12 Signs Of A Toxic Leader

Unfortunately, we have all experienced toxic leadership at some point in our career.

Toxic workplaces and toxic leadership foster because the leader is either encouraging it, participating in it or ignoring it.

Toxic leaders are corrosive on the long run. They erode their employees confidence, motivation, productivity, trust, loyalty and respect.

Wondering if you are a toxic leader or are in the presence of one?

12 Signs Of A Toxic Leader

12 Signs Of A Toxic Leader

#1. Toxic leaders retain useful information

Knowledge is power and toxic leaders know that.

The longer they can keep you in the dark, the longer they have control over you and the longer they stay in power.

In fact, leaders who retain information are insecure and are afraid of being replaced.

#2. Toxic leaders abuse their power and authority

Any chance that they get, toxic leaders need to remind you that they are in power and that they have leverage (financial leverage most of the time) over you.

This type of leaders have huge egos, consider that their employees are subordinates, and do not care who they have to step over to get what they want.

#3. Toxic leaders micromanage their employees

They don’t give people the time or the space to do their job. Instead, they breath down people’s neck.

In fact, micromanaging leaders are counterproductive and create a stressful work environment.

Which, in turn, slows down team work and efficiency.

#4. Toxic leaders condone poor behavior

They accept poor behavior from their team as long as the team produces results.

For example, they would tolerate workplace bullying if it would bring their team closer together.

In turn, they use fear and diverse punishments to incentivize their team.

#5. Toxic leaders manipulate and play aggressive office politics

They play mind games, use information about you against you, love to manipulate and gas light their own team just to stay in power and to advance their career.

#6. Toxic leaders shift responsibility

They talk about accountability but when push comes to shoves they avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

Besides, when things are great, they take credit for your success. When things go bad, they question your abilities and your failures.

#7. Toxic leaders give orders and don’t expect feedback

For them, it is their way or the high way.

They expect you to follow orders whether that order is right or wrong, whether that order benefits them or not.

The truth is they think that they know best but they actually don’t.

#8. Toxic leaders lie for no reason

They backtrack, bend the rules, adjust procedures, make up stories and rumors to for their needs.

They do not care about the impact of their words and create a culture of distrust.

#9. Toxic leaders protect the status quo

They deeply believe in hierarchy.

They don’t promote change or push innovative ideas.

In addition, they are locked in a particular era, in a particular setting. They don’t wish to modernize or adapt to change.

#10. Toxic leaders are overly emotional

They dramatize everything, have a temper and haven’t got a hold of it.

Their mood usually fluctuates throughout the day.

As a result, their behavior makes people walk on eggshells around them.

#11. Toxic leaders are passive aggressive

Either they play nice to your face and stab you in the back.

Or, they hold their feelings in and act it out instead.

Passive aggressiveness is very difficult to deal with as they don’t offer you any type of resolve.

#12. Toxic leaders lack core values

These leaders are entitled and self-serving.

They do not care about people and put their own interest first, no matter what.

Last Words Of Advice!

Toxic leaders often scare away their best employees.

Toxic leaders are simply fooling themselves because they live in constant fear.

They are afraid of losing control, of losing power, of seeming inferior, of being replaceable…

Furthermore, they let their fear control them and influence their behavior.

It is not necessary for you to play into their hands:

  • Learn from your experiences, about yourself and your limits. You can always extract lessons from a negative experience.
  • Emotionally and physically discipline yourself. Don’t lose your cool. By loosing your cool, you are giving them power over you.
  • Don’t take things personally and don’t let their problems become yours. It’s not about you but it’s all about them.
  • Find emotional support outside of work.
  • Keep your dignity. Don’t let other people actions define your character.

Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!

Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.

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Fast Focus By Damon Zahariades

In Fast Focus, a quick-start guide to mastering your attention, ignoring distractions, and getting more done in less time!Damon Zahariades provides tools and strategies to manage your ability to focus.

What is focus?

Focus is the concentration required to consciously block out the noise and the distractions while performing a task.

