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Hendon Publishing

The 7 Habits Still Work

The book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People dominated management thinking in the 1990s. Fifteen years later, Stephen Covey’s book is still the fifth best-selling management book of the year. The book is about getting priorities right and about communicating those priorities. Policing is a people business. 7 Habits is about people skills.

Covey has tweaked the 7 Habits message for law enforcement. “Service, justice and fundamental fairness— these are the foundational principles in which every police action must be grounded.”

Habit 1: Be Proactive®. Proactive people recognize that they have the ability to choose their responses. Proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control, instead of reacting to or worrying about things over which they have little or no control.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind®. This provides a common and consistent purpose and direction for all personnel. It focuses law enforcement action on sound principles and the vision of the chief. This is where the mission statement comes in.

Habit 3: Put First Things First®. This is time management, the ability to prioritize activities depending on whether they are urgent or not urgent and important or not important. An astonishing amount of time is spent reacting to urgent things, both important and unimportant. The goal is to spend more time on important but not urgent things… planning, prevention, proactive.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win®. The term Win-Win comes from Covey, but the concepts of cooperation and compromise are timeless. With a little thought, both the police department and city council can win; both the police department and the community activists can win; both the police department and the local media can win.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood®. This is the habit of communication, the most important skill in life. This is the skill of listening. Covey calls it empathic listening. Your crisis negotiators call it active listening. It applies to virtually every conversation you ever make to anyone.

Habit 6: Synergize®. This is the habit of creative cooperation or teamwork. It encourages greater buy-in from agency personnel and citizens, and takes advantage of diverse perspectives and ideas to discover new options.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®. When people are busy “sawing,” they rarely take time to sharpen the saw… so they work harder than they might otherwise, and the result is the negative effects of stress. This is a self-renewal in the four areas of our life: physical, mental, social / emotional and spiritual.  

If you are a sergeant or a lieutenant, the book (text or audio) is worth a read. And for chiefs who read it a decade ago, it is worth a re-read. It will, in fact, help you to do a better job of leading. 

Published in Law and Order, Feb 2004

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