How do you give yourself a competitive advantage in this highly competitive world? Do you want to be better, smarter and more effective? How do you improve your performance? I have literally read hundreds of self-help books in search of the answers.
The most common question I am asked is “what books should I read?” The one book that you must read is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. This book was published 30 years ago. It will take you seven hours to read it, or if you are lazy, Google will give you the summaries in one hour. I urge you to find the seven hours, which will change your life if you implement the ideas. You could waste hundreds of hours reading many books but ultimately you will realise that the answers lie in this one book.
Stephen Covey highlights seven principles that guide the lives of successful people. These ideas are simple and may seem intuitive, but surprisingly, most of us do not implement them because we do not think about them. As you reflect and implement them in your life, you will see immediate results. The seven principles are the following.
First, begin with the end in mind. Define what you want to achieve before you start. I have wasted so much time in endless meetings because people did not define what exactly they wanted to achieve.
Define critical outcomes before you start the meeting and you will find yourself sharply focused on what’s important and drive energies and resources into that. If you do not, you will find yourselves going around in circles. The same applies to your life and your career. Define what you want in life.
Second, be proactive. This means taking action and responding quickly to events. Many times you know something is going to happen but you do nothing until it happens. You know that you are going to lose your job – yet you wait for the axe to fall then desperately start job hunting.
You realise that you are unhappy in a relationship, yet you do nothing. Define what you want, take action, control and take responsibility for your life and stop complaining. Action brings results. You cannot control what happens around you, but you can control how you react. Learn to be proactive rather than be a passive bystander in your life.
Third, create synergies. You succeed through others. We are all egotistic and think that we succeed because we are smart, brilliant and good looking. Success is achieved though teamwork.
Successful people realise that greater success is best achieved when you combine your strengths and the strengths of others. Once you accept that you are dependent on the input of others, you will begin to synergise and focus on getting the best input from your team.
Fourth, think win-win. The philosophy of business has changed over the years from winner-take-all to achieving a win-win situation. Success comes from building long term relationships and not from single deals.
To achieve business success, you need to make sure that your clients and partners continue doing business with you. If you win but they feel shortchanged they will not come back. Sometimes you have to give up some in order to build the relationship. In the long term, this is the only way to succeed.
Fifth, put first things first. We often know what we have to do and what’s important, yet we do not do it. In psychology, they call this ‘’cognisant dissonance’’. Focus on what is important and urgent and work on those first, and remove distractions. Many people will do almost anything else than start doing the things that are critical and stressing to them.
Sixth, seek first to understand than to be understood. It is important to understand the people we interact with. We must learn to listen carefully and attentively to what they are saying and to understand their concerns and apprehensions. We need to hear the spoken and unspoken concerns. Try and understand first before jumping to offer solutions.
Seventh, sharpen the saw. To succeed in life you must continuously re-invent and improve yourself. You must continuously grow and change with the times. Times, perceptions, fashions, tastes, technology, ideas and even values change. If you do not adapt, you will soon become extinct. You must focus on personal self-renewal.
Growth is spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional. You need to strengthen your relationship with God. Develop intellectual growth by reading and exchange of ideas. Physical renewal through exercise is a prerequisite for renewal. Finally, emotional growth comes from practicing the sixth step above.
Mr Shahbal is Chairman of Gulf Group of Companies [email protected]
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