Stephen Covey has been the first to admit that he didn’t invent the 7 Habits. Most who have read his book and put into practice realize that the habits are logical, common sense, natural and realistic. Many will also admit that they are not easy to put into play. For me, the difficulty comes from breaking out of my day-to-day old habits and to stop racing to the finish line. The habits require us to rethink so much and to admit to ourselves (and to help others) to see that it really is about the journey.

The first chapter of the 7 Habits establishes guideposts so we can understand the fundamentals along our journey. First, Covey makes the argument that we should be focusing on Character Ethic and not Personality Ethic. I won’t repeat the arguments here, but the essentials are that real change comes when we focus on our character, the inside, the root of our self, as opposed to techniques and tricks that are presented externally and interpreted as our Personality. He doesn’t name names but the Personality Ethic is best exposed in books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Covey encourages us to look deeper than technique.

As project managers, this is an important topic to understand. I posted before about exhibiting the right behaviour as a PM (Oops I did it again). Many books and “experts” are willing to hand out tips and tricks to “motivate your team”, “get buy in from your sponsors”, “negotiate with vendors”, etc. Without a strong character, your tips and tricks are exposed for exactly what they are – manipulative behaviour. Like caring for a garden- nurture the soil and roots and beautiful blossoms will emerge.

Paradigms are how each of us see our world – the lens in which we view all. How many times have you been emersed in an argument with another person. You are completely convinced you are right and they are wrong. How many times in the heat of that argument have you stopped and said to yourself – “I believe I’m 100% right, I bet she thinks she is 100% right too and all our arguing isn’t going to change either of our views.” Not many times I’m sure. We spend our time and energy trying to convince the other person that our Paradigm is the right one. That is what is important to understand about paradigms – they are our perceptions and that means they can change.

How can we use the concept of paradigms as PMs? Understand they exist for us and for our teams and customers. Next time you sense that you and someone on your project are not on the same page, try not to dig your feet in deeper. Be willing to possibly shift your paradigm, or at a minimum, understand that there are different paradigms.

The last topic I want to cover is Principles. Principles are time tested. They are not new and they are definitely not quick fixes. We’ve all heard of them – Do unto others as you’d have done to you, seek first to understand, etc. The 7 Habits are heavily rooted in principles. That is why the 7 Habits are always timely and did not fade into history – victim to the next “management fad”. Living with these values is part of the journey. Keep that in mind. Do just list them and check them off.