The ability to focus can be a natural talent. But for most of us, it is a built-in habit, a skill which means it can be learnt.

Why do you need to effectively manage your attention? 

Focus can positively impact your life. A lack of focus will reduce your effectiveness and your work quality.

Lack of focus or mind-wandering is not all negative. It helps us get in time with our creative side and find solutions to difficult circumstances.

However, gaining better focus will help you finish all your tasks on time, make better decisions, solve problems, become more productivity, get a successful work/life balance, embrace failure and learn  from your mistakes.

By improving your focus, you can reserve your energy for relationships, build stronger connections, become more present, increase your memory, achieve greater self-confidence, handle and overcome adversity.

Why are people so unfocused?

Nobody is impervious to distraction. People are easily distracted because they usually:

  • lack interest, are unable to commit or stay engaged to a particular task.
  • lack emotional intelligence and are submerged by fear.
  • are disorganized and don’t structure their day.
  • lack energy. They don’t sleep, eat or exercise correctly.
  • lack control or discipline.

Creating an environment to focus

Designing the proper environment is the first way to zero in on your task and to harmonize your workflow:

  1. Light up your work environment and always take advantage of your natural light. A low lighting makes you drowsy, strains your eyes and decrease your learning abilities.
  2. Some people feel comfortable working with background noises while others enjoy silence. Experiment and find out which one works best for you.
  3. Consider your level of physical comfort. To do so, you can adjust your clothes, your stationary, your sitting position, your sitting time and your sight line.
  4. Monitor the temperature of the room. For example, a too warm room will cause you to sleep.
  5. Breathe clean air.
  6. Practice aromatherapy. Some scents have a direct impact on your mood, mind and effectiveness.
  7. Avoid social situations if you want to work. Human nature makes us drawn to people but interacting with people decrease your focus.
  8. Organize and declutter your workspace. Clutter affects your focus more than you think because it decreases your processing abilities, hurts your creativity and occupies your memory space.
  9. Monitor your time to measure your progress.
  10. Write down your ideas and tasks so they don’t monopolize your thoughts.

Fast Focus By Damon Zahariades (3)

Strategies to overcome mind-wandering

There are several tactics to increase your focus, to relax and to avoid the biggest distractions in your life.

  1. As stated above, it is essential to monitor your time, to set realistic deadlines, to reward yourself and break down your tasks in smaller steps.
  2. Don’t set too many daily goals and limit yourself to 5 tasks daily or else you will feel overwhelmed and pressured.
  3. Identify the purpose for every task.
  4. Exercise first thing in the morning.
  5. Avoid ignoring the ideas and thoughts floating around in your head. Log them down quickly before you forget them.
  6. Identify “internal or external stimuli” that break your concentration.
  7. Record every task that you must undertake by putting them down via a to do list.
  8. To sharpen your focus, to enter the zone and boost your performance, listen to music or nurture silence.
  9. Take regular breaks and naps to refresh your mind, to refresh your mind and to avoid boredom.
  10. Restore your focus by taking a short walk instead of remaining at your desk.
  11. Multitasking is valued by society. However, attacking one task at a time will help increase your performance and your work quality.
  12. Pack all similar activities into one and execute them in a row while monitoring your time.
  13. Break down your day into several tasks and allocate the time necessary for each task.
  14. Stay away from internet.
  15. Spend less time in meetings or avoid meetings all together as they can clog up your day and as they hold little value.
  16. Set boundaries and expectations about your time and your focus.
  17. Turn off your phone for long periods of time.
  18. Observe how your energy fluctuates during the day and use moments where your energy is high to achieve high productivity.
  19. Mediate and take care of your inner peace.
  20. Stop checking your mails frantically. Instead, keep track of your inbox once or twice a day.
  21. Define a daily routine and follow it. Routines facilitates your life, enables ow brain processing. You can use that same brain power to accomplish your tasks.
  22. Stay away from perfectionism.
  23. Completely edit the first draft then come back to correct your mistakes.
  24. Stop “consuming too much caffeine” because it is unhealthy and reduces your ability to concentrate.

