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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Information Professionals, Part 2

  • February 01 2004, 1:00am EST

Last month, I began a series in which I will explore Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This month's column gives an overview of the seven habits as enabling traits of effective information professionals.

What is your real purpose in your professional life? Is it "doing" a job? Is it accomplishing some objective? Or, is it influencing those around you in a way to make the work world a better place for all stakeholders?

Are you truly effective in your work? Webster's defines effective as "producing a decided, decisive or desired effect." Effectiveness is not about being "best" or "winning." Effectiveness is about creating decided, decisive or positive (desired) results in one's outcomes and relationships.

The consistent production of positive results does not happen accidentally. It is the result of people taking charge of their lives, having a vision and working systematically to accomplish it. Truly effective people accomplish positive results by creating win/win scenarios, listening to stakeholders before proposing solutions and creating value across the enterprise.

Effective people, Covey contends, operate from a character ethic that includes fairness, honesty, integrity, quality or excellence, and potential.

The effective person must first move from a state of dependence to independence. We must accomplish the habits of "private victory" within our own lives before we can successfully mature to a level where we positively influence others.

1. Be Proactive. The word "proactive" means to do something by being in control of your actions. The opposite is to "react" to something ­– "being controlled" by forces outside yourself. Data cleansing is reactive work, driven by broken processes. Information quality process improvement is proactive, taking charge to improve processes to eliminate the need for subsequent and continual data correction.

2. Begin With the End in Mind. Effective people do not have grandiose plans, but they do have a vision for what they desire as their ultimate outcome. When you think of the end result or outcome you want to accomplish, you are much more likely to achieve it than you are if you simply do things because they are on your task list. Effective people do not simply define deliverables; they describe the enhanced results that will be accomplished.

3. Put First Things First. Habit #3 is about how we choose to spend our time. Even in our work environments, we have choices. Effective people find time for the important tasks to move themselves closer to their objectives.

However, life is not an island. We exist in physical, social and professional ecosystems with success components that are interdependent. Effective people exert a positive influence on the dynamics of the ecosystems of which they are a part. They influence others in positive ways, creating positive results beyond what they could accomplish themselves. This requires mastery of the next three habits.

4. Think Win/Win. Win/win is not a technique. It is a philosophy governing how we interact with others. Effectiveness is not about conquering, but about cooperating. There is no such thing as a "profit center" in an organization. Sales units cannot make a profit selling something that some other part of the organization has not made or acquired or without the resources provided by the support organizations. Effective people help achieve cooperation among the different parts of the organization in ways that enable all stakeholders to win.

5. Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood. I cannot tell you how many people have told me, "Management doesn't give me the support I need." When I ask if the people have tried to listen and understand the problems that managers have in trying to accomplish their objectives, the answer invariably is "No." Before information professionals can sell their proposals and obtain real management commitment, they must understand from the managers' perspectives the business problems they must solve. Effective people first understand the customer before they try to sell a solution.

6. Synergize. Covey calls synergy "the essence of principle-centered leadership." Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Effective people recognize their interdependence with others and of one part of the organization with other parts. They work in ways to increase the effectiveness of the overall value chains of the organizations, not just a functional part of the value chain.

7. Sharpen the Saw. This habit is the habit of renewal of the four basic dimensions of life –­ physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual ­– that encircles the other habits. It is the habit of continuous improvement that enables one to continually grow better and to operate on a higher plane of effectiveness. Effective people keep on growing.

Next month, we begin by exploring the first of the seven habits. What do you think? Let me know at

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