Saturday, July 2, 2011

Listen to the voices :

“I’m stuck , in a rut”

“I have no life. I’m burned out – exhausted.”

“no one really appreciates me . My boss doesn’t have a clue of what I am capable of.”

“I don’t feel especially needed – not at work, not by my friends, not by my family, not by my neighbours and community – except to pay the bills”.

“I’m frustrated and discouraged.”

“I’m just not making enough to make ends meet. I never seem to get ahead.”

“Maybe I don’t have what it takes”

“I’m not making a difference.”

“I feel empty inside. My life lacks meaning; something’s missing.”

“I am angry, I’m scared. I can’t afford to lose my job.”

“I’m lonely.”

“I’m stressed out, everything is urgent.”

“With friends and parents who don’t understand, home is no better than work.”

“I can’t change things.”


These are the voices of a million people, at work and home. Voices of millions of workers, service provider’s, managers, entrepreneurs, professionals and executives all over the world who are fighting to make it in the new reality we live in. The pain is personal and deep. You may relate to a few of them yourself. As Carl rogers said “ what is most personal is most general.”

Covey then explains using a data questionnaire which shows how poorly people are engaged in the work they do. Around the world, organizations know that their work force is limited to doing far less than their true capabilities, but are not allowed to do so. This of course also relates to how poorly majority of us live with respect to how immensely potent we are. Some people are engaged, contributing and energized by their work… But far too few. Despite all our gains in technology, Product innovation and world markets, most people are not thriving in the organizations they work for. They are neither fulfilled nor excited. They are not frustrated. They are not clear about where the organization is headed or what it’s highest priorities are. They are bogged down and distracted. Most of all, they don’t feel they can change much.

Why an 8th HABIT?

The world has profoundly changed since the 7 habits were first published in 1989. The challenges and complexity we face in our personal lives and relationships, in our families , in our professional lives, and in our organizations are of a different order of magnitude. We now live in the “Information age”, the birth of a new reality, a sea change of incredible significance – a truly new era.

So, for us , who have studied the 7 HABITS or want to study them, are they significant anymore? Covey is asked this many times world over, and his answer is always the same. The greater the change and ,more difficult the challenges, the more relevant the 7 habits become! The seven habits are about becoming highly effective. They represent a complete framework of universal, timeless principles of character and human effectiveness.

Being effective as individuals and organizations is no longer optional in today’s world – it is the price of entry into the playing field! To survive , thrive, innovate , excel and lead in this new reality requires us to build on and reach beyond effectiveness. The call and the need for the new era is for Greatness. It’s for fulfilment , passionate execution, and significant contribution. Tapping into the higher reaches of human genius and motivation – what we would call voice – requires a new mind set, a new skill set, a new tool set………a new habit.

The 8th Habit, then, is not about adding a habit to the 7 habits that somehow got forgotten. It’s about seeing and harnessing the power of a third dimension to the 7 habits that meets the central challenge of the new knowledge age. Thus, the 8th habit is stated as: Find your Voice and inspire others to find theirs.

The 8th habit represents the pathway to the enormously promising side of today’s reality. It stands in stark contrast to the pain and frustrated voices we first heard. In fact, it is a timeless reality. It is the voice of the human spirit – full of hope and intelligence, resilient by nature, boundless in its potential to serve the common good. This voice also encompasses the soul of organizations that will survive , thrive and profoundly impact the future of the world.

Voice is unique personal significance – it lies in the centre of talent (your natural gifts and strengths), passion (those things that naturally energize, motivate and inspire you), need ( what the world needs to pay you enough for), conscience (that small , still voice within that assures you of what is right and that prompts you to actually do it.) Thus , when you engage in any work that taps your talent and fuels your passion – that rise out of a great need in your “immediate” world that you feel drawn by your conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.

