Thursday, December 22, 2005

Habit 6 - Synergize

The exercise of all the other habits prepares us for the habit of synergy. Simply defined, synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence of synergy is to value differences - to respect them, to build on strengths, and to compensate for weaknesses.

Many people have not really experienced even a moderate degree of synergy. They have been trained to fight for themselves, and be defensive and protective in communication and interaction.

Synergy is effective because it gets the most out of everyone, instead of one or two people leading, with the others feeling like their opinions haven't really been considered. A good attitude to have when thinking of synergy is this: If a person you are dealing with disagrees with you, then there must be something they see that you do not, and you should seek to understand what they are thinking. They have a perspective, a frame of reference that you need to look at.

Negative Synergy

When we run into negative synergy, we see things like politicking, back-stabbing, rivalry, second guessing, etc. It is like trying to drive down the road with one foot on the gas, and one on the break. And then as we continue and try to move forward, we try and give it more gas before we slow down and consider taking off the brake.

Levels of Communication

There are 3 basic levels of communication:

The lowest form of communication comes from low-trust, low cooperation atmospheres. When the situation is like this, the general result is people being defensive, and the end result is a Win/Lose or Lose/Win situation. A few people get their way, most don't, and everyone walks out frustrated.

The middle form of communication is respectful communication. People are fairly mature and will listen to each other's ideas. They communicate politely, but not empathically. This usually ends in people not really understanding where each other are coming from, and a compromise is met. No one walks away fully happy, but something was accomplished, just not the best.

The third level is where we meet synergy. The synerginistic position of high trust produces better solutions than originally proposed. The high cooperation allows people to give an idea, and allow it to be constructively critiqued, so that every has a say, and the end result is mutually agreeable and better than the original.

An important part of synergy is valuing the differences. This means we understand that all people see the world, but from a different perspective. This is where people see their own limitations and shortcomings, and values what others have to say in those areas. When you become aware that someone sees something differently, you say, "Good! Help me see it how you see it!"

We need to understand that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, but there are always third alternatives.


As always, I cannot include each and every example and illustration the author uses. It seems to me though that the best way to learn about synergy is not to read about it, but to experience it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Seek First to Understand

Imagine going to get your eyes checked. The optometrist after briefly listening to you takes off his glasses and says, "Here try mine on. They have helped me." You try them on and they just make things worse. He says, "Well there is something wrong with you then because these glasses have helped me for years".

After this experience, you probably wouldn't go back to this optometrist. You wouldn't have much confidence in someone who prescribes before he diagnoses. But in communication, how often do we take time to diagnose before we prescribe?

The author begins this chapter by saying that the single most important principle he has learned in interpersonal relations is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Typically, most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to respond. While the other person is talking, they are thinking about how they will respond even before the person is finished speaking.

The highest form of listening is called "empathic listening". This is listening with the intent to understand. With this form of listening, you seek to put yourself in the other person's shoes, so that you can understand why they are saying what they are saying. This does not mean that you have to agree with what they are saying. But you want to understand as best you can what they are saying.

Communications experts suggest that only 10% of communication is expressed in words. 30% is our sounds, or how we say it, and 60% is body language. With empathic listening, you listen not only with your ears, but also with your eyes.

Empathic listening is important because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography on the person, you are dealing with the reality of what is in that persons head.

Empathic listening is also risky. You need to be secure in yourself to listen well, because you open yourself up to be influenced. It is a paradox in a way, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced.

Generally, when we listen, we tend to respond in one of 4 ways:

  1. We evaluate - We either agree or disagree
  2. We probe - we ask questions from our own frame of reference
  3. We advise - we give council based on our own experience
  4. We interpret - we try to figure people out, to explain their motives, their behavior, based on our own motives or behavior.

There are four developmental stages in empathic listening:

1. Mimick content:

Son: "Dad, I've had it, school is for the birds!"

Dad: "You've had it, school is for the birds"

2. Rephrase the content:

Son: "Dad, I've had it, school is for the birds!"

Dad: You don't want to go to school anymore"

3. Reflect Feeling:

Son: "Dad, I've had it, school is for the birds!"

Dad: "You're feeling very frustrated"

4. Rephrase the Content and Reflect Feeling:

Son: "Dad, I've had it, school is for the birds!"

Dad: You're feeling very frustrated about school.

When you do it this way, you show you are listening by repeating what the other person said, while allowing them to correct you if they feel you have not heard right. This may not even be your fault most of the time, but the speaker is just refining even what they are trying to say in order to communicate best what they are trying to get across.

