 

Even when our clients achieve independence from us, many of them will benefit hugely from learning to be more interdependent on their GP and local health care services for ongoing needs. 

Why did the author started looking at this subject?  He was reviewing 200 years of literature on success as part of his studies.  He found that after around 1920 most of the literature attributed success to personality traits; positive thinking, skills, techniques, knowledge, he called this the Personality Ethic.  However, prior to 1920 the literature emphasised deeper principles as the foundation of success.  He called this the Character Ethic; integrity, courage, justice, patience etc.  He felt that unless the underlying paradigms are right, simply changing our outward behaviour is not effective.  Once we understand that, the author believes we can move on to working on our habits to become more effective.

The following is a very short summary of the 7 Habits

Habit 1 - Be Proactive

Changes start from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than simply reacting to external forces

Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind

Develop a principle-centred personal mission statement.  Extend the mission statement into long-term goals based on personal principles. 

Habit 3 - Put First Things First

Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission observing the proper balance production and building production capacity.  Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.

Habit 4 - Think Win/Win

Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial.  In cases where a ‘win/win' deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make ‘no deal' may be the best alternative.  In developing an organisational culture, be sure to reward win/win behaviour among employees and avoid inadvertently rewarding win/lose behaviour.

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood.  The author presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations.  Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one's own experience.  Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning. 

Habit 6 - Synergize

Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual difference to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.  Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person's own solution.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw

Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions.  Maintain a balance among these dimensions.

I have never read more than a few pages of any self help book, I easily get put off by the cheesiness and self righteousness so many of these books portray.  This isn't really any different, there are too many references to the church (if an alien came to earth and read this book they could easily assume that every earthling was a Christian), and it could easily be half the length and still get the point across.  However, if you can see past this then this book does have a lot of relevance to our work as Case Managers.  It looks at fundamental principles of effective relationships and how to communicate well with people.

Admittedly it does focus more on personal relationships, partners/spouses, children, family and friends, as these are the types of relationships we all have experience of.  There are so many different types of working relationships, so it doesn't discuss anything specifically that correlates to the unusual relationships we as Case Managers form with our clients, health and social care professionals, and the legal teams.  But the basic principles can be transferred to any relationship. 

And as someone who normally only likes to read fiction before going to sleep, this has its entertaining moments - you just have to be prepared for occasional nauseating transatlantic cheese.  However, I do recommend this book, it is full of really solid advice. 

 Liz Haunch

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