Review

Fast Focus, a quick-start guide to mastering your attention, ignoring distractions, and getting more done in less time! is a pragmatic, complete, quick and easy to read self-help book.

In Fast Focus, a quick-start guide to mastering your attention, ignoring distractions, and getting more done in less time!Damon Zahariades shares valuable tips on how to increase your productivity and your focus.

Damon Zahariades shares his preferences and also incorporates practical links  and tools to enable your productivity.

It is a step by step guide, written for leaders, for people from all walks of life, for those who are easily distracted by social media, for those who procrastinate, who daydream easily and those with low productivity.

I like the fact that this books highlights the fact that so many things, concepts and institutions in life are purposely set up to distract us from reality: from the local bully to the background music in the stores to technology and internet.

All these distractions are the reason why most people procrastinate and never achieve their version of success.

Favorite quote(s)

When we lack a specific purpose, we become more susceptible to distractions. We focus on whatever our brains tell us to focus on, rather than the other way around. We become passengers rather than drivers.

Ratings 2.5/5

Author

Damon Zahariades

Acquiring Impressive Problem-Solving Skills In 6 Steps

Leaders are often faced with recurring issues in their personal and in their professional lives.

On a daily basis, they fight to retain talent, to keep their businesses alive, to keep up with the market, to increase their return on investment, to deal with clients, to evolve and to encourage growth.

Problems arise when there is a discrepancy between reality and expectations, when leaders are unable to successfully reach their goals.

Their ability to anticipate and to solve problems will determine their success and will increase their chances for promotion.

Wondering how to acquire problem-solving skills?

Acquiring Impressive Problem-Solving Skills In 6 Steps

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving is a cognitive skill that is useful in challenging, problematic and uncertain situations that require resolution.

Problem-solving is uncomfortable, takes time, requires practice and need constant monitoring. This intuitive skill is also sharpened by mistakes and failures.

Furthermore, problems encourage growth and change in us. That is why problem-solving requires facing inner demons.

It also helps us acquire innovative skills, people skills, communication skills, data gathering, conflict management and analytical skills.

How to actually solve problems?

Problem-solving gives leaders the opportunity to deal with change, to handle conflict, to delegate, to humbly ask for help.

Leaders who are unable to effectively solve problems lack knowledge in their respective fields, don’t establish practical methods, don’t commit to one solution, fail to implement their vision or to understand the problem all together.

STEP #1 Work on your character

You cannot control most of the situations that you will face in life. However, you can control how you react to them. It is therefore necessary to work on your character and to:

  1. Know yourself, trust your intuition and understand that your ideas are valuable.
  2. Be mindful that problems arise every day and that you cannot solve everything all at once.
  3. Write down all the rules and core values that guide you so you can remember them in time of need.
  4. Be open-minded, explore other fields than your own and to frequent people from other industries.
  5. Educate yourself on your business. Read books and articles on your field.
  6. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Challenge your assumptions before you restrict your opportunities
  7. Be patient but take action before it’s too late and before the opportunity expires.
  8. Pay attention to other people’s opinion but don’t worry too much about the naysayers.
  9. Admit if you have made a mistake. Great leaders are able to face issues without shifting blame and shifting values.
  10. Embrace change and avoid criticizing new ideas.
  11. Welcome failure. Don’t beat yourself up or don’t blame yourself for failure. Most successes or most innovations have broken through from failures.

STEP #2 Defining & Understanding the problem

Problems are synonymous with difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, obstacle or setback. Problems trigger fight or flight response when handling a problematic situations.

There is no need to immediately appear decisive or to impress people. You must first define and understand the problem:

  1. Get the information about the problem.
  2. Identify the complexity, the symptoms, effects and root causes of the problem.
  3. Take time to reflect on your situation and to observe.
  4. Talk to the people implicated in the situation.
  5. Look for patterns and for trends.
  6. Find analogies to your situation that can help spark ideas.
  7. Reverse the problem: find the opposite problem or envision a worse problem.

