Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews
a personal productivity or personal development book.
I started this review series, I’ve reviewed two books by Stephen Covey:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which I
enjoyed, but wasn’t blown away by) and
First Things First (which I
really enjoyed and found very applicable to my life). However, I did
find some overlap between the two and decided that I wouldn’t read
another Covey book unless there was an idea or concept that clearly
stood out. At first glance,
The 8th Habit definitely stood out.
In a nutshell,
The 8th Habit is to find our voice and inspire
others to find theirs, with voice referring to an individual’s
unique personal significance. How do we find out that thing about
ourselves that is unique and is also valuable to others, and also help
others to find this out about themselves, too?
A Deep Look At
The 8th Habit
The 8th Habit is accompanied by a DVD with 16 inspirational
short films on it, one to accompany each chapter (more or less). These
were okay - I watched a few of them - but I found the book more thought
Chapter 1 - The Pain
The titular pain here is the fact that many people feel constrained by
their surroundings in various ways - and it hurts. They can’t
break free to express the ideas and talents inside of them - instead,
they feel as though they’re stuck like a cog in a machine, a machine
that moves in directions completely beyond their control, often in ways
that bury their talents even further. This ends up being a cycle of pain
- the person hurts because they aren’t free to step forward and the
organization hurts because it relies on hurt people.
Chapter 2 - The Problem
The problem, as Covey sees it, is that most of the workers feeling pain
are Knowledge Age workers trapped in an Industrial Age management
structure. An Industrial Age management structure treats workers like
cogs, mere pieces to keep the overall machine working. In the Knowledge
Age, this paradigm doesn’t work - the real power is the individual, not
the larger machine. To maximize that power requires a rethinking of how
people work together to achieve a greater product.
Chapter 3 - The Solution
The solution to this problem is the titular “8th Habit”: find your
voice and inspire others to find theirs. What does that mean?
Basically, it means that an individual should transform the way they
interact with their environment, discovering and maximizing the natural
talents that they have, and also to work with others so that they can
find and express their talents as well. How is this done? That’s what
the rest of the book is about.
Chapter 4 - Discover Your
Voice - Unexpected Birth Gifts
Each individual has the power to discover their voice, the word Covey
uses to describe the innate talents of people and the effects of these
talents on others. This power is the result of three things: the ability
to choose, the ability to discern between right and wrong, and the
unique physical, mental, social, and spiritual attributes that we all
possess. Using these in concert over and over again is where an
individual’s true voice can be found - consistently choosing to push our
attributes to the limit and thus find our strengths.
Chapter 5 - Express Your Voice
- Vision, Discipline, Passion, and Conscience
Once you start to hone in on those talents and strengths through good
choices, you’ll find that the sweet spot for using one’s gifts comes at
a confluence of four areas: passion, talent, need, and conscience.
Passion happens when you do something that you personally find deeply
fulfilling and throw yourself into - what are you passionate about?
Talent refers to the things you do well - what things do you do that
evoke a positive response from others? Need points to those moments when
you can actually solve a problem with your presence. Conscience means
that your heart is telling you that it’s the right thing to do. When
they all meet is when you can truly express your voice, or, as Covey
calls it, your unique personal significance.
Chapter 6 - Inspring Others To
Find Their Voice - The Leadership Challenge
Leadership, in a nutshell, is communicating to people their worth and
potential so clearly that the come to see it in themselves. Thus, the
most powerful thing you can do to be a leader and help someone else find
their voice is to point out to them, as clearly as possible, when you
observe one of their talents or passions or know of a need they can
specifically fulfill. Point out to them exactly what the talent
or passion is, or if you have a need that’s right for them, explain
exactly why they’re perfect for the role. Any time you can put
someone in a position where any of the four parts of expressing one’s
voice come into play (passion, talent, need, and conscience) - or even
better, multiple ones - put them in place and tell them why you’re doing
Chapter 7 - The Voice of
Influence - Be A Trim-Tab
This chapter, and a few after it, focus on discussing possible voices
that a person might have; in this case, the book looks in detail at a
person who is strong at spreading influence. A trim-tab is the small
rudder that turns the big rudder that turns the entire boat. In other
words, if you focus on little things - especially putting people in
places where they can express their voice - then quite often you can
turn a big ship around. What’s the best way of doing this? Above all
else, accomplish things and let those accomplishments do the talking.
