Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

So far, the fourth habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is creating "Win/Win" solutions for everyone, is the habit I need to work on the most.

I can pinpoint some of my personal mindsets and experiences that lead me to struggle most with this habit. First, I tend to be a very black-and-white thinker. I have always struggled to see the gray, to see the third possibility (or fourth or fifth).

Secondly, I am very much plagued by what Covey calls the "Scarcity Mentality" or the belief that there is not enough (money, prestige, opportunity, etc.) to go around. For me, I think this paradigm comes partly from growing up in a single-parent household. We never had enough money to live in the kinds of houses that my friends lived in, and when my mom got married twice during my childhood, it felt like there wasn't enough love and time for me anymore.

I loved the matrix that implied that it takes high levels of courage and consideration to work toward Win/Win. If you have high levels of courage but low levels of consideration, the result is Win/Lose. On the other hand, low levels of courage and consideration lead toward Lose/Lose. Finally, low levels of courage plus high levels of consideration equal Lose/Win.

Because I am always looking out for myself, I tend to dwell too much in the Win/Lose category. This issue is something I have definitely been working on in my marriage. When I fight hard for a Win for me and a Lose for Matt, it usually ends up being a Lose for me, too, since it takes a huge withdrawal out of our Emotional Bank Account. Instead, I try to remind myself that we are a team that is working together. He is not my competitor.

I liked Covey's idea of combating society's scripts by exposing ourselves to models of "Win/Win." For example, I will add Chariots of Fire to my Netflix queue.

I was also very compelled by Covey's description of "Learner-Controlled Instruction." It's similar to what he was talking about in the earlier chapters: Gofer versus Steward Leadership. The idea, again, is that the manager and managee discuss the desired results (not methods!), guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences. Then the managee is free to generate the outcomes in their own way. This kind of system is very aligned with Montessori education, but I still need to do a lot of work to incorporate this type of management into the very fiber of my being.

I truly appreciate how Covey shares specific anecdotes from his family life. For me, living a principled life means approaching my personal and professional life in very similar ways. I enjoyed reading about how he tries to create "Win/Win" situations with his family.

Finally, I was intrigued by the idea that we often want our employees to work together in "Win/Win" ways and yet we structure the working environment in very "Win/Lose" ways. As I work toward opening a public Montessori charter school in Austin, I'll need to think a lot about the salary structure and how it works, keeping that idea in mind.

I really hope I can incorporate the idea of "Win/Win" into my life on a daily basis. It's not enough to read about it on a theoretical level. I need to really work on this one, day in and day out!

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