STEP #3 Solutioning

Anticipating problems is the best option. But, the key is to staying focused or finding a solution. You must be able to study all the possible solutions of the problem:

  1. Explore all ideas even if you think that they won’t work.
  2. Suggest solutions that would make the problem worse.
  3. Think about your past experiences when you have been put in sticky situations. It can be a conflict with your coworkers, It can be a discussion with your clients or situations with your family.
  4. Look at what is being done by experts and evaluate the opposite solution.
  5. Ask for help from people around you. You can use brainstorming, mind mapping or road mapping techniques.
  6. Remove yourself from the situation to clear your mind and gain a different perspective.
  7. Break down the situation into simpler components.
  8. Write down pros and cons of the solutions.
  9. Clarify the criteria that your solution must meet.
  10. Test the feasibility of the solution.
  11. Organize your thoughts and pick the solution that will maximize your return.

STEP #4 Making a decision

When you have evaluated all the solutions, it’s time to make a decision. One decision is better than none.

  1. Look up the “unwritten rules that you are about to break before making a decision.
  2. Weigh in the consequences of your decisions. Rapid decisions can have serious implications, especially if you are a leader. So, be aware of the economic, social, political challenges of your decisions.
  3. Luckily, the leader does not have to resolve every problem on their own. To make better decisions, involve your team in the decision-making process. However, the final decisions is up to you.
  4. Seek to solve the problem long-term.
  5. Take the necessary time to make the right decision. You don’t need to impress or to act fast, you need to act right.

STEP #5 Executing the decision

After finding the perfect solution and making your decision, start implementing it:

  1. Set goals and deadlines that align with your goals.
  2. Keep your goals in mind.
  3. Focus on the outcomes of the solution and visualize the best scenario.

STEP #6 Measuring your progress & Monitoring the problem

Unfortunately, problems don’t solve themselves and can grow as time passes by. If the roots of the problem still persist:

  1. Assess the impact of your current decision.
  2. Reward yourself if your solution is bringing positive results.
  3. If your plan doesn’t work, cut the losses and get back up.
  4. Ask for additional help. 
  5. Execute your plan B if you have one. Revisit the problem, start over the solving process otherwise.
  6. Take a break before moving on to the next problem.

Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!

Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.

Are You Successfully Managing A Healthy Work-Life Balance? — 26 Tips For Preventing Burnout

The workplace can help us realize your potential but it can also trigger fight or flight responses in us, bring out our innermost insecurities. At work, as leaders so many things threaten our career goals, our promotions, our desires for success, our relationships and most importantly our sanity.

Leaders constantly feel the pressures of keeping up, of always being on top of everything. It is even a requirement that leaders project confidence, demonstrate optimism, or remain stoic in the face of events.

However, sooner or later, we end up sacrificing what we value most, solely keeping up with appearances, looking busy but being unproductive, spreading ourselves thin, doing sloppy work and not caring about people.

Wondering what strategies to use to improve your well-being and work-life balance?

Healthy Work-Life Balance Preventing Burnout

What is work-life balance?

Work is part of life: we spend most of our waking hours at work more than anything else. Needless to say, work and life are not opposite nor are they inseparable: lack of work-life balance has direct repercussions on our health, finances and families, creates fatigue, poor judgement, poor performance, high emotions.

Creating work-life balance is not giving equal attention to both work and life. But, it means that you are satisfied with your contributions to your life and work, that you are able to create a sustainable synergy between both so that you are fueled by them on a daily basis.

A healthy work-life balance can be motivated by life changing events or by a desire to do better. Work-life balance involves wise time management, self-discipline, and creates a better quantity to quality ratio.

Balancing work and life is hard but achievable because time is limited and we want to maximize our time the best we know how.

Benefits of a healthy work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is an issue that mostly plagues millennials. To them, work should be enjoyable, emotionally and financially rewarding.

In many ways, it forces us to redefine success, our career and our relationships. It also helps us fulfill our needs, give us a profound sense of satisfaction, and become the best version of ourselves.

