Book Reviews

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey’s incredibly successful book is a pathway to wisdom and power… So it must be good then?

Most of us have learned habits through our culture, upbringing or environment that tend to make us ineffective.  For example, we can often catch ourselves focusing on problems, getting caught up with ‘negative’ campaigning, or behaving competitively.

Covey argues that just as these ‘bad’ habits have been learned and become ingrained, we can learn and develop ‘good habits’ that increase our chances of being effective within our lives, and in achieving both personal and public ‘victory’.

The book is a step by step guide to break the patterns of self-defeating behaviour that keep us from achieving our goals and reaching our fullest potential, and describes how to replace them with a principle-focused approach to problem-solving.

Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.” 

- Stephen Covey

In a nutshell, the book shows us that success encompasses a balance of personal and professional effectiveness.  And that before you can adopt the seven habits, you need to change your perception and interpretation of how the world works.  How do you do that?  By recognising that between what happens to you and your response to that “happening” is your freedom to choose a response.

We don’t use this word often, but it is a profound book and we’re yet to meet anyone whose life hasn’t changed as a result of reading it.  So let’s take a quick peak at the seven habits before we encourage you to get a copy…

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Being proactive is more than just taking action. In this first habit Stephen Covey tells us we are responsible for our reactions to people or events. We are Response-able and have Response-ability because we have the ability to consciously choose how we respond to any situation.

Stephen Covey makes the point that humans can think things through and don’t need to be caught up in simple stimulus / response patterns like Pavlov’s dogs. To be proactive is to choose your response rather than relying on instinctive reactions.

The image below highlights that there are things we are in control of, really only including what we do, say, think and feel.  Then there are things we can influence, i.e. other people and our environment.

Most things we waste our time worrying about are out of our control.  Being proactive means moving our focus to the inner two circles, “I don’t like this, what can I do to influence it?” or “there is nothing I can do about this, so how can I change my thinking about it to avoid feeling frustrated?”

Habit 2: Begin With The End In Mind

This is essentially about planning so that we know where we are going all the time instead of being busy with day to day activities that actually take us nowhere. Taking the time to see the bigger picture, to plan where we are heading, leads to personal effectiveness.

It’s a simple idea really and is about making an effort to start with a clear understanding of your destination and where you are going. Making sure your ladder is up against the right wall before you start climbing.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Covey recommends that you identify what is important to do in order to keep you heading towards your destination, and then do those things.

The third habit asks you to organise yourself around your priorities.  We all have a lot of things to do every day but when carefully analysed, we find that most of them are not as important as we think they are.  Spending hours on smart phones doing nothing but browsing isn’t as important as your one thing…

Covey suggests a system – a matrix, also known as Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Principle, which makes use of four different quadrants that allow you to prioritise tasks in relation to their importance and urgency, helping you to decide whether you need to address a task immediately or if you can postpone it.

Habit 4: Think Win Win

Win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, win or lose. But that kind of thinking is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on power and position rather than principle. Win-win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.

So look for mutually beneficial relationships where everybody benefits. Think co-operation not competition, not just as a happy side effect in some situations, but as a fundamental core value in all dealings with others.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Covey believes this principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

This habit is about communicating with others. It’s about developing the habit of listening carefully and really understanding the other person BEFORE giving your thoughts.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

- Stephen R. Covey

Habit 6: Synergise

Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is the essence of leadership. It catalyses, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people. Synergy is exciting. Creativity is exciting.

It’s phenomenal what openness and communication can produce.

Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw

Covey tells the story of a woodsman he met cutting down a tree. The man was exhausted and straining away with a saw that was getting blunter and blunter. Covey said, “why don’t you stop to sharpen your saw?” The man replied breathlessly, “I can’t, I haven’t got the time…”

Covey reminds us that to be truly effective we have to have ‘balanced self- renewal’, paying attention to self care in areas such as spiritual, mental, emotional and physical development.

As always, if you fancy getting a copy of this wonderful book, feel free to follow the link below!

