The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

 As we begin the new year, we introduce our All Time Best Seller series and look back at some of the classics… 

The world has changed dramatically since The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989.

Life is more complex, more stressful, more demanding. We have transitioned from the Industrial Age to the Information/Knowledge Worker Age –– with profound consequences. We face challenges and problems in our personal lives, our families and our organizations unimagined even one or two decades ago. These sweeping changes in society and rumbling shifts in the digitized global marketplace give rise to a very important question: “Are the 7 Habits still relevant today?” And, for that matter, “Will they be relevant 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now?” Stephen R. Covey’s answer: The greater the change and more difficult our challenges, the more relevant the habits become. How you apply a principle will vary greatly and will be determined by your unique strengths, talents and creativity, but ultimately, success in any endeavor is always derived from acting in harmony with the principles to which the success is tied.

Through insight and practical exercises, Covey presents a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service and human dignity — principles that give you the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.


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Balancing Competition and Cooperation

For some people, the key to success is competition — always looking after their self-interest and fighting to be better than others. Others believe that success comes to those who are best at cooperation — who know how to collaborate with others. Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky and Wharton professor Maurice Schweitzer argue that this dichotomy is false.

In their new book, Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete and How to Succeed at Both, Galinsky and Schweitzer build on research from across the social sciences as well as advances in neuroscience to explain how the most successful people and successful relationships are those in which we find the right balance of both competition and cooperation.

We are always toggling between the two, although it is not easy. According to the authors, three fundamental forces — resources are scarce, humans are social beings and the social world is unstable and dynamic — give rise to an ongoing tension between competition and cooperation. These three fundamental forces are the underlying threads that run throughout the book.

Why We Compare Ourselves to Others

A chapter that explores the role that social comparisons play in our lives illustrates how these forces impact cooperation and competition. We are social beings, the authors write, and one way we figure our place in our dynamic world is by comparing ourselves with others. Such social comparisons can be motivating. When the Soviets became the first country to fly a man in orbit, the United States felt it must do better; the result was the successful first mission to the moon. Social comparisons, however, can also be destructive, as the attack of Olympic skater Tonya Harding on rival Nancy Kerrigan demonstrates.

Social comparisons help put our achievements in context, notably when scarce resources are involved. The authors cite one academic study that showed that people who graduate during a recession are happier with their first jobs than people who get their first jobs during an economic expansion. The reason? During an economic downturn, graduates who get a job compare themselves to most other graduates, who aren’t able to get a job at all.

The authors offer three principles that help harness the power of social comparisons and make them work for us rather than bring us down. The first is to recognize the natural order of things in which most of us instinctively believe. One example of this natural order is that older siblings should be successful first. The Williams sisters (and in another domain, John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy) worked well together, as the older sibling was the first to reach the heights of their profession. The second principle is to recognize or create new opportunities to compete. Turn disappointment into motivation to do better next time. The third principle is to allow others to have some schadenfreude — some joy in someone’s misery. After your incredible vacation to Fiji, the authors suggest, don’t forget to focus on the negatives as well (the rainy days, the lost luggage).

The core lesson of social comparisons, write the authors, is to seek favorable comparisons to make yourself happy, unfavorable comparisons to push yourself harder.

The chapter on social comparisons is the opening salvo of a fascinating exploration into how humans both collaborate and compete and how it’s possible to find that perfect balance between the two. The authors cover a surprisingly wide range of issues, such as the role of “psychological safety” (the permission to speak up), that enable hierarchies to be productive rather than destructive; how to use both competence and warmth to build trust; and how women can compete without facing the unfair gender-stereotypical backlash of being too “hard” or “tough” — to name just three examples. Filled with unforgettable stories, this is the ultimate guide for learning when to cooperate as a friend and when to compete as a foe.

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The Art and Science of Prediction

Between 1984 and 2004, Wharton professor Philip Tetlock conducted one of the most in-depth experiments in forecasting in history. Thousands of forecasts were collected and then analyzed over time for accuracy. The results of the experiment, called the Good Judgment Project (GJP), were published in a book called Expert Political Judgment in 2005. The conclusions of the book would be popularized in a simple, colorful phrase: The accuracy of expert predictions is about equal to predictions based on a chimpanzee throwing darts at a dartboard.

