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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches….And People, Too


When Dr. Stephen Covey published The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989, it had a tremendous impact on people across the world, including coaches looking to increase their effectiveness and impact.  I personally was so moved by the material that I spent 3 years working for Dr. Covey’s company as they were providing 7 Habits content to school systems across the country.

It has been years since I read the book, as well as Dr. Covey’s books after publishing 7 Habits. So I decided to go back recently and review the principles from 7 Habits and how they apply to coaching. 

So what are the 7 Habits and why should I be interested in them?

Well, I would say that if there is any area of your life that you are looking to perform better at, the 7 Habits can help you.

Let’s start with Habits 1, 2, and 3.  The first three habits are designed to help people move from a state of dependence to independence.  Dr. Covey stated this by saying “Private victory precedes public victory” so there are steps to take first.

 Habit 1. Be Proactive.

Rather than explain what it means to be proactive, let me ask you a question.  Do you make choices based upon /values/principles or upon your mood, feelings, or circumstances?  Are you teaching your players the importance of making good choices?

 Dr. Covey explained being proactive with his famous quote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.” One of the best visual illustrations of this was in a workshop I attended where the presenter used a bottle of Coke (reactive person) and a bottle of water (proactive person) to represent how we respond. 

If we want to make this easier, we can put it this way.  Think before you act vs. act before you think.

Habit 2.  Begin With The End in Mind

Again, let me ask a question.  Do your actions for your team and your own individual life flow from a meaningful mission statement?  We know that businesses and organizations use vision statements to clarify what is important to them and why they exists (besides making a profit or winning).  What about you and your team?

Here is a basic understanding of Habit 2, directly from the Franklin Covey website:  “Habit 2 is based on imagination--the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.”

As you consider putting together a mission or values statement, keep in mind that your statement should inspire you, tell what you are about, what you value, and what you stand for.

Habit 3.  Put First Things First

This habit simply comes down to this question. “Are you able to say no to the unimportant, no matter how urgent, and yes to the important?” 

We know that planning is important as a coach when we sit down and prepare for the season or a game.  With all the demands on our time and energy, we have to make good choices where we focus, especially with social media and other activities that can us off track.

Dr. Covey developed this framework to help individuals  identify where they allocate their time.

Habit 3 is basically about focusing on relationships, not schedules or tasks.  It’s easy to get caught in Q3/Q4 activities on a daily basis and takes you off track from what you have identified as important.  You will have temporary imbalances, so don’t be too hard on yourself when those occur.

For me, I have broken my planning process down to two things.

 What roles do I have?

What is the most important thing I can do this week/today in my role as ________?

Habit 4.  Think Win-Win. 

 It may be the most misunderstood habit and has become somewhat of a cliche.  Habit 4 focuses on how we can create mutually beneficial decisions and having the courage to walk away from situations where a win-win deal is not possible.  Habit 4 also centers around having an Abundance Mentality vs. a Scarcity Mentality.  

Writer Dean Yeong puts it this way:  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

Since coaching and athletics is world of competitiveness, can you still create win-win agreements with others?

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

This habit is focused on two things: The ability to listen with empathy and the ability to make your expectations clear.  Look at the order here. Before we can express our expectations, we must listen first.  

Dr. Covey introduces the concept of the Emotional Bank Account in this habit.  Very simply, its about making deposits into others rather than withdrawals that leave others feeling empty and unappreciated.

This is a challenge for everyone, including myself, especially during the season.  

Habit 6. Synergize.  

Synergize is basically the idea of creative cooperation and the ability to build better outcomes with others called the Third Alternative.  It focuses on valuing others perceptions of reality.  

Again, another habit that is easy to talk about but difficult to implement.  What areas in your program have you had a challenge with Habit 6?

Habit 7.  Sharpen the Saw.  

This is the habit of constant renewal in 4 key dimensions: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, and Social/Emotional.  The concept of continuous learning and improvement fit nicely into Habit 7. 

How are you staying sharp and renewing yourself in these areas?  Are you out of balance?