Daniel Catalaa

The 8th Habit

(Authored by Daniel Catalaa on May 8th, 2009)
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This is a book that I read to transition from the mindset of a file-and-rank employee to that of a manager. Many of the ideas presented in the book were applied in real time as I read about them, so it took me five months to finish the book. However, the lessons learned were tested out with real people and consequently became embedded at a much deeper level.

Leadership

The 8th habit is the habit of leadership. Classically, leadership is viewed as a top-down attribute where those above lead those below in the organizational chart. Covey flattens the traditional hierarchical structure by redefining leadership as a choice, and since anybody can chose to be a leader, leadership can be found at all levels of an organization. Leadership is seen every time an employee takes initiative, reports a problem and becomes part of the solution, or makes suggestions on how to improve efficiency, effectiveness, morale, and alignment with key values.

The whole human being

The most important concept that I learned from this book is to engage employees as complete human beings and to support not only their professional lives, but also their intellectual development, emotional connection, and spiritual alignment between their core values and those of the organization. When we are treated as a whole person we bring our best game to the workplace and release our full potential without holding back. You may have heard employees say that “it was more than just a job” and that is the experience I am striving to create in my current role as supervisor. I would like to tap into the collective reservoir of discretionary effort that employees only release when they feel respected, understood, and empowered.

People take time

Covey repeatedly stresses the different approaches necessary for objects and people. His core message is that you manage things, but you lead people. Objects can be dealt with swiftly, but are also inanimate and unintelligent once left on their own. People, on the other hand, take time upfront and then deliver big at the backend. Vertically structured organizations can quickly enact rules and regulations; however, compliance over time will fall off if the staff had no input throughtout the process. The time spent with people needs to be seen as an investment and not as lost time. This investment creates rapport, trust, and understanding. When these key elements are in place, the execution of any plan is faster and the results are sustained over time.

Finding your voice and helping others do the same

The pinnacle of leadership is finding your own voice (i.e. passion released as creative self-expression) and helping others to find theirs. Seen through this perspective, the ultimate evidence of success will be the legacy we leave behind after we leave an organization. Did we create a culture of growth and respect? During our tenure, did we identify future leaders and guide them along? When the business was under our stewardship, did it safeguard and serve its community?

Life and organizational areas

I enjoyed the parallels that Covey drew between the 4 personal life areas (body, mind, heart, and spirit) and the equivalent 4 areas within an organization (financial wellbeing, intellectually stimulating work, connection to coworkers, and contribution to clients and community). Sometimes I felt like he overdid it and tried to force everything into this four-part model, but this is a minor critique. If you are interested in becoming a supervisor or you already are in management and would like to transition from an Industrial Age mindset and start working within a more current Informational Age paradigm, I recommend you read this book and apply it's principles.