At first, Tetlock owned the metaphor that, he admits, he had used himself. But over time, the joke grew tired because it oversimplified the results. His experiment was being used as proof that expert predictions were useless — which is not, Tetlock argues, what the results showed. He eloquently describes in his new book, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, that predictions can be made more accurate if experts adopt certain mindsets and behaviors.

Superforecasting, co-authored with journalist Dan Gardner, is based on empirical evidence drawn from what Tetlock calls phase 2 of the GJP. This phase was actually part of a larger experiment sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, a government agency tasked with sponsoring research that improves the effectiveness of American intelligence.

IARPA launched a multi-year forecasting competition among five research teams, including Tetlock’s team. Each of the project teams could conduct their research in any way they wanted. The only requirement was to make predictions to a certain set of questions every day. Tetlock set about winning the tournament by recruiting ordinary people who made a hobby of forecasting. Eventually, he would attract, in total, 20,000 intellectually curious amateur forecasters to his team — people such as Bill Flack, a retired Department of Agriculture manager, or Devyn Duffy, unemployed from a closed-down factory (he is currently employed with the state).

The tournament was scheduled to last from 2011 to 2015, but after two years, Tetlock’s forecasters and “superforecasters” — a sub-category of the volunteers with significantly better-than-average results — were dominating to such an extent that IARPA dropped the other tems, including research teams from the University of Michigan and MIT.


From Active Open-Mindedness to Teams

How was Tetlock’s team of forecasters able to dominate the tournament? The answers to this question are detailed in a fascinating book that is filled with historic examples and often-surprising insights into the mistakes and assumptions that undermine even the best of minds.

One important and seemingly obvious (and yet so elusive) element required for accurate predictions is active open-mindedness — in other words, not building the answers based on one’s assumptions and biases. “For superforecasters,” Tetlock and Gardner explain, “beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be guarded.”

Another element required for superior predictions is a tendency toward probability. Many of us ignore probability more than we might realize. When the weatherman says that there is an 80 percent chance of rain the next day and the next day is sunny, the weatherman was wrong — or so we think. In truth, there was a 20 percent probability of a sunny day. The next day fell into that probability. Superforecasters think in terms of percentages, not yes, no or maybe.

Two other lessons drawn from the experiment are that superforecasters constantly update their information and adjust their predictions (and their beliefs) accordingly and that they work better in teams. The chapter on teams includes a fascinating account of the team around President John Kennedy whose advice prompted him to order the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, but who were also instrumental in guiding Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Leaders across the spectrum — from world leaders in the capitals of nations to business leaders at all levels of their organizations — are making decisions every day based on what they believe is going to happen. Given the dramatic consequences that can result from the wrong predictions, Superforecasting is perhaps one of the few books this year that should be required reading for all of us — and especially for our leaders.

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A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function

In The Machine, Justin Roff-Marsh shows readers how to follow the intrepid executives who have implemented his ideas over the last 15 years, building ridiculously efficient sales functions –– and market-dominating enterprises –– as a consequence.Roff-Marsh calls these executives his silent revolutionaries.

For the last 20 years, organizations’ ability to produce has overtaken their ability to sell, and, for at least as long, customers have unfailingly embraced every opportunity to avoid interacting with traditional field salespeople.

Applying the division of labor to sales might not seem controversial, but this innocent-sounding idea decimates the sales management orthodoxy and replaces it with a strange new world where sales is primarily an inside activity, where salespeople earn fixed salaries and focus their attention exclusively on selling conversations, where regional sales offices become redundant, and where marketing and engineering become seamlessly integrated with sales.

The Machine is a field guide for the executive who’s prepared to wrestle sales away from autonomous field-based artisans in favor of a tightly synchronized team of specialists. Readers will embrace The Machine either to exploit the new sales order or to avoid falling victim to it.

