7 Habits for Highly Effective Managers

Effective managers share certain habits.
Effective managers share certain habits. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Stephen R. Covey distilled the seven habits that highly effective people develop by reviewing management literature over the last 200 years. Managers who want to be effective in their jobs and well-thought-of by their peers are advised to adopt the habits Covey identified. The “character ethic” includes traits such as patience, courage and integrity. Another part of Covey’s theory is the “personality ethic” that helps you understand the rules of the business world. Rather than being a short-term fix, the seven habits help managers develop their skills and stay focused on the long-term goals they want to achieve.

Be Proactive

The first three habits—be proactive, begin with the end in mind and put first things first—require a manager to become independent. People who are dependent can’t manage others, because they are still being managed. Being proactive requires making decisions and taking action, both of which are important to an aspiring manager.

Begin With the End in Mind

Rather than responding to immediate issues, an effective manager needs to have the end result in sight. If you don’t know where you are going, you don't know what path is best to get there. Having a clearly defined destination, however, helps keep you focused on the end result. It also offers benchmarks to indicate how far you’ve come.

Put First Things First

Don’t procrastinate. Deal with situations and problems as they arise. If not attended to, a small problem can mushroom into a major concern. An effective manager has to keep her finger on the pulse of the organization at all times.

Think Win/Win

After the stage of being independent, it is time to move on to the higher level of interdependence. When effective managers achieve this understanding, they are able to recognize and calculate how people depend on each other to get things done. Collective action is stronger than individual initiative. Managers who work with the win/win approach try to negotiate outcomes whereby everyone is happy with the result. Effective managers know this is a more sophisticated approach than simply ordering individuals to do their jobs.

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

With interdependence comes the need to communicate effectively. To understand an operation or a business, you need to study the situation and talk to the people with insider knowledge. Until you truly comprehend what is going on, you can’t contribute anything of value or offer a solution to solve a problem. This effective habit can be summed up as “listen before you speak.”


The sixth habit, synergy, refers to being able to balance the human, financial and physical elements of your world. Effective managers take time for themselves. They realize that they need to recharge their batteries and to think and reflect. Maintaining this sense of balance also involves eating properly and getting exercise to stay in good physical shape.

Sharpen the Saw

The final habit involves evaluating your progress in developing the first six habits. By incorporating these seven habits into your daily life, you can become a more effective manager. The secret is to keep sharpening the saw and setting even higher goals.

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