Saturday, April 30, 2005

[Books] 7 Habits

I've been planning for a while to write a little about "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and its follow-up "Principle Centred Leadership", both by Stephen Covey. I'll start by saying that I've been extremely cynical about the whole "7 Habits" hype in the past, thinking it was claiming to be a quick fix for all deficiencies a person might have. So I've sneered any time someone mentioned buzzwords like "synergy" and "proactive" and made no effort to see if there was value in it at all. And I was both pleasantly surprised and validated in my sneering at the same time.

"The 7 Habits..." is certainly the more worthwhile of the two books, and contains some useful tips for anyone seeking self-improvement. I particularly like that it emphasises personal responsibility, encouraging the reader to stop making excuses, blaming bad luck, etc. Despite the author's strong religious bent, this does not really come through in the writing, and it's not sermonising at all. Most of the content is common sense, although the kind of common sense which can get left behind when under pressure to get things done, or just to live a busy life. Buzzwords aren't too heavily used, although many points are repeated a bit frustratingly (repetition is supposed to help retention, right?). All in all, I'm glad I finally read this book, after mocking it in my ignorance. Have I actually applied any of its proposed actions? Well, not really... (although maybe the exercise counts?)

"Principle Centred Leadership" takes the 7 Habits and tries to guide the reader in how to apply them to leadership. I think the moral/motive is good, but the execution became tedious and particularly swamped by buzzwords. The same material could easily have been covered in one-third of the space, even with the bits designed for anyone who hadn't read "7 Habits...". I'd say this is one which you might read if you were really keen on Covey's ideas, or maybe even searching for a leadership style, but I didn't gain too much from it and could happily have given it a miss.