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To Sell is Human

From the bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind…

Comes a new book that explores the power of selling in our lives.

In his fantastic book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink highlights that “1 in 9 people work in sales.  So do the other 8.”  His point is that we all have an aspect of selling or influencing to our roles now – so selling skills are not reserved for those 1 in 9 who have sales in their job titles.

The challenge here is that most of us do not really consider our roles to involve selling. But Daniel Pink successfully argues that simply isn’t the case.  His research found that 8 out of every 9 people do some sort of sales in their jobs.  Regardless of what they do.

Pink describes how sales and non-sales selling are ultimately about service.  That to sell our ideas, our resources or our time to another we have to “move” others – not out of the way, but emotionally – causing someone to feel “moved.”  That’s most likely to happen when you do two things: make it personal, and make it purposeful.

Pink sets out “a broad rethinking of sales as we know it.” He examines what sales mean now and in the future. He also gives us a new definition of the sales classic: ABC.  Instead of the mantra “Always Be Closing,” Pink suggests “Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.”

Attunement is “the ability to blend one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people.”

Buoyancy is “the quality that combines grittiness of spirit and sunniness of outlook.” To be buoyant means to apply three components before, during and after any effort to move others.

Clarity is “the capacity to make sense of murky situations.” To create clarity, you first need to find the right problems to solve, then drill down to the core of the problem and compare it to other problems so that people have a frame of reference. Finally, you need to find an “off-ramp,” which Pink defines as providing a clear directive for people to act – or the traditional “call to action.”

Here are our top three 3 takeaways from the book:

Almost half of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which is really just trying to move others.  Acknowledging this and considering how you develop your influencing skills can be hugely beneficial.

Honesty and service are taking over sales, because the internet has closed the information gap.  This means that just providing information is no longer the focus in sales, because people can look up that information online.  Service and trust built through honesty are more important now than ever before.

Use “Yes, and…” when talking to customers to make sure they stay positive and engaged.  This comes from the realisation that people stop listening when they disagree and they start planning their response when they hear someone disagrees with them.  If your ‘customer’ or person you are influencing gets the impression you disagree, for example when you say “no,” or “yes, but…” then you could lose them.  Stay more positive and your customer will do the same.

If the thought of developing your sales skills seems a little daunting, fear not.  We have two fabulous resources to get you started.  The Trusted Advisor Model and The Challenger Sale download.

And as always, follow the image below to buy a copy of this fabulous book!

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Mindset

mindset3The Idea: Intelligence isn’t fixed.

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea-the power of our mindset.

New research shows that rather than intelligence being fixed, the more you challenge your mind to learn, the more the brain grows and gets stronger. Adopting a ‘growth mindset’ – believing your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts – has been found in studies to help children build resilience and achieve better results at school, as well as adults to reach their own personal and professional goals.

It is therefore beneficial for us all, at any age, to believe we and others can learn and get better at things. This changes the way we learn ourselves, teach others, lead others and support our children.

The Action

Next time you set yourself a goal, try moving your mindset from fixed to growth. This means actively embracing challenges as opportunities to learn and viewing any setbacks- or /lack of success as ‘not yet’ rather than failure.

This is like the classic story of Edison making 1000 attempts to create a light bulb. He did not say “I’ve failed,” he said “I’ve not got it right yet.” Use “I’m not there yet,” in your setbacks to help you focus on learning and growing from every experience. This will help you achieve better results in the end.

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Learned Optimism

optimism1The Idea: Thinking Habits and how to change them.

Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enhances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it.

Habits of thinking, although learned in childhood and adolescence, need not be forever. Whilst mild pessimism has its uses, pessimistic prophecies are in general self-fulfilling. As we believe that life will be hard and we will never succeed, so we see that starting to come true.

Although life imposes the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as the pessimist, the optimist weathers them better, which leads to greater achievement at work, better physical health and even prolonged life.

The Action

Choose the way you think: optimism can be learned, taught and measured. By learning to speak to yourself about setbacks from a more encouraging viewpoint, you will build your resilience and ultimately improve the quality of both your work and home life. The tool for this is the three Ps – Personal, Permanent, Pervasive.

When you face a setback or something difficult, a pessimistic and confidence-damaging way of thinking is that it’s all your fault (personal), it will always be this bad (permanent) and actually this just proves that everything you do is a failure (pervasive to other areas of your life). Switch this round to “it’s not all my fault, I can learn from this and do better / avoid this in future and just because this went wrong here, it doesn’t mean it affects everything else – I can still be successful in other areas of my life.”

This is a more encouraging way of thinking that will help you focus on learning and feel better about the situation.

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The Personal MBA

mba2The Idea: Educate yourself…

An MBA at a top school is an enormous investment in time, effort and cold, hard cash. And if you don’t want to work for a consulting firm or an investment bank, the chances are it simply isn’t worth it.

Josh Kaufman is the rogue professor of modern business education. Feted by everyone from the business media to Seth Godin and David Allen, he’s torn up the rulebook and given thousands of people worldwide the tools to teach themselves everything they need to know.

Instead of spending thousands of pounds and a lot of time completing an MBA, which may be run by academics and be frankly out of touch with what really works in business – read books and articles which give you the insights you need to actually be successful.

This book summarises the critical things you need to know to start, lead and grow a successful business – in easy to understand language.

The Action

Demystify business strategy and expertise so that everyone can understand what we’re talking about. It needn’t be complex to talk about why we do what we do as a business, what we sell, to whom, why they buy it and how we make money.

From there you can explore ways to improve things, choose where to focus your attention and clarify what that means you need to stop doing as well. Read this book for a clear outline of the critical things you need to know about business.

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The Games People Play

games-people-play-totemUnderstanding the dynamics of relationships in a way that is truly practical

The Games People Play explains and analyses with pertinent real-life examples, the continual struggle between our inner child, parent and adult to dominate a social situation, colloquially termed as ‘games’.

The book interprets that the outcomes of these games are a fundamental human requirement and by understanding the way these games are played we learn to understand the motivations of ourselves and our peers.

Each chapter addresses various situations and the author lists the multitude of games people partake in where the outcome is win, lose or draw.  The games have names such as: “See What You Made Me Do”; “Ain’t It Awful”; and “I’m Only Trying To Help You”.

Berne introduced some of these concepts in Transactional Analysis and gives lots of examples of the different games played by people.  The book provides a view to pinpoint and categorise people’s behaviour or combinations of behaviours and to think about the origins & continued causes of this behaviour.

The book examines the roles people assume in their interpersonal relationships which foster the subsequent and often repetitive transactions. The description of some of the games such as Alcoholic and Courtroom are incredibly interesting.

On the whole the book is a very interesting study of human behaviour and a good set of “worked examples” for anyone trying to understand Transactional Analysis.

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25 Strategy Tools

25-strategy-tools-totemThe Idea: Business strategy is not complicated.

We love this book, but it doesn’t sugar coat it’s feelings about consultancies!

Management consultants make it sound complicated to justify their fees, but in fact the process of exploring what to focus your attention on, how to manage risk and grow your company sustainably – all comes down to a series of relatively simple steps in thinking and analysis. Use the tools in this book to help you plan your strategy.

On occasion you will simply have some good questions to reflect on, but often you will also need some analysis of your market data, sales, profitability and carefully considering how you break all of that down into suitable chunks.

The Action

If you have a fear or dread of the term business strategy, your action is to face that fear. If you just read “market data” and “profitability” and could feel the blood draining from your face, then be aware that it is probably your fear of these words that is stopping you from being successful.

What if you believed that profitability was simply a concept you could learn, understand and use to make decisions? What if you translated terms like ‘market analysis’ into things that are more meaningful for you, like ‘looking at who buys our stuff and finding out more about them.’

If you don’t fear these words, but you’re not sure what you should be doing, then pick up a copy of this book to help you go through, step-by-step, analysing your business and choosing how to run it more effectively.

You can pick up a copy by following the below image.

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