In this summary, you will learn:

• Why a centrally coordinated team should be responsible for sales.
• The four key principles for applying the division of labor to sales.
• A model for creating the new sales environment in your organization.
• To generate sales opportunities and manage the sales function.

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Getting the Right People in the Right Seats

In his mega-seller Good to Great, Jim Collins famously talked about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. In Misplaced Talent, human-resources consultant Joe Ungemah offers HR practitioners a thorough overview of the tools, techniques and frameworks required to achieve this important goal.

According to Ungemah, most of these tools and techniques have not changed dramatically. “What has changed,” he writes, “is the desire and ability for organizations to question the return on investment that their people practices have on improved business efficiency, staff engagement and performance.” In other words, through the new capability to accumulate vast amounts of data, organizational leaders can determine quite accurately whether the right people are in the right seats.

This puts the pressure on the HR staff and HR consultants, who are not only tasked with hiring employees who bring in the required skills, capabilities and temperament for the jobs but also with developing employees to achieve their greatest potential. The ultimate goal, writes Ungemah, is a strong employment relationship, and requires leaders to make the right HR decisions related to recruitment, responsibility assignments, staff recognition and discipline, if required, among other considerations.

The Person-Environment Fit

The first step in achieving the optimal employer relationship is to set the right criteria for the talent the organization wants to attract.

Once that criterion is set, the organization must then develop the right strategies and tactics to attract the right talent. For Ungemah, that means developing a clearcut employer-value proposition (EVP), which is then conveyed to potential candidates through an effective employer brand. Based on quantitative and qualitative data drawn in large part from interviews with current employees, the EVP details the employer promise related to a positive employment experience. The employment brand must reflect those promises through a credible, aspirational and consistent message.

As important as job criteria and employer brand are to the process, the rubber really hits the road when the new employees are hired. Specifically, Ungemah writes, human resources must immediately work to develop an employment relationship that reflects a high person-environment fit. The person-environment fit is, in essence, the technical term for “right people in the right seats.”

A high person-environment fit is achieved if, according to Ungemah, the organization has effectively applied the knowledge, skills and ability of the employees to accomplish the job tasks; the organization fulfills the tangible and intangible needs of its employees; and employees feel that the work they do is coordinated and is contributing to a common purpose.

Ungemah explores the tools and techniques required to achieve each of these three tenets of high person-environment fit. For example, organizations will use a variety of ability tests, interviews and job simulations to assess the capabilities of their employees, and thus be able to apply their knowledge, skills and ability effectively.

Fulfilling the needs of employees is accomplished through psychometric tests that help identify the personality characteristics, motivators and values of the organization’s employees. Ungemah warns, however, that organizations must not misuse the results from psychometrics. The last element of the person-environment fit reflects the feeling that the employees and the organization are moving in the same direction. To achieve this feeling, Ungemah writes, organizations and their employees must engage in a psychological contract, which is carefully built through the time, effort and resources that the organization invests in developing the employee.

Ungemah is the opposite of Jim Collins, who has sold millions of books by building metaphors and simple yet poignant concepts that, he argues, lead to broad business success. Misplaced Talent, in contrast, is a review of human-resources tools and techniques that, for the most part, are not new or revolutionary. However, Ungemah, supported by real-world examples from the many expert practitioners he interviewed, has written a valuable manual that helps leaders transform the flash of a Collins metaphor into workplace reality.

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How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out

What key question do managers and supervisors at Marriott Hotels ask their employees each day, enabling them to maintain a turnover rate that is one-third of the industry standard? Why are there more than 500 “co-presidents” at a software firm that has twice been recognized as the best place to work in Minneapolis? Why does a burgeoning healthcare consultancy firm in Philadelphia ban its people from sending business-related emails after 6 p.m. and on weekends?

The answer to these intriguing questions –– along with many others –– can be found in Eric Chester’s On Fire at Work. Chester reveals the seven cultural pillars that today’s leading employers focus on to attract and retain top talent: compensation, alignment, atmosphere, growth, acknowledgment, communication and autonomy. On Fire at Work is a practical field guide that leaders in any organization can implement to build more than an engaged workforce, but rather a workforce that’s on fire!