It allows you to create intention: you move with a clearly defined purpose. It is essential to manage your time and resources, level of commitment, to invest most of them in yourself and not in someone else’s dream.

It has the ability to increase job satisfaction, well-being, sense of self, self-awareness, effectiveness, adaptability, resilience, and creativity. It provides the tools to improve work performance, to revamp health, to maintain relationships, to appropriately deal with stress, and to avoid burnout.

How to create the best work-life balance?

Sometimes we are unable to distance ourselves from work because we feel indispensable to the organization, we feel threatened, or replaceable. Furthermore, achieving work-life balance is hard: some people, mostly high achievers, can feel guilty for taking time off and not investing it in their work.

However, an unhealthy work-life balance can lead to burn out, can trigger unexpected emotional outburst, heavily strain your physical and emotional well-being.

Burnout is hard to recover from. It hits you unexpectedly but is actually a slow burning process. Burnout is caused by overworking yourself, by a lack of recognition, by a lack of validation and chronic stress. It translates itself into feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, dissatisfaction, despair, depressions, low self-esteem, feelings of being stuck and of failure.

In addition, it is detrimental to understand that living to work or sacrificing health and energy is not the way to succeed. To successfully create a healthy work-life balance:

  1. Take care of yourself first and boost your leadership self-esteem from time to time. It is cliché but it is true: when you fly on airplane, you must put your mask on first before assisting others.
  2. Be clear about your purpose. Identify the reasons why you are working, establish a personal mission statement or elevator speech.
  3. Take back control of your time, your energy, thoughts and happiness. Strangely enough, we choose the life we want to live. We chose yesterday the life we are living today.
  4. Be present and get out of autopilot mode. This will help you appreciate moments in your life and to think on your feet.
  5. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to figure out where and how to apply them, to know when and how to say no and to get the most out of work.
  6. Identify stressors, the things that fulfill you the most and those that don’t. What activities engage you the most? If your aren’t applying your strengths and interests at work, find areas outside of work to do so.
  7. Prioritize what matters most, avoid multitasking, pay attention to the vital few, keep your life simple and don’t be afraid of missing out.
  8. Align your daily activities in life and work with your values, principles.
  9. Set specific goals for yourself to increase motivation, to build up confidence and to stay focused.
  10. Be more disciplined. In order to make your life worthwhile, avoid distractions. This means that you have to shut down your phones, your television and avoid checking your emails outside of work.
  11. Be open to new opportunities, new experiences.
  12. Build real connections and learn to discern the authentic relationships by observing their actions.
  13. During the day, clear out at least one hour to relax and empty out your mind. Try meditation and a new sport. If it is not working, give yourself the space and the time to explore new things.
  14. Reduce your commuting time or avoid commuting during peak hours if possible.
  15. Dedicate more hours to sleep. Sleep is a cure for many diseases. It helps to eliminate bad toxins, to increase your focus and your job performance.
  16. Challenge your core habits and deal with change one at a time. Implementing a successful work-life balance can be overwhelming at first but it makes sense in the long run.
  17. Promote well-being in the workplace. Dedicate a specific space for work only, decorate your office with things you enjoy, be playful without being frivolous, show your employees that you take vacations and encourage them to do the same.
  18. Learn to delegate, to clearly communicate your requirements and to set boundaries. Setting boundaries help you gain respect from your employees.
  19. Stop focusing on analytics, metrics, meetings and deadlines to measure your self-worth.
  20. After work, reward yourself, leave work for the workplace and concentrate on your family and friends when you are with them.
  21. Help your employees understand that their health, well-being is more important to their productivity. That being said, monitor the most ambitious and driven employees to make sure they don’t burnout or literally work themselves to death.
  22. Value your employees and show your appreciation for their hard work.
  23. Don’t burden your employees with heavy workload and unreachable deadlines.
  24. Allow flexible hours and other activities in the workplace.
  25. Put the power of internet to good use and allow people to work from home. Employees working from home are more productive, have reduced commuting time, have less stress, are not constantly bothered by events in the office. It also allows the organization to save money on energy consumption and office space.
  26. Seek external help if needed.

Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!

Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

the seven habits of highly effective people - book coverIn The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey distinguishes two major social paradigms that have embodied the search for success and the “fundamental principles of human effectiveness” since 1776: the Character Ethic and the Personality Ethic.

According to Stephen R. Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in the United States, from 1776 to WWI, leadership culture was based around building character. It was said that Character Ethic was the foundation of long-term success: leaders were thought values and habits to develop their basic character.

However, from World War I to Today, leadership and success teachings have been promoting Personality Ethic. Personality Ethic provides quick fixes to help an individual deceive their way to the top, to success and to leadership positions. Personality Ethic teachings work short-term, don’t fix issues but just disguise them.

Moreover, Covey claims that we possess several paradigms or maps of how we see things and a map of how things should be which comes from our values. These maps are the basis of our attitudes and behaviors. Paradigms, which are our frame of reference or assumptions, are affected by our conditioning through life, by the influences of our friends and family, of our institutions, our culture, of our historical backgrounds, systems of beliefs, life experiences.

As a result, our attitudes and behaviours are congruent of our paradigms. So therefore, attempting to change only our attitudes and behaviors, as instilled by the Personality Ethic movement, is completely useless and is short-termed. In order to implement change in our character or a “paradigm shift“, it is then necessary to directly assess our paradigms, to examine them, to test them against reality, to listen to others and to be open to their perception.

The term “paradigm shift” is coined from the Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. It means breaking with tradition, old beliefs, old assumptions, old paradigms. Paradigms shift can be toward a positive or negative direction, “instantaneous or developmental” and “create a powerful change”.

Throughout The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey suggests that we shift our paradigms back to the Character Ethic, that we start shifting our thinking from the inside and introduces seven habits to enhance personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

The Character Ethic is a general and fundamental truth, universally applicable, unchangeable and unarguable laws and “principles that govern human effectiveness”, that are “bigger than people or circumstances”, that innately exist in all human beings, are common to all civilization and that triumph time and time again.

Acquiring Character Ethic is the basis of high level of trust in companies, is a long process that should be natural ad cannot be a shortcut. First step to the process is admitting your ignorance or lack of knowledge.

What is a habit?

Character is the composite of embedded habit, and it is necessary to solve the problems we face from the inside out because private victories exceed public victories.

A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skills and desire and is a natural force like gravity. Breaking a habit can be a painful process, demands effort and technique, should be motivated by a higher purpose, a willingness to sacrifice our current desire for a future and unseen desire.

What are the seven habits?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People moves us on the maturity continuum. It brings us from a state of dependence where we need others to accomplish something for us, to a state of independence where we are self-reliant, self-motivated, derive our self-worth from within and are freed from external dependence, to a state of interdependence where we are self-reliant and competent in our own right but able to work with others, and believe that together we accomplish more.

In addition, the seven habits are habits of effectiveness, a balance between the production of a desired result and the investment in the ability to produce or in the physical, financial and human, asset that produces. Covey believes that to achieve effectiveness , we must strike the P/PC balance, where P stands for Production and PC for Production Capability.

The 3 following habits are the habits of Private Victory. These habits are used to become more confident, to know yourself deeper and to acknowledge your contribution capacity, to define yourself from within instead of using society’s point of view to define yourself. Stephen R. Covey encourages us to develop the habits of being proactive, keeping our future goals in mind and of creating our vision.

HABIT #1: Be proactive

In management literature, being proactive means taking initiative. Here, it also means being responsible for our lives and our decisions, being able to choose a response when faced with a stimulus.

