How to Be an Effective Person

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is a classic self-help book that I read for the first time when I was a high-school student. Back then, I just read it without fully understanding the context of Stephen Covey's principles. I still remember all those seven habits, but didn't realize how to apply it optimally in the real world until I re-read this book again recently.

This blog post is my collection of paragraphs from Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits" as a reminder. I also add some other insightful talks that I learned in my life, which also related to these seven principles.


The P/PC Balance – P stands for production of desired results, the golden eggs. PC stands for production capability, the ability or asset that produces the golden eggs.

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. When people fail to respect the P/PC Balance in their use of physical assets in organizations, they decrease organizational effectiveness and often leave others with dying geese. There are organizations that talk a lot about the customer and then completely neglect the people that deal with the customer — the employees.

You can buy a person’s hand, but you can’t buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is. You can buy his back, but you can’t buy his brain. That’s where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness. PC work is treating employees as volunteers just as you treat customers as volunteers, because that’s what they are. They volunteer the best part — their hearts and minds.

Effectiveness lies in the balance. Excessive focus on P results in ruined health, worn-out machines, depleted bank accounts, and broken relationships. Too much focus on PC is like a person who runs three or four hours a day, bragging about the extra ten years of life it creates, unaware he’s spending them running.

#1 - Be Proactive

Principles of Personal Vision

Reactive vs. Proactive – Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.

It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.

Listen to your language and to the language of the people around you. Our language is a very real indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive people.

Reactive Language vs. Proactive Language

Review the situation in the context of your Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.

Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.


The problems we face fall in one of three areas: direct control (problems involving our own behavior); indirect control (problems involving other people’s behavior); or no control (problems we can do nothing about, such as our past or situational realities). The proactive approach puts the first step in the solution of all three kinds of problems within our present Circle of Influence.

#2 - Begin with the End in Mind

Principles of Personal Leadership

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means 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 direction. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation, to all things.

Management is a bottom line focus: How can I best accomplish certain things? Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish? Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

#3 - Put First Things First

Principles of Personal Management

Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what “first things” are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying it out.

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do." – Albert E. Gray

Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity. Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action. Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals.

Effective people are not problem-minded; they’re opportunity-minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems. They think preventively. They have genuine Quadrant I crises and emergencies that require their immediate attention, but the number is comparatively small. They keep P and PC in balance by focusing on the important, but not urgent, high leverage capacity-building activities of Quadrant II.

The key to effective management is delegation. A producer can invest one hour of effort and produce one unit of results, assuming no loss of efficiency. A manager, on the other hand, can invest one hour of effort and produce ten or fifty or a hundred units through effective delegation.

Management if essentialy moving the fulcrum over. – Source: P.L. Dhar

Stewardship delegation is focused on results instead of methods. It gives people a choice of method and makes them responsible for results. Stewardship delegation involves clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations in five areas : Desired Results, Guidelines, Resources, Accountability, and Consequences.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience, and it doesn’t preclude the necessity to train and develop people so that their competency can rise to the level of that trust.

#4 - Think Win-Win

Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

You can’t be successful with other people if you haven’t paid the price of success with yourself. Effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence. Private victory precedes public victory.

Our constant relationships require constant emotional deposits. An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. If I make deposits into an emotional bank account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you’ll get my meaning anyway.

Building and repairing relationships are long-term investments. There are six major deposits that build the emotional bank account: Understand the individual. Attend to the little things. Keep commitments. Clarify expectations. Show personal integrity. Apologize sincerely when you make a withdrawal.

Win-Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a Win-Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win-Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Win-Win is a belief in the third alternative. It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.

There are five dimensions of Win-Win principle: characters (integrity, maturity, abundance mentality), relationship (trust / the emotional bank account), agreements, supportive systems, and processes.

#5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Principles of Empathic Communication

Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel. In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.

Diagnose before you prescribe. This principle is also true in sales. An effective sales person first seeks to understand the needs, the concerns, the situation of the customer. The amateur salesman sells products; the professional sells solutions to needs and problems. The professional learns how to diagnose, how to understand, how to relate people’s needs to his products and services. And he has to have the integrity to say, “My product or service will not meet that need” if it will not.

Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration. Seeking to understand requires consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage. Win-Win requires a high degree of both. So it becomes important in interdependent situations for us to be understood.

The essence of seeking first to understand and making effective presentations: ethos, pathos, logos. Ethos is your personal credibility, the faith people have in your integrity and competency – it’s the trust that you inspire, your emotional bank account. Pathos is the empathic side—it’s the feeling, that you are in alignment with the emotional thrust of another person’s communication. Logos is the logic, the reasoning part of the presentation. When you can present your own ideas clearly, specifically, visually, and most important, contextually—in the context of a deep understanding of other people’s paradigms and concerns—you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.

If you’re highly proactive, you can create opportunities to do preventive work. Spend time with your children now, one on one. Go out with your spouse on a regular basis. Set up one-on-one time with your employees, customers, and suppliers. Make the human element as important as the financial or the technical element.

#6 - Synergize

Principles of Creative Cooperation

The essence of synergy is to value differences — to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses. When you communicate synergistically, you are simply opening your mind and heart and expressions to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options.

The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings. That person values the differences because those differences add to his knowledge, to his understanding of reality.

#7 - Sharpen the Saw

Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

"Sharpen the saw" is a personal production capability. It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

  1. The physical dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body — eating the right kinds of foods, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercising on a regular basis.
  2. Renewing the spiritual dimension provides leadership to your life. It’s highly related to personal leadership. The spiritual dimension is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system.
  3. Education is vital mental renewal. Sometimes that involves the external discipline of the classroom or systematized study programs; more often it does not. Proactive people can figure out many ways to educate themselves.
  4. The social and the emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others. There is intrinsic security that comes from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way.

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