In this summary, you will learn:

• The seven cultural pillars used to attract and retain top talent.
• What sparks on-fire commitment to a job.
• Five ways to ensure core value alignment.
• The Four Ps of Recognition and Reward.

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How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy

The Catholic Church felt, early in its history, that too many people were being designated as saints. To bring some order to the process of conferring sainthood, the Church designated someone to argue against the individual being considered. The Devil’s Advocate, as the position was officially known, would list all the reasons that the individual did not deserve to become a saint. Today, the Church has abandoned the practice, but the concept of a Devil’s Advocate, through a process known as “red teaming,” is a vital component of crisis preparation in both the private and government sectors. As with the Church’s Devil’s Advocate, the mandate of the red team is to discredit the opinions or action steps of their employers — in short, to prove them wrong.

In Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, a gripping, deeply informed overview of red teaming, author and security expert Micah Zenko describes how red teams are used by corporations and countries to prevent untested assumptions and blind spots from undermining efforts to identify potential threats. For example, Zenko describes the heroic pre-9/11 work of two leaders of the Federal Aviation Administration’s red team, which was formed in the wake of the tragic December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 109 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The suitcase that contained the bomb had not been checked in by a passenger.

Subsequently, new procedures were put in place to match all luggage to passengers on the plane. Steve Elson was, according to Zenko, one of the original members of the FAA red team, which was launched in March 1991 and officially called the FAA Special Assessments team. Its goal: to conduct covert vulnerability probes in order to identify airline and airport security shortcomings (e.g., how luggage unattached to a passenger can be loaded onto a plane).

Unfortunately, shortcomings were easy to find. Elson described to author Zenko how members of the undercover red team, including Elson, were able to smuggle aboard planes crude and poorly disguised fake bombs, fake guns that gave off the same x-ray images as real guns, and hunting knives. Security failures continued to be documented during Bogdan Dzakovic’s tenure as FAA red-team leader from 1995 to 2001. (During some tests, Dzakovic could clearly see the team’s fake bomb components displayed on the x-ray screen… but nobody was watching the screen.) If the FAA red team was so successful in identifying shortcomings, how was 9/11 allowed to happen? Because, according to Zenko, the red-team reports would get lost in the bureaucracy of the FAA and the CAS (Civil Aviation Security, which received the reports and were supposed to share them with all appropriate field units). In 1999 and 2000, Elson and Dzakovic teamed up to warn the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, Government Accountability Office investigators and senior Congressional staffers of the potential terrorist threats through the nation’s airspace… to no avail.

Red Team is filled with harrowing stories of red-team failures but also successes (e.g., the assassination of Osama Bin Laden) in the domains of both national security and the private sector, where companies, for example, red team against hackers. These stories reinforce the crucially important strategies (e.g., red teams should inform, not decide) and best practices (e.g., red teams should be semi-independent but sensitive to the constraints of the organization) proposed by Zenko to help the world avoid another catastrophe such as 9/11.

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How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses

What’s the surest way to startup failure? Follow old, outdated rules. In Content Inc., one of today’s most sought-after content-marketing strategists reveals a new model for entrepreneurial success.

Author Joe Pulizzi flips the traditional entrepreneurial approach of first creating a product and then trying to find customers. It’s a brilliant reverse-engineering of a model that rarely succeeds. Today’s markets are more dynamic and customers are more fickle than ever before. Why would you put all your eggs in one basket before securing a loyal customer base? Content Inc. shows you how to get customers first and develop products later. It’s the best way to build a solid, long-lasting business positioned for today’s content-driven world.

A pioneer of content marketing, Pulizzi has cracked the code when it comes to the power of content in a world where marketers still hold fast to traditional models that no longer work. In Content Inc., he breaks down the business-startup process into six steps, making it simple for you to visualize, launch and monetize your own business.

Whether you’re seeking to start a brand-new business or drive innovation in an existing one, Content Inc. provides everything you need to reverse-engineer the traditional entrepreneurial model for better, more sustainable success.