Seek to be Understood

Now as you move to seeking to be understood, it is important to present your ideas clearly, specifically, and most important, contextually - in the context of a deep understanding or their paradigms and concerns. When you do this, you significantly increase the credibility of your ideas.


This chapter has actually been the hardest to summarize. I have left out so much that helps round out all that I have already written. One of the biggest things I have left out is a huge part of the Son and Dad dialogue, which shows how we would usually respond, and the author critiques it as it goes on. It is really helpful to see how we usually respond in order to fully show how we should respond. When the dad responded with evaluate, probe, advise, interpret, the son shut down and didn't share what he really wanted to. But when the father responded by rephrasing the content and reflecting the feelings, the son eventually shared how his teacher told him that although he is in grade 10, he is reading at a grade 4 level. It really showed the difference using this principle could have if used. So in some ways you need to read the whole chapter to get the full effect, but in other ways, you could just look at the title, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood", and that tells you all you need to know.

God's Plan in The Horse and His Boy

Yesterday I finished reading the 3rd book (chronologically) in the Narnia Series called, The Horse and His Boy. At first it was hard for me to get into as much as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or even The Magician's Nephew. I think that is because when I read The Magician's Nephew I knew that the story was important as to the creation of Narnia, as well as learning about where the wardrobe gets its power, etc. And then of course with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it was interesting because of the recent release of the movie, and that it is just such a famous story. So then when I arrived at The Magician's Nephew there was no hype or anything. As the story went on though I began to enjoy it more and more, and in the end found the book fun and entertaining.

One of my favourite parts of the book was when Shasta finally met Aslan. He was just nearing the end of a long journey to inform the Narnians about the coming attack of the Prince Rabadash from Calormen. Shasta was tired and hungry when Aslan met him. Shasta first feared for his life in Aslan's presence because he had never heard of Aslan, and that he was good. Soon Shasta learned that through many of the difficulties of his journey Aslan had been there, and even in some cases, Aslan had caused the difficulties. The book goes on to record Aslan saying:

"I was the Lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, The
Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the
cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the
jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new
strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.
And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a
child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight,
to receive you"

Shasta learned that through the events of his life, Aslan had been there. He also learns that although at the time, some of the things Aslan did seemed bad, in the end they worked out for Shasta's good.

The obvious picture C.S. Lewis is portraying is that through all the events of our life, God is working through them. Sometimes we don't understand why He is doing the things He is doing, but it doesn't mean that in the end they won't work out for our good. Romans 8:28 says:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

This verse gives me perspective for life to know that when things are difficult, there is a purpose and plan for it all, even if I cannot see it at the time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Habit 4 - Think Win/Win

The first thing we learn from this chapter is that there are 6 paradigms of human interaction:

  1. Win/Win
  2. Win/Lose
  3. Lose/Win
  4. Lose/Lose
  5. Win
  6. Win/Win or No Deal


Win/Win is the frame of mind that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all interactions. With a Win/win solution, both parties feel good about the decision and committed to the plan. Win/Win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, and that one's success does not depend on another's failure.


Win/Lose is based on the fact that for me to win, others must lose or be less than me. Most people have been deeply scripted in this mentality. We think that our parents love us more or less than our siblings based on what we do. It is not who were are that shows value, but what we do.


"I lose, you win", "Go ahead, have your way with me", "Step on me again, everybody else does", "I'm a peacemaker. I'll do anything to keep the peace." People who think Lose/Win are quick to please and often get stepped on. They are intimidated by Win/Lose people and let others have their way in order to be excepted. Both Win/Lose and Lose/Win are weak positions, based in personal insecurities.


When 2 Win/Lose people get together, the most common result is Lose/Lose. When one wins, the other wants to get back at them, and it generally spirals downward until both lose. Someone who cares more about hurting someone else than their own good ends up in a Lose/Lose situation. They may cause damage to the other person, but they have lost something in the process.


A person who doesn't care about what happens to others, but seeks the best for themselves. Generally in the context of no competition.

Win/Win or No Deal

Higher than Win/Win, Win/Win or No Deal means that if we can't find a solution that benefits us both we will not force a solution. When you have No Deal as an option in your mind, you feel liberated because you don't need to force your solution on someone, you can be open. If you can't reach a Win/Win agreement, it is better to settle for No Deal than risk souring the relationship with one of the other options.

The author goes onto explain that there are 5 dimentions of Win/Win. It begins with character, and moves towards relationships, out of which flow agreements. Then it is nurtured in an environment were structures and systems are based on Win/Win. Then finally in involves process.