Proactive people, unlike reactive people:

  • Are unaffected by their physical environment and are value driven. Their performance and attitudes remain constant whether it rains or shines.
  • Are unaffected by their social environment. they don’t build their emotional lives around people weaknesses and don’t allow those weaknesses to control their lives and decisions.  Instead they surrender their emotions to their values and don’t allow reactive language to affect them.
  • Take the initiative. Act before being acted upon, provide solution to a problem and enable growth and opportunity.
  • Look to focus their time and energy on areas that they can control or influence. Indeed, they don’t focus on others weaknesses and problems and uncontrollable events.
  • Constantly work on their habits, change from the inside-out.
  • Take full responsibility for their short-comings.
  • Are free to choose their actions but understand that they cannot control the consequences of these actions.
  • Govern their behaviors with principles, acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them and correct them immediately.
  • Have integrity: they make and keep their commitments and promises.
  • Monitor their language and the language of the people around them.
  • Identify past and potential experiences to which they have behaved reactively and play out scenarios towards a solution.

HABIT #2: Begin with the end in mind

For Stephen R. Covey, beginning with the end in mind means using the “end of your life as your frame of reference or criterion by which everything else is examined”, starting with “a clear understanding of your destination” to “know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right destination”. To begin with the end in mind:

  • Use habit #1 to be proactive to change preexisting thought, shift your paradigm, examine your deepest values.
  • Be aware and conscious of your limitless potential, of your uniqueness.
  • Be imaginative enough to visualize the unseen.
  • Be responsible and response-able.
  • Do not violate the criteria that you have set for yourself.
  • Lead yourself daily in order to execute what really matters.
  • Develop a “personal mission statement or philosophy or creed” describing your aspiring character, achievements, contributions, values and principles. The personal mission statement becomes your guide and standard, provides you with a sense of mission, helps define your short-termed and long-termed goals and allows change because your core has now become changeless. Basically, developing a personal mission statement makes you much more effective because your energy, time and strengths are dedicated to areas that matter to you. Personal mission statements are not to be written overnight but might take several weeks because they require deep introspection. Also, they have to be written alone and reviewed many times before producing a final form.

HABIT #3: Put first things first

Stephen R. Covey believes that all things are created twice, by design or by default. The first creation starts in the mind where you envision the future and you plan for a destination. The second creation is physical: you bring what you visualize into reality and you take the best route towards your planned destination.

For Covey, leadership is the first creation and management is the second. Indeed, leadership creates the way, opens the pathway, provides direction and a destination. On the other hand, management clears the pathway by “writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and contributions programs”.

To be able to physically create and implement your vision into reality, you have to:

  • be proactive, understand that you are in control and are able to change your paradigm,
  • envision your potential and your destination and be self-ware,
  • have discipline to effectively carry out your plans, to stick to your values and to manage your time and life,
  • prioritize, schedule, select goals and leave space for unanticipated events,
  • delegate responsibility to skilled and trained individuals to focus their energy on high-leverage activities.

“Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others”.

On one hand, Habits #1, #2 and #3 are habits of Private Victory and are about developing your inner self, your character and your core values.

on the other hand, Habits #4, #5, #6 are habits of Public Victory, help in improving your relationship with others and working successfully with others.

Using the Personality Ethic, we might have a superficial and duplicitous relationship with others. Difficulty in relationships translates into tolerable chronic emotional pain  that can turn into psychosomatic diseases. The symptoms of these emotional pains cannot be treated with quick fixes and techniques from the Personality Ethic.

Nevertheless, the Character Ethic provides a foundation for effective interdependence. The interdependence paradigm teaches us to:

  • seek to understand others and stimulate their deep interest or needs,
  • attend to kindness and courtesies,
  • keep commitments and promises to people in order to build trust,
  • clarify expectations from the start to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts,
  • manifest integrity by being honest, loyal to those who are not present, by treating everyone with the same set of principles,
  • help others “feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity and integrity”,
  • handle problems and see them as opportunities.