In this summary, you will learn:

  • Why you should build an audience before you develop products.
  • The three ingredients of the “sweet spot” and how to find them.
  • How to develop unique content and find your audience.
  • How to diversify your offerings.
  • Various strategies for monetizing your Content Inc. model.

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Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed

Professional athletes, surgeons, first responders –– all perform remarkable feats in the face of intense stress. Why do they thrive under pressure, while others succumb? What separates the two is attitude. Resilient people meet adversity head-on and bounce back from setbacks. They seem to naturally exude an inner strength –– but studies show that resilience is something that anyone can build.

Analyzing the heroic exploits of U.S. Navy Seals and others who succeed against all odds, Stronger identifies five factors that combine to unlock deep reserves of personal power: active optimism –– believe that you can change things for the better; decisive action –– you can’t succeed if you don’t take the leap; moral compass –– face any challenge with clear guiding principles; relentless tenacity –– try, try again; interpersonal support –– gain strength from those around you.

Drawing on the unique perspective of a standout team of authors (a stress-management expert, a skilled entrepreneur and a Navy SEAL), Stronger explores the science behind resilience and explains how you can develop this vital trait for yourself. Whatever your profession, today’s demanding world calls for a special kind of strength. Stronger holds the key.

In this summary, you will learn:

  • The five sequential factors of personal resilience.
  • The difference between active and passive optimism.
  • The elements of a strong moral compass.
  • How to be tenacious and gain support for your efforts.
  • Frameworks and prescriptions for practicing the factors of personal resilience.

The complete summary is waiting for you in your Soundview Library.


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How the Digital Economy Really Works

Where have all the DVD/record stores gone? They have been vaporized, according to digital pioneer Robert Tercek in his book Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World. “Vaporize” is the term that Tercek uses to describe the impact of the mobile technology that drives our world today. His term captures the essence of what is happening around us: The physical manifestations of what was once thought eternal elements of our world are disappearing. Airbnb provides the same core service as traditional hotels: offering temporary accommodations to visitors.

It just does so without the buildings and without the people to staff those buildings. iTunes provides the same service as the old records stores, but again, without the building and the people to staff those buildings. It is not just the service that is vaporized but the product as well. The music from iTunes is digital. Airbnb is vaporizing its industry, as Tercek explains, through peer-to-peer economics in which digital communication enables a physical product (a room or house in a city) to be shared.

In Vaporized, Tercek explains what is happening and why. In a chapter on information-age infrastructure, for example, Tercek describes how every digital business is both a switchboard and a market.

As with the old telephone switchboards that technologically connected callers to each other, the information age switchboards digitally connect buyers to sellers. The switchboard operator, Tercek explains, can see every transaction and can harvest data from every one of those transactions. Knowing who is shopping, what they seek, which items are selling and so forth allows the company that manages the switchboard to build its competitive advantage in what becomes “vaporized markets.” The keys to success in these markets are speed (buyers want to buy quickly; sellers want to sell quickly) and scale (buyers want access to a maximum of products; sellers want access to a maximum of buyers).

A number of digital companies are not simply large-scale businesses connecting buyers to sellers; instead, Tercek explains, they are “platforms” that enable scores of different businesses to operate. Amazon is the prototypical platform, supporting just about every type of business serving every type of customer.

On top of the switchboards, markets and platforms, according to Tercek, is an even more vast and complex level of infrastructure: the ecosystem. The mobile app ecosystem, which includes content providers, app developers, marketers and retailers all feeding off the various platforms for apps, is one example.

Vaporized is not simply intended to be a descriptive book, however. In chapters on issues such as infrastructure, big data, platform bullies, decentralization, robotics, disintermediation or education, Tercek’s in-depth descriptions lay the groundwork for action steps, which are summarized at the end of each chapter with a set of “Ask Yourself” questions. For example, when dealing with the “big bullies in the app dictatorship,” as he calls them, companies should sell a digital service in addition to the product, have a presence on every platform, offer an app for free and study the platform with care.

Tercek, a pioneer in the creation of interactive content and a former executive at large media companies including Sony Pictures Entertainment and MTV, offers a brilliant, detailed and entertaining owner’s manual for the digital era.

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