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Becoming an Effective Person: The Path to Interdependence


Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Having put forth three habits that comprise personality responsibility and independence, Covey turns to address interdependence (cooperative action).
Building interdependent relationships:
  • seek to understand people, their thoughts, and their motivations so that we can empathize and know what matters to them
  • attend to details; small kindnesses and courtesies are important
  • keep commitments
  • clarify expectations in relationships to avoid confusion
  • always strive to demonstrate personal integrity (first three habits)
  • apologize whenever it is warranted
Habits four, five, and six build on these concepts:
  1. Habit Four: Think Win/Win
    • seek mutually beneficial outcomes whenever possible
    • Win/Win or no deal strategy for collaborating with those we do not hold commitments to
    • Win/Win or compromise strategy for collaborating with those we hold commitments to
    • this habit takes tremendous integrity because it requires choosing the best overall outcome instead of the one that is just best for ourselves
    • to put this habit into practice identify the key issues and concerns, document the outcomes that would benefit all parties, and brainstorm solutions to achieve those results
  2. Habit Five: Seek to Understand First Then to be Understood
    • diagnose issues before prescribing solutions
    • when peers are at the stage of producing emotional output (“venting”) the best course of action is to empathize
    • when peers have reached the stage where they’re ready to solve the problem and are producing rational output the best course of action is to provide thoughtful advice and guidance
  3. Habit Six: Synergize
    • synergy is when we collaborate with others to brainstorm solutions and implement them and the results we achieve are greater/better/more effective than what we could have produced as individuals simultaneously working separately.
I’m on board with Covey when it comes to the importance of interdependence and collaborative problem solving. However I have concerns (fears?) about the practical distribution of work in collaborative partnership attempts. It’s been my experience that most or at least many people are not interested in interdependence and win/win. Taking responsibility for not only our own best interests but the whole team is a big job that requires a lot of thoughtful planning and brainstorming and few are willing to put in that level of effort. Our society is very competitive and individualistic and people are trained from an early age to advocate for their interests with the understanding that everyone else will be doing the same and so it will all even out – everyone will get what is best for them through negotiation. Even our legal system is designed to find the compromise or win/lose position between opposing sides advocating their own interests (versus collaborative justice).
At worst I see teams actively refusing to even accept win/win scenarios proposed by the team members trained in interdependent problem solving (because they don’t trust them, because they’d rather have a win/lose solution). Even at best I see teams accepting win/win scenarios but only *after* the effective team members (a minority of the team) do all the work of finding and presenting the win/win solution while the rest of the team slacks off (having slid into dependence mode once they sensed the effective members were looking out for their interests). In short: how can we motivate people (and trust them) to fully participate in collaborative problem solving? Because if we cannot get others to play along, it really doesn’t matter how much we are willing to engage in collaborative, interdependent work now does it?

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