Seven Habits - Effectiveness

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Introduction to Effectiveness

By Awah | Leadership | 1 Apr 2020

History of 7 Habits

Steven Covey's book on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was originally published in 1989 and has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. It is a self-help book aimed at business people and leaders but can equally be applied to anyone who wants to be effective at reaching their full potential, building strong relationships or attaining their goals.

I believe the 7 habits are timeless and universal. That is, they can help anyone who applies them regardless of the situation. If your passion is environmental issues, you can make yourself more effective by applying the 7 habits just as an athlete, mother or teacher could.

I am going to relate the key ideas from Covey's work with some modern-day examples that also illustrate its timeless application.

Character vs. Personality

Many self-help books concentrate on advancing our personality but Covey concentrates on working on deep-rooted principles that make up our underlying character. From a personality perspective, we may be happy, energetic friendly but Covey argues that to become more effective we need to address our deep character traits.

We are all scripted through our experiences in life, to see particular things in a particular way. However, someone else from a different place in the world may see the same thing but from a very different perspective based on their experiences. I travelled across Africa widely and went to some remote locations. One of the places on the edge of the Sahara was incredibly dry and the locals hardly ever saw any rain. I was fortunate to be involved in a trip with some of the local children from one of these African villages, visiting a big Northern European city. Whilst in Europe, there was one day that it rained very hard and the children couldn't believe it - they danced in the street in joy as they had never seen such rain before. I looked around and the faces of the local Europeans who were dull, subdued and even pained. For them, the rain was horrible, it was ruining a summer's day and you could see it on their faces. The same rain, different past experiences resulting in a different perception. Sometimes we just need to see things from another point of view to see it completely differently. Still today, I smile every time I walk in the rain, remembering those children.

They say, "Never judge a book by its cover." However, in reality, that is what we do every day when we meet someone new. We are quick to judge. However, what we see of someone is just the tip of the iceberg.


What is visible when we meet someone is their physical appearance, their personality, their behaviour, the things that are visible. They will tell us what they do in life but do we really know that that is what they do?

As we get to know someone, we start to learn more of the iceberg that is below the water. The things that are not immediately visible. We start to experience their character traits, we learn about their skills and the background of their life. We start to learn what they really do.

However, there is a deeper very personal layer that is deeply hidden. Their beliefs and guiding principles. For most people we will never know their deepest inner thoughts and what really makes them tick. Sometimes even wives and husbands never share things that deep. That is, why they do the things that they do. Their principles. Covey tries to address these deep principles through the 7 Habits to make us more effective in what we do.


Before we delve into understanding the 7 habits, it is first important to understand what we mean by effective.

producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect

The 7 Habits all help contribute towards becoming more effective and they work together in a logical way to achieve effectiveness. Covey introduces the fundamental principle behind effectiveness as maintaining the P/PC balance.

What is the P/PC balance?

  • Production (P) - represents how much we can produce or output
  • Production Capability (PC) - is the ability or capacity to produce

To illustrate this balance, Covey introduces the fable of the Goose and the Golden Egg.

I this story a poor farmer has a goose that lays a golden egg. At first, the farmer doesn't believe it is real but when another one is laid by the goose the next day the farmer authenticates the gold. From then on, every day he waits for the goose to lay him another golden egg and he becomes richer and richer.

After a while, greed kicks in and he becomes impatient waiting for the goose to lay another egg and he decides he will kill the goose so that he can get all the eggs from inside the goose at once. However, there are none inside because it was the goose producing the golden eggs. The farmer has now destroyed the production capability and no more eggs will be produced.

p-pc balance.png

The P/PC balance can be applied to any process or relationship. For example, a factory can produce output but if we push the factory too hard without proper maintenance, we will eventually kill production. We need to find a good balance between investing in factory production and the production output. This is the P/PC balance that provides overall effectiveness.

The Emotional Bank Account

To further explain the P/PC balance in personal relationships, Covey introduces the concept of an emotional bank account. For a relationship, for example with our wife, husband, parent, child, colleague, boss etc., we also need to find the P/PC balance.

When we do kind and loving things, we make deposits in the emotional bank account. This is building PC. When we want something we are making a withdrawal which is the output P of the relationship. If we always take and never give, eventually the relationship will fail. So we need to invest in the relationship.