HABIT #4: Think Win/Win

Stephen R. Covey identifies 6 paradigms of human interaction:

  1. The Win/Win paradigm. People with this paradigm seek mutual benefits in all human interactions, believe that life is a cooperation and not a competition, that a “person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others”.
  2. The Win/Lose paradigm. People with this paradigm don’t create synergy or cooperation, use the authoritarian or commanding leadership style and are accustomed to low trust and competitive environments.
  3. The Lose/Win paradigm. People with this paradigm have no standard, no demands, no expectation, no vision, search for popularity and acceptance, are quick to please and appease, repress their emotions and feelings, and are easily intimidated by ego strengths of others.
  4. The Lose/Lose paradigm. People with this paradigm live by the “philosophy of the highly dependent person without inner direction”, who is miserable and thinks everyone else should be too.
  5. The Win paradigm. People with this mentality seek to win not necessarily wanting the other party to lose or win.
  6. The Win/Win or No Deal paradigm. If no synergistic solution is brought to the table that could satisfy both parties, then there is no deal. This paradigm provides emotional freedom.

Stephen R. Covey promotes the Win/Win paradigm and establishes that a Win/Win person possesses specific character traits: they have integrity, they have maturity which means that they are able to express their views with consideration to others, and they have the abundance mentality which means that they believe that there is enough for everyone.

Of course, not all decisions are Win/Win, but to know when to apply the Win/Win paradigm, you must understand the problem from another perspective, identify the other person’s issues and concerns, other acceptable results, and new possible outcomes for the situation.

HABIT #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

To be able to influence and to develop effective interpersonal communication skills, it is better to diagnose a situation before prescribing or proving advice.

To understand another person’s emotional and intellectual paradigm, Covey instructs us to listen empathetically, without making assumptions, and warns us to not listen to reply, manipulate, control or sympathize.

Empathic listening takes time initially but saves time afterwards, is risky because you become vulnerable to influence. That is why we must develop a changeless core of principles, erected in Habits #1, #2, #3.

Furthermore, seeking to be understood requires maturity, an ability to present your ideas clearly, specifically, visually and contextually and an ability to consider all the facts and perceptions. To take preventive measures, schedules one-on-one before issues arise.

HABIT #6: Synergize

Synergy means that “the whole is greater than the sums of its parts”, and is used to create cooperation in our social interaction. To create synergy on a daily basis:

  • value and respect social, mental and emotional differences to nurture people self-esteem and self-worth. Effective people acknowledge the limits if their perceptions, appreciate diverse interactions because they had to this person’s knowledge and understanding of reality, increase their awareness,
  • build on strengths and compensate weaknesses,
  • be open to new possibilities, alternatives and options,
  • be open to learning and to other’s influence.

HABIT #7: Sharpen the Saw

Finally, Habit #7 sums up the entire book. Habit #7 is about investing, preserving and enhancing your preexisting assets and means exercising sound motivation and organisation in four different dimensions:

  • The physical dimension is about caring for the health of our body by eating right and exercising.
  • The “spiritual dimension provides leadership in your life”, is your core and your commitment to your value system.
  • The mental dimension come from formal eduction, expansion of the mind.
  • The social/emotional dimension that is centered on developing interpersonal leadership, empathic communication and creative cooperation.

Review

the seven habits of highly effective people - book coverThe Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a self-development book that has been on my shelf for longest while. It was written in 1989 but is still contemporaneous and can very much serve as guide to life, for personal and professional growth.

I avidly took notes in the perspective of actively applying every single tip and read it twice in order to capture the very essence of the book.

I recommend it to all leaders that are trying to integrate core values and to ingrain “good” habits into their character in order to experience success, to increase their effectiveness at work and to become the best leader that they can be.

I like that each paragraph are interconnected and that the author is personally implicated, is genuine with his approach and his drive to see us succeed and become more effective.

Covey calls out the books since World War I, promoting Personality Ethic, that provide quick fixes and band aids to deep-rooted problems. These books suggest techniques and principles to encourage leaders to put up a front and act like a leader would and not actually be a leader. Covey is also being very transparent about the dysfunction of the society these days, willing to manipulate and deceive their way to the top.

Finally, he reminds us that it is not all that shines that is glitter: the deception does not last very long and the leadership tower crashes because it has no basis and because the leadership house was built on sand.

Favorite Quote(s)

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other — while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity — then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do — even using so-called good human relations techniques — will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.

You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.

Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others.

Ratings 3,75/5

Author

Stephen R. Covey

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