The more you accomplish, the greater your influence and thus the greater
Chapter 8 - The Voice of
Trustworthiness - Modeling Character and Competence
Most leadership failures are character failures, usually stemming from a
lack of trust between the manager and the managed. If you speak with a
voice of trustworthiness, though, you avoid this lack of trust. How?
Covey more or less flat-out says that it’s done by living
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; he even outlines
them again in this chapter.
Chapter 9 - The Voice and
Speed of Trust
This book continues the idea of trustworthiness as a voice by pointing
out that the greater the trust between two people, the faster the
communication. If you deeply trust someone, the communication can be
instantaneous, as in “Don’t worry about it, I understand” or “No need to
say a word.” If there’s some level of trust, the needed communication
comes very quickly. If there’s not much trust, the message will come
slowly - if it ever comes at all. The best way to build trust?
Communicate often and with complete truth.
Chapter 10 - Blending Voices -
Searching For The Third Alternative
Conflict plays a major role in interactions between humans. So often, we
feel the need to have a winner and a loser in any conflict, but quite
often the best solution is a blending of the voices, much like Gandhi’s
concept of a third way. To seek out that third way, step back, look at
the true talents of all of the people involved, and brainstorm a
solution that lets all people involved use their voices. The key,
though, is not to force it - let people propose different ideas, bounce
them off of each other, and see what develops.
Chapter 11 - One Voice -
Pathfinding Shared Vision, Values, and Strategy
This is a brief chapter about how to develop an actual mission statement
for a large group of people from different backgrounds. The only time
I’ve ever felt a mission statement was effective was when we spent a day
and a half developing a mission statement. In the morning, we met in
groups of six; in the afternoon, we met in an entirely new group of six.
In each group, we were challenged to develop a mission statement for the
whole group. The next day, we met in yet another entirely different
group of six and were given lists of all of the mission statements and
were told to eliminate ones we had a conflict with. What happened? One
quickly emerged as the best - it really nailed what we were all about.
It happened because so many people were sharing visions and ideas
together in a fluid environment. A mission statement can be
useful and powerful if you come at it with the intent for it actually to
Chapter 12 - The Voice and
Discipline of Execution - Aligning Goals and Systems for Results
How do you encourage people to execute? The best way is by encouraging
them to compete against themselves - set individual goals for each
person and encourage them to reach those individual goals, whether
through compensation or other means. They shouldn’t compete against
others in the organization - that encourages animosity. Instead,
realizing that they’re all just competing against themselves (and the
real competition) builds teamwork. As long as these goals provide a
challenge to the worker and are clearly linked to the goals of the
overall business, you will find success.
Chapter 13 - The Empowering
Voice - Releasing Passion and Talent
What do you do if nothing else works and a person or a group simply
doesn’t live up to their potential? Try breaking things down a bit into
things that they know they can do - and encourage them to do those
little pieces. Once the pieces start falling into place, everything else
follows. At some point, the person you’re helping will “click” - they’ll
realize that yes, they can do it - and they’ll reveal their true
passions and talents to everyone. If you see the talent there but it
isn’t quite coming together, spend some time nurturing it and reminding
them of all the little pieces they do well - soon, they’ll start putting
those pieces together.
Chapter 14 - The 8th Habit and
the Sweet Spot
The sweet spot is that point where everything comes together and you get
to really use your voice to its full extent. How can you get there
consistently? The biggest way is to focus on long-term goals above all
else and then focus on the things that serve accomplishing this goal.
Set a long-term goal, particularly one with milestones, and focus on the
things that are vital in achieving that goal. As long as the goal
involves your passions and your talents, your voice will ring out.
Chapter 15 - Using Our Voices
Wisely To Serve Others
The final chapter attempts to address, in a philosophical way, the
purpose of all of this. In general, the reason that people attempt to
find their voice and encourage others to find theirs is to serve some
sort of human need. The more directly you can connect with the need that
you serve, the louder your voice will ring.
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