Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Habit 1 - Be Proactive

This is a part of my Introduction to Covey's 7 Habits series.

The first habit, the imperative "be proactive" is derived from the fact that Humans can think about thoughts. This self awareness, abstract level of reflection, empowers us so we may overcome some very strong powers that guide us by default.


These forces are often considered to determine our life.
  • Genetic determinism - grandma did it to me! no wonder I have such temper
  • Psychic determinism - mommy did it to me! no wonder I have stage fright
  • Environmental determinism - my boss / my spouse / the law / traffic...
Experiments with animals showed you can create stimulus-response relationships. This notion is often thought of as a system to influence human behavior with "carrots and sticks" (or MBOs).

We have a way out

Having self awareness, imagination, conscience and will - we can choose. We can always choose.
Viktor Frankl called that freedom to choose "response-ability". You could have Liberty, but without mastering Responsibility, the ability to choose your response - you do not have true Freedom.

Why is it called "Be Proactive?"

Proactive as opposed to Reactive. Being reactive means you let others drive your emotions and behaviors. Being proactive, you are driven by your own values. You take initiative and don't wait for someone to take care of you.
Reactive people often use a victimized language: "have to," "he makes me", "they won't", "it's just the way I am", "that's the way things are"

Circle of Concern  & Circle of Influence

Covey points out that each of us has a part of the world we are concerned about, and a part we can influence. Proactive people focus their energy in their circle of influence, and by doing that they increase their influence over time. Wasting energy on the part we're concerned about but can't influence is likely to be less effective and mostly filled with complaint, blame and negative energy, which in turn shrink the circle of influence with time.

The problems we encounter are either under our direct control (our own behavior), our indirect control (other people's behavior) or we might have no control over them (such as the past).
The solution to the problems over which we have any control lies with practicing the habits, while wholeheartedly accepting those outside our circle of influence. We might not be able to choose the reality, but we are able to choose our response and reaction to it.


Covey suggests some  things you can do to practice the first habit. Focus on being - when you complain about another you aren't influencing anything for the better. The only thing you control is your own behavior.

  • Try applying the principles of being proactive (while trying to avoid being reactive) for 30 days and observe new outcomes
  • Take a full day to listen to the language you and people around you use - tune to hear reactive phrases such as "if only", "I can't", "I have to", "they should"...
  • Use your imagination to visualize a situation you typically behave in a reactive way, and imagine ways you could response proactively. Replay this new scenario to yourself and commit to choose this behavior in the next opportunity
  • Choose a problem that frustrates you, and decide if it is in you direct control, indirect control or no control, and find the first step you can take in your circle of influence - and take it

Related reading

All I posted related to responsibility.

Introduction to Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Last month I posted Sharpen the Saw, which points at links between Stephan Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and other ideas.

One comment triggered me to consider writing a series of more basic posts about each habit. I'll use this post as a cover post that links to the next ones as they come, so this one will be updated as I make progress.

Private Victory

The first 3 habits are in the realm of "private victory", growing from a dependent state, to an independent state. Become able to choose your actions, clarify your values and goals and plan and execute effectively towards those goals.

1. Be Proactive

How to beat the perceived determinism of our lives by choosing our responses.
See: Habit 1 - Be Proactive

2. Begin with the End in Mind

How to decide what you want, and lead yourself into the direction you choose.
See: Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind

3. Put First Things First

<coming soon>

Public Victory

The next 3 habits deal with going beyond what you can achieve independently. You can reach further by mastering interdependence, the ability to work with others towards shared goals.

4. Think Win-Win

<coming soon>

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

How to really listen, to content and emotion, to build deeper relationships and communicate your own ideas more effectively.
See: Habit 5 - Seek first to Understand, then to Be Understood

6. Synergize

<coming soon>

Continuous Improvement

7. Sharpen the Saw

<coming soon>

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Agile Manifesto for Kids

This Sunday my daughter was born. While I'm busy with getting used to pink (after two boys) and until I blog again, I leave you with this. Feel free to download, print, connect the dots and try to identify who's who :)

If you didn't get it, you probably could spend more time here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Christopher Avery's Leadership Gift Program

In some of my posts I referred to Avery's Responsibility Process. It's time to say some more, and let you know of a way to master it, if you're interested.


I first encountered the model late 2009, when Software AG brought a consultant to help us learn and adopt lean and agile principles and methods. The funny thing, this guy talked about culture, mindset, emotions and psychology much more than process or technical skills or tools.
I had the opportunity to be part of a group that played a key role in learning and spreading the knowledge  in our R&D, across a good number of locations.

It would be ambitious to try to explain the Responsibility Process in a short blog post, when I usually take a three hour, experience rich, in-person workshop to give people a taste of it. What I can say, is it works for me. I use it on myself to choose my options in the face of problems, to keep myself engaged and caring about what I do and the people I work with. The people I work with know it, and it gives us a way to accept displays of blame, justifications, shame or obligation without taking it personally, helping each other out of those mindsets towards learning and resourceful action.

Christopher Avery teaches this model and more in his Leadership Gift Program, and the point of this post is to tell you about this opportunity. To be fair - I did not participate in it. First, because the timezone difference is demanding. But mostly because I was already underway on my own path: through the coaching I got at work, learning through audio recordings, teaching it over and over again, reading books and blogs, and attending Avery's workshop in Israel.


If you don't plan on taking such a path, here's another opportunity.
The Leadership Gift Program 2014 is a live, online, 17-week semester from November 2013 through February 2014 on which you learn this stuff and more with Christopher Avery. It's also a community of practitioners, supporting each other in mastering this stuff.
There's more to it. If you are interested, but not yet sure, here's what you can do next (until October 22nd):
  • Go to www.ChristopherAvery.com/vip
  • Enter your name, email and this VIP Code: LeanGuyVIP
  • Take the time to join a free, content rich webinar, on either October 22 or 24 to hear more about it
What's with the VIP code?
If you use this code to register to the webinar and later choose to enroll to the program, you'll get a 100 USD rebate. There are different pricing options, the most common would typically cost 800 USD, so for you (being a reader of this blog) it will cost 700 USD.

Here are all my posts that have anything to do with Responsibility.
And here is the poster I translated to Hebrew: