As relevant today as when Stephen R. Covey first wrote them, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® is based on principles of effectiveness that endure. This leadership training helps leaders and educators to:
- organize hectic to-do lists by learning to Put First Things First®,
- create mutually beneficial relationships with staff by learning to Think Win-Win®, and
- encourage a growth mindset and Be Proactive®.
Explore a summary of each habit and how the 7 Habits® can be applied to your work as an educator.
Habit 1: Be Proactive®
Habit 1 encourages you to be proactive. Choosing a proactive, rather than a reactive mindset allows you to act, not re-act to the influences around you. A proactive person will choose to focus their energy on things that are in their control and can be improved on. Similar to Dr. Carol Dweck’s work on growth and fixed mindsets, a proactive person, like someone with a growth mindset, believes that hard work, good strategies, and input from others can further develop their personal attitudes, qualities, and talents.
In your classroom and school, you have the ability to take initiative, speak up and share your ideas, be a team member not just an employee, and always consider every opportunity offered to you. You are free to choose how you will react. Instead of reacting out of habit, pause, and choose to react differently.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind®
Habit 2 focuses on the end result. When you Begin with the End in Mind®, you set goals, have a clearer vision, and better focus. Take a moment and reflect on your career while you consider these questions:
- How do you want your students to view you as an educator?
- What kind of a relationship do you want with other staff members?
- What do I want my students to take away at the end of the year?
- How will my strengths help influence others and drive me to make positive choices?
- What weaknesses or challenges do I need to work on and overcome?
Take these responses and form a professional mission statement. Your professional mission statement allows you to plan ahead, look holistically at yourself, and determine what you want educators, peers, mentors, and staff members to think of you. Habit 2® can be applied to your day, a project or task, or new unit or lesson and will help you to build a strong, lasting foundation for personal and professional growth.
Habit 3: Put First Things First®
Habit 3 focuses on putting the big rocks first, managing priorities both inside and outside of the classroom. Educators need to manage class schedules, lesson plans, grading, professional learning, assessments and so much more. Put First Things First® helps you to see the value and importance of how you organize your priorities.
Covey encourages you utilize a four quadrant approach to prioritize work. Urgent important work such as student/classroom crises, last minute deadlines, and emergency meetings takes priorities. The important, not urgent work should be scheduled on a daily or weekly basis. This can include lesson plans, grading, and professional learning. The remainder of your tasks should then be organized according to priority.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win®
Habit 4 focuses on create a win-win frame of mind that asks you to seek out mutually beneficial relationships and work on developing effective conflict resolution strategies. It is important to remember that differences in opinions are often differences in strengths and together, these differing opinions can help shape part of a bigger picture.
Think win-win allows you to explore creating interpersonal relationships with students, staff members, parents, and administrators. When you have differing goals, it is important to think win-win and find a mutually beneficial goal for both parties. Start the conversation with:
- Let me listen to your first.
- Help me to understand your point of view.
- Why don’t you walk me through your idea.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood®
Habit 5 allows us to practice the highest form of listening. The next time you listen, take note if about how you are listening. Are you already thinking about what you are going to say or are you thinking about how the other person feels? Covey explains that by listening empathetically, you will begin to listen with the intent to understand.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood® focuses on expanding your critical listening skills through listening empathetically. By developing good listening skills, you can learn to communicate more effectively with your students, peers, and parents. Begin to listen with more than your ears and observe the body language and facial expressions of others, what is their language telling you? Are they closed off and nervous or are they excited and energetic? These cues help you communicate more effectively and deeply.
Habit 6: Synergize®
Habit 6 allows you to focus on creative collaboration. Covey explains that by valuing differences, or other people’s strengths, you can really focus on creating synergy. You know you’re in synergy when you
- have a change of heart,
- feel new energy and excitement,
- see things in a new way,
- feel that the relationship has transformed, or
- end up with an idea or a result that is better than either started with.
Synergizing is about learning to work well in groups with students, other staff members, parents, and administrators. When working in groups, always seek to listen to the ideas of others and seek advice about your own ideas. This collaboration will combine the strengths of group members resulting in stronger, more impactful results that maximizes personal learning.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®
Habit 7 is all about taking care of yourself. Sharpen the Saw® is about exploring the four dimensions of our nature: physical, social/emotional, spiritual, and mental. It is important to take the time to spend time focusing on refreshing these four dimensions so you can face each day with renewed energy, peace, and harmony.
It’s easy to get absorbed in work. Take time to read a new book, practice yoga, travel somewhere new, or try your hand at rock climbing. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance will allow you to relax your mind and body. Scheduling such things will help you Sharpen the Saw®, allowing you to be more effective in your teaching.
Everyone can benefit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®. The 7 Habits can be applied by students, teachers, staff, and administrators and when practiced, you and your peers and students will improve your effectiveness, increase your level of productivity, and better yourselves by becoming more engaged, lifelong learners.
The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units has made The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® exclusively available to Pennsylvania educators. To learn more about how you or your staff can implement the 7 Habits in your school or district, please contact us.