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The 7 habits of a Highly Effective Training Organisation

February 12, 2021

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is one of the highest selling business books in the world, and the advice it offers is simple, yet groundbreaking for many.

The book focuses on inward success, or the character ethic, as the foundation for success, with outward appearances of success, or personality ethic, being complementary to the foundation. This is founded in the fact that many people who have achieved a high level of outward success still struggle with their inner needs, such as developing personal effectiveness and growing healthy relationships with other people.

personality ethic and character ethic diagram

This is important on an individual level, but can also be applied to businesses.

It’s great if your organisation’s outward appearance looks good, but your internal success needs to match this – your processes and ways of doing business and training should prove to your clients and prospects, and to yourself and your employees, that your organisation is the best in the game.

There’s no quick fix advice or solution to achieving this. As individuals and organisations, we need to use Character Ethic thinking to drill down into the underlying issues, to treat the condition–not the symptoms.

Here’s how you can apply the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to your training organisation.

1. Be proactive

We all know that being proactive is what we should be doing, but how do we actually achieve this consistently? According to Covey, being proactive is all about focusing on our Circle of Influence, which sits within our Circle of Concern. Your Circle of Influence is the center composed of our most basic paradigms, or the lens we see the world through. Security, wisdom, guidance and power lie in our Circle of Influence. We can control everything within our Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern, on the other hand, is composed of things we can’t control, ranging from the weather, to how other people behave, to the stock market.

circle of influence and circle of concern diagrams

To be proactive is to focus on enlarging your Circle of Influence. This means focusing on the things you can do something about, instead of focusing on things you can’t control, like the perceived weaknesses of others or the problems in the environment.

If we focus too much on the things we can’t control, using a reactive focus, our Circle of Concern will grow–and our underlying issues along with it.

Applying this to your organisation’s goals and processes can start with three steps.

  1. First, try and listen to your language and the language of your team. Be aware of each time someone says something reactive instead of proactive, such as “If only”, “I can’t”, or “I have to”. Try and replace “have” with “be”–instead of “If only I had…”, consider saying “I can be more resourceful, patient, cooperative, diligent, creative”. This language approaches change from the inside-out, and on what you can control.  
  2. Think about something that may happen at work in the near future where you would usually display reactive behaviour to. Then, think about how you could react proactively instead by using your Circle of Influence.
  3. Think about a current problem at work. Then, think about how you can use your Circle of Influence to proactively solve the problem, and take action this way.

For a bonus fourth step, let your team know about the changes you have been making. They’ll likely have noticed a positive change from you already, so letting them know your process will likely be something they appreciate and will want to learn from.

2. Begin with the end in mind

Beginning with the end in mind is one of the most important things to implement to improve productivity and create a more meaningful work environment. As Covey says, it’s easy to make ourselves busy. We’ve all heard the saying ‘work smarter, not harder’, which is the essential idea of this habit. Being hard at work and efficient without evaluating the meaning behind the hard work means we lose the ‘why’ and the strategic vision.

Creating vision boards is one of the most powerful things we can do to guide daily work and take meaningful steps towards goals. Being able to lay out and clearly see the end-goal vision can have a big impact if mindfully acknowledged daily. An easy way to make these is in Canva, where you can use pre-made templates or start from scratch. Make sure to stay aligned with your organisation’s core goals, and ensure the outward appearance (personality) is informed by an internal core values (character).

example business mood board
example business mood board
Example vision boards

3. First things first

The third habit is all about time management and prioritisation. Using discipline, which is in our Circle of Influence, we can prioritise our daily activities based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. Urgent activities are inherently reactive, and could include important things to address such as crises, pressing problems, and deadline-driven projects, or non-important things such as interruptions, trivial busywork, time wasters and pleasant or popular activities. Important activities include relationship building, recognising new opportunities and planning. These are the most important activities for organisations, as they are the foundations for growth, stability and positive development.

4. Think win-win

Every effective leader wants to create win-win situations. According to Covey, a high level of consideration and courage creates this. Looking at the diagram below, we can see that the combination of high consideration and high courage can create a high level of interpersonal influence, where effective leadership can flourish and better relationships can develop.

consideration and courage levels table

5. Seek first to understand...then to be understood

Did you know we listen at 125–250 words per minute, but think at least 10 times faster?[2]. We are constantly communicating and listening, but not many of us are empathetically listening. Empathetic listening centers around having the intention of listening to understand, rather than listening to reply.

Although empathetic listening creates better synergy and understanding, it can take up more energy than listening to reply. To counteract this, try and spend some time each day to empathetically listen to yourself. Ensuring you’re aware of when you need to dial back and listen to yourself, and only yourself, for a while will create more capacity and energy to listen to others. If you have already been dealing with and listening to your internal self, there’ll be less inner-monologue distraction.

6. Synergise

Synergy is much more than a business buzzword. Synergy is understanding and valuing the differences in other peoples’ perspectives, and through this creating a whole, or an output, that is greater than the sum of its parts. For businesses, synergy is key for continued growth and development, and can be achieved by following the seven habits with discipline.

synergy components

7. Sharpen the saw

To sharpen the saw, we need to think about self-renewal in terms of the physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional dimensions of our nature. Self-renewal is expressing these dimensions ‘regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways’. These are the important, not urgent, tasks of our daily lives that need to be consistently taken care of to reduce urgent tasks down the line. And, by consistently focusing on them, we are being inherently proactive in our Circle of Influence. Without focus on these dimensions, efforts in growing business, developing careers and attracting more clients will struggle and fall short.

ways to sharpen the saw

Implementing these habits will take time and energy, but will lead to a great deal of positive change for the individual and the organisation.

Want more tips for growing your RTO? Here are 10 tips for accelerated growth.

Did you know?

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From starting out as an RTO, to developing our software and continuing to grow through many changes in the VET sector over the past 30 years, we’ve helped almost 1000 training organisations thrive with aXcelerate’s One System SMS/LMS solution.

Learn how we can help your training organisation here, or request a demo to see how we can work with you to reach your training management goals here


  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
  2. The Key to Workplace Bliss — And It's Free

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