Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits…” Also Apply to Non Profit Boards
By Joseph John
It didn’t take any time at all last week to think about an article that I should write. As I picked up the newspaper and headed towards the obituaries, (a habit of mine), a headline shouted out: “Renowned author Stephen Covey dies.”
In the third paragraph of the AP release, the obit stated “…a pioneer in the self-help genre aimed at helping readers become more productive in their lives, most notably with the ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’…” And that’s when I thought, “Yes, many of the habits Covey wrote about can indeed be applied to nonprofit board members.”
I quickly went to Wikipedia (it was much faster than finding my copy of Stephen Covey’s book, which I’m sure is dog-eared, by the way) to refresh my memory on the seven habits he wrote about. You may recall that each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:
Independence or Self-Mastery
The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self mastery).
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Take initiative and take responsibility
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Create a mission statement.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.
The next three habits have to do with interdependence (i.e., working with others).
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Use empathic listening, which generates reciprocal listening. All of this creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.
Habit 6: Synergize
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.
The last habit relates to self-rejuvenation.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a balance among the four dimensions: Physical, Spiritual, Mental, and Social/Emotional.
So many of the seven habits Stephen Covey addressed for the “individual” are transferable to the collective “individuals” of a non profit board. Think about it: just the first three habits can establish a strong foundation for a very dynamic and successful board of directors: 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, and 3) put first things first. “First things first” or, to use another famous Covey quote “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Yes, Stephen Covey may have passed away, but his lessons — and our need to follow the seven habits — will always remain.