1. Character

Character is the foundation of Win/Win, and everything else builds on that foundation. There are 3 character traits essential in a Win/Win paradigm.

Integrity: This is the value we place on ourselves. We need to know ourselves, and truly understand what constitutes a win for ourselves

Maturity: This is the balance between courage and consideration. It is the ability to express one's own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. If I am high on courage but low on consideration, I will think Win/Lose, and try to dominated my opinions on others. If I am low on courage, but high on consideration, I will think Lose/Win, and let others steamroll over what I believe. Therefore high courage and high consideration are essential to Win/Win (See diagram below).

Abundance Mentality: This is the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everyone. Many people are scripted with the Scarcity Mentality, that if someone else earns a piece of the pie, there is less pie out there for me. The Abundance mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. Even if someone else does well, I can still contribute and excel.

2. Relationships

Relationships are key in the Win/Win paradigm as you need to have built up the "emotional bank account" in order to have a fruitful Win/Win relationship. Win/Win agreements are rarely easy to establish, and the less of a relationship you have with the other party involved, the harder it is to reach the agreement. All in all, where there is no solid relationship, there is little chance of a win/win agreement.

3. Agreements

In the Win/Win agreement, the following 5 elements are key:

  1. Desired Results need to be identified and given a timeline
  2. Guidelines as to the parameters within which the results are to be accomplished
  3. Resources identify the human, financial, technical or organizational support available to help accomplish the results
  4. Accountability sets up standards or performance
  5. Consequences specify- good and bad - what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation

Both parties need to be clear on each of the 5 elements and agree to follow them in order to achieve success in the agreement. An agreement such as this takes the focus off the methods and onto the results. It gives the parties involved freedom to complete the task as they see fit, as long as they can achieve the goals of the agreement.

4. Systems

Win/Win can only survive within a framework that supports and encourages it. If you talk about Win/Win, but reward Win/Lose, you have a losing program on your hands. The spirit of Win/Win cannot survive in an environment or competition and contests. The problem is generally in the system, not the people. If you have good people in bad systems, you get bad results.

5. Processes

4 Step Process:

  1. See the problem from the other point of view. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from and what they are trying to achieve.
  2. Identify the key issues and concerns involved
  3. Determine what results wound constitute a fully acceptable solution
  4. Identify possible new options to achieve those results


And so ends Habit 4. I realize that this habit seems to focus on business relationships, but I think that these basic principles will help in all human interactions, including family and friends. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Moving from Personal to Public

The first three habits were based on things to improve your personal effectiveness. The next three habits focus on how to be effective in the context of your relations to people around you. In the book there is a chapter in between habit 3 and 4 called, "Public Victory: Paradigms of Interdependence". This entry is based on that chapter.

Private victory precedes public victory. You can't have the fruits without the roots. It is important to understand and grasp habits 1-3 before moving onto 4-6.

The author then goes on to explain a concept called the emotional bank account. Like a financial bank account, the emotional bank account receives deposits and gives withdrawals. Each person you interact with has a different account with your name on it. But instead of money, you deposit things like time, courtesy, kindness, honesty, etc. You withdraw by doing opposite things like breaking promises, lying, being rude, etc. In order to have good, effective relationships you need to have a good balance built up with that person in order to have their trust. The higher the account balance, the higher the trust.

Six Major Deposits

There are various different types of deposits, so I will outline six deposits the author mentions as important.

1. Understanding the Individual
Seeking to understand someone is one of the greatest deposits you can make. If you don't understand the person, you may not understand what for that person constitutes a deposit. You may appreciate something that may be annoying to them, and while you think you are making a deposit, you are actually making a withdrawal.

2. Attending to the Little Things
Little courtesies and kindnesses are so important. Small discourtesies , little unkindnesses, little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals. In relationships, the little things are the big things

3. Keeping Commitments
Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal. If you break a promise, the next time you make one, people won't believe it. But if you keep them on a regular basis you build trust which spills over into all areas of your relationship.

4. Clarifying Expectations
It is important at the beginning of any task to clarify the expectations. People will judge based on what they perceive as the expectation. We create negative situations by assuming because we are thinking one thing, and the other person is thinking another, and then both parties are disappointed when their expectations weren't met.

5. Showing Personal Integrity
Integrity includes, but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth - confirming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words. In other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.
It is also being loyal to those who are not present. By doing so, you show the person you are with that when they are not present, you will also be loyal to them.