When we do something wrong and hurtful. This is the same as taking a large withdrawal. The idea is that if we have built up enough positive credit by previous deposits into the emotional bank account then we are more like to be able to mend the relationship. We shouldn't take any of the relationships we have for granted but we all need to work on them by making deposits in the emotional bank account.

6 Major Deposits

Covey tells us there are 6 major deposits that we can make in the emotional bank account to increase our P/PC balance in any relationship.

1 understanding.pngUnderstanding the individual

If you want to build a relationship, try to understand the needs and desires of the person. What makes them tick? If it is all about you then that is not a recipe to grow the relationship. You need to really listen and understand their viewpoints in life.


2. little.pngAttending to the little things

Sometimes it’s the little things that actually mean so much to someone in a relationship. This may be not doing the thing that you know annoys your partner or buying them a present like chocolate or flowers.


3. keeping.pngKeeping commitments

If you want to have a stronger relationship with someone, then do what you said you will do. This will help build your relationship and rapport.


4. clarifying.pngClarifying expectations

when there is tension or disappointments in a relationship is often because of mismatched expectations. Conversely, clarifying expectations will make it clear in the relationship and make things much smoother


5. showing.pngShowing personal integrity

Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. We need to do what we say we will do and when we do, our relationships will strengthen


6. apologising.pngApologising sincerely when you make a withdrawal

We are all human and we will all make mistakes in life. Even with the ones we love the most we sometimes upset them. When we do something wrong in a relationship we are going to make a withdrawal from the emotional bank account but we can make a deposit by being sincere in the way that we apologise.


The Journey to Effectiveness

Covey goes on to discuss three different maturity levels of effectiveness that we can progress through as we develop as people. Some people perhaps never develop and stay at the first level, most progress to the second with a few progressing to the third. Of course, the levels are not black and white - all of us drop back to the lower levels sometimes.


When we are born and grow up as children we are dependent. We rely on others to validate that we are doing the right things and doing things right. It is easy to see how a child is dependent on a parent or a teacher. They are also dependent on other factors such as grades, winning at sport and having lots of friends. Some adults remain at this level, as to feel they are doing something right, they rely on others to validate their actions. For example, consider someone who is always worried about how people will think they look. Or worried about how people might laugh at what they say. How many 'likes' do we get on Facebook or Twitter?

The dependency we are talking about is the dependency to validate our actions. We are limited by this as we are always worried about what someone else will think about what we say and what we do. People at this level will only do things if they feel it will be liked by others and are therefore more reactive in nature.


As we mature we start gaining more independence. We start to realise that actually it doesn't matter what other people think but what matters is that we reach the goals and standards that we set for ourselves. We no longer judge ourselves by the reaction of others. This drives a level of creativity where we can express ourselves, wear what we want and say what we want without any worry about how many 'likes' we get.

Releasing the shackles and becoming independent allows us to become more effective as we can produce the desired result rather than limit ourselves to what we feel other people would accept as a result.


As we develop further, we realise that our own opinion of what is right is not enough and that to reach maximum effectiveness we need to work with others. We realise that everyone has different experiences and that they see life through different lenses. These different perspectives of the same things bring us strength. We start to relish diversity.

We can achieve more by working together rather than alone and therefore the spirit of interdependence is through collaboration. This is, in fact, the basis for society, where when we were caveman we realised if the men left their possessions, wives and children with the tribe whilst they went out hunting, they would be looked after and would be there when we got back. Working together we can achieve so much more.

When someone reaches the interdependence maturity level they become selfless and realise it is not all about them. They don't need others to validate what they are doing like someone who is dependent and realise the collective communal view is better than their own personal blinkered view of the world. Interdependent people make good leaders as they bring others on their journey, make the most of their skills and they will also build strong personal, business or family relationships.

The 7 Habits

The 7 Habits that Covey describes in his book help us on our journey of becoming effective. They all strengthen the P/PC balance in different ways. The first 3 habits help us move from being dependent to independent. The next 3 then help us on our journey to interdependence. The final balance is one of renewal that stokes the PC side of the P/PC balance.

So what are the habits? I will start covering the 7 habits in the next post.

Please let me know if you found this a useful introduction.


Note: this post was originally posted by me on Hive.Blog

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