by Kevin Ryan-Young

Originally published in 1989 as a business and self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven R. Covey, became a best seller and a must-read for many entering the business world. Today, the habits that it taught business people are being used to teach school children 21st century leadership and life skill through Franklin Covey’s whole school transformation process, The Leader in Me. Currently there are over 2500 public, private, charter and magnet schools across 35 countries who have adopted The Leader in Me process.

I was introduced to the habits when our school, P.S. 133 in Brooklyn, became a Leader in Me School. Since that time, I have used the Habits myself in my personal life as well as my school life, and have found them to be extremely helpful.

Here are the Habits:

Habit 1. Be Proactive

Habit 2. Begin With the End in Mind

Habit 3. Put First Things First

Habit 4. Think: Win – Win

Habit 5. Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood

Habit 6. Synergize

Habit 7. Sharpen the Saw

The following are the steps we took to utilize the Habits to create an effective PA/PTA Board:

First, we answered 4 questions:

  1. Why? – Why was the executive board established? (The Purpose.)
  1. What? – What are the activities of the board?
  1. Who? – Who serves on the board and the roles they can fulfill.
  1. How? – How does the board operate? (The Bylaws)

After you have those questions answered, you are ready to move on to the 7 steps to creating an effective PA/PTA Executive Board.

Step 1: Be Proactive

Decide what you are going to focus on for the year.

Establish rules for dealing with conflicts within the board.

Step 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Create a written document that declares the PA/PTA’s purpose, what the organization does, and who it serves. Share your mission statement with the general membership, the administration, the teachers and the rest of the world.

Set goals for the Board and the individual Board Members. These should be S.M.A.R.T goals.

S = specific M = Measurable A = Agreed Upon R = Realistic T = Time-Based.

Step 3: Put First Things First

Work with the entire community to create the action plan to achieve the goals. Share your mission statement with the principal, teachers, parents, community leaders and supporters. Ask for their input. Set up committees to take the lead on achieving a specific goal or to fulfill a specific task. If there is a goal to restock the classroom libraries, put a group together to focus on how to make that happen. It would also be their responsibility to make it happen.

Step 4: Think Win-Win

Always create an opportunity for both parties to win. There are no losers only winners. If there are two ideas on the table and you can only choice one, as long as they both support your purpose, no matter which won you choose, everyone wins.

Step 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Ask more questions. Make fewer statements.

Create a safe space for sharing and asking questions

Step 6: Synergize

Synergy happens when two or more individuals come together and create something that is better than they could have come up with alone. Here’s an example of how synergy happens.

Sally, Chris and Terry are organizing an election day fundraiser. Chris and Terry like the idea of a bake sale. Sally does not like bake sales. She wants to do a crafts fair which Chris is not at all interested in doing. They spend the next 20 minutes sharing ideas and together they come up with an event that will raise money, be fun, and have an educational component to it. Neither of them would have come up with this on their own.

For purposes here, it helps to work in groups of at least 3 people and include an outside voice on all projects. Be inclusive.

Step 7: Sharpen the Saw

Sharpening the Saw is about self-care, self-improvement and self-renewal. Taking time for yourself, to celebrate, rest, and rejuvenate. You can be more efficient in cutting down trees if you are always using a sharp saw.

Then, Celebrate! Loudly, and Often!