6. Apologizing Sincerely When You Make a Withdrawal
When we make withdrawals from the emotional bank account we need to apologize and do it sincerely. We also need to commit to not making that same withdrawal again, or else the apology seems insincere, and therefore becomes another withdrawal.


One final point I got from this chapter is this: Relationship problems are opportunities to be relationship builders. When you have a problem with someone, you can choose to keep it this way by not confronting it, or your making a solution yourself while not including the other person. Conversely, you can choose to attempt to fix the problem by looking for a mutually beneficial solution to the problem, which in the end fixes the problem and also builds into the relationship.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Habit 3 - Putting First Things First

This post has been a while in coming. I had hoped to read this book quicker, but found that I needed to take more time with each habit if I wanted to get the maximum impact from it. I also have been pondering over my own life purpose statement, which the author wanted to be completed (at least in draft form) before reading this chapter. So I have that done (in draft form), so I will post it later, and post this chapter now.

In habit 1 we realize that we can change and we are in charge of our own lives, not the outside factors. In habit 2 we envision what we want to see happen with our lives. Now in habit 3, we put these things into practice. It is the day-in, day-out, doing it.

Effective management is putting first things first. While Leadership decides what the "first things" are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying it out.

The area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.

The most important thing I learned from this chapter is the Time Management Matrix (see picture above). It goes something like this... There are two factors that define an activity - urgent and important. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Urgent matters are usually visable. They press on us; they insist on action. A ringing phone for example. Who among us can let it ring without checking the display to see who is calling?

Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your mission, values, goals. We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity. If we dont practice habit 2 and know what is important, we are easily diverted into responding to the urgent.

So Time Management Matrix goes something like this...

  • Quadrant 1 = Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2 = Not urgent but important
  • Quadrant 3 = Urgent but not important
  • Quadrant 4 = Not urgent and not important

Quadrant 1 includes things that are crises or problems. As long as you focus on Quadrant 1 a lot, the crises will continue to grow and never be complete.

People who spend too much time in Quadrants 3 and 4 end up living irresponsible lives. Effective people stay out of 3 and 4 because, urgent or not, they aren't important.

Quadrant 2 is the heart of effective personal management. They are things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventative maintenance, preparation - all those things we need to do, but never do, because they aren't urgent.

The only place to get time for Quadrant 2 in the begining is by cutting out quadrany 3 and 4 activities. You can't ignore the urgent and important activities of 1, although that quadrant will shrink in size as you spend more time with prevention and preparation in quadrant 2. You have to be practive to spend time in quadrant 2 as quadrants 1 and 3 work on you. To say yes to quadrant 2 you have to say no to quadrant 1 and 3. The enemy of "best" is often "good" (i hope to read the book "Good to Great" soon which is written based on that principle. The importance of a solid personal mission statment is so that you can refer to it and say no to quadrant 3 and 4 things because you have a bigger "yes" burning inside.

And so there it is... if you actually read all that, congrats. Reading this is a quadrant 2 activity if you go out and apply or study these concepts more, but a quadrant 4 activity if you look at it and don't at least consider it for your life. Which will it be? I hope for myself that writing this will turn out to be a 2 and not a 4.

Friday, December 02, 2005

So Great a Salvation

One of the cool things about working with Campus Crusade for Christ is that that encourage you to take a day away from the ministry once a month in order to just take time to be with God. So I get to spend a day reading, listening to sermons, studying God's Word, listening to worship music, praying, etc.

So today, I was listening to my fav christian bands, The Supertones, and one of my old favourite songs by them called "So Great a Salvation". It is a quiet song written about quiet time with God.

I was encouraged by this song again today concerning how great God is, and yet He desires us to seek out a quiet place and spend time with Him. It doesn't seem to make sense, but that is God's desire. Sometimes I get too caught up in bigger things that seem more important. So here is my prayer for today:

Woke up this morning
And I just had to thank God for my life
Just read through James' book
Start to pray and ask God for a wife
It's a time of devotion
As I sit and speak to my God unseen
Why should He listen?
Well I love Him and He's in love with me

Why me God?
Why should You choose me?
On your team God, can You use even me?

I think a few years back
On a road that headed to nowhere
Now that You found me
I can see that You were always there
So great a salvation
But to You my Jesus what am I worth?
It's quiet times like this
I feel I get a glimpse of Heaven right here on earth

Oh, hold me in your arms of love
Sometimes I swear I feel your heartbeat
I could never ever thank You enough
But here's my life for whatever it's worth