There is a deep , innate, inexpressible yearning within each of us to find our voice in life. The explosion of the internet is a powerful modern manifestation of this yearning in humankind. The internet is the perfect symbol of the new world. I include an excerpt from the 1999 book “cluetrain manifesto” about this :

“All of us are finding our voices again. Learning how to talk to one another. Inside , Outside, there’s a conversation going on today that wasn’t happening at all five years ago and hasn’t been very much in evidence since the industrial revolution began. Now , spanning the planet via internet and world wide web, this conversation is so vast, so multifaceted, that trying to figure out what it is about is futile. It’s about a billion years of pent up hopes and fears and dreams coded in serpentine double helixes, the collective flashback déjà vu of our strange and perplexing species. Something ancient, elemental, scared, something very, very funny that’s broken loose in the pipes and wires of the twenty first century.

…..There are millions and millions of threads in this conversation, but at the beginning and the end of each one is a human being……

This fervid desire for the web bespeaks a longing so intense that it can only be understood as spiritual. A longing indicates something is missing in our lives. What is missing is the sound of the human voice. The spiritual lure of the web is the promise of the return of Voice!”

Covey further illustrates the “voice” through a true story from our own subcontinent. From the land of Bangladesh. Mohammed yunus, founder of the Grameen bank – A Unique organization established for the sole purpose of extending microcredit to the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh . Yunus says he never had any vision to begin with. He simply saw someone in need, tried to fill it and the vision evolved. Mohammed yunus’s vison of a poverty free world was set in motion with an event on the streets of Bangladesh. He shared the following tale with Covey.

“it all began twenty five years ago. I was teaching economics at a university in Bangladesh. The country was in the middle of a famine. I felt terrible. Here I was , teaching the elegant theories of economics in the class room with all the enthusiasm of a brand new Ph.D from the united states. But I would walk out of the classroom and see skeletons all around me, people waiting to die.

I felt that whatever I had learned, whatever I was teaching, was all make believe stories, with no meaning for people’s lives. So I started trying to find out how people lived in the village next door to the university campus. I wanted to find out whether there was anything I could do as a human being to stop or delay the death, for a single human being. I abandoned my bird’s eye view that lets you see everything from the above, from the sky. I assumed a worms view, trying to find whatever comes in front of you – smell it, touch it, and see if you can do anything about it.

One particular incident took me in a new direction. I met a woman who was making bamboo stools. After a long discussion, I found out that she worked for 2 U.S pennies a day. I couldn’t believe that someone could work so hard and make such beautiful stool’s and yet make such a tiny profit. She explained to me that she didn’t have the money to buy the bamboo to make the stools. She had to buy them from a trader. And the trader had imposed the condition that she had to sell the product to him alone, at a price he decided.

And that explains the two pennies – she was virtually in bonded labor to this person. And how much did the bamboo cost? She said “Oh about 20 cents. For a very good one 25 cents.” I thought, “
people suffer for 20 cents and there is nothing anyone can do about it?” I debated whether I should give her 20 cents, but then I came up with another idea – let me make a list of people who needed this kind of money. I took a student of mine and we went around the village for several days and came up with a list of forty two such people. When I added the total amount that they needed, I got the biggest shock of my life : it added up to 27 dollars! I felt ashamed of myself for being part of a society which could not even provide 27 dollars to 42 hardworking, skilled human beings.

To escape that shame, I took money out of my pocket and gave it to my students and said “Take this money and give it to those forty two people that we met and tell them this is a loan, but they can pay me back whenever they are able to. In the meantime they can sell their products wherever they can get a good price.”

After receiving the money, they were very excited. And seeing they’re excitement made me think, “what do I do now?” I thought of the bank branch which was located on the campus of the university, and I went to the manager and suggested that he lend money to the poor people that I had met in the village. He fell from the sky! He said “ you are crazy! It’s impossible. How could we lend money to poor people? They are not credit worthy.” I pleaded with him and said “Atleast give it a try – it’s only a small amount of money.” He said , “No, our rules don’t permit it. They cannot offer collateral, and such a tiny amount is not worth lending.” He suggested that I see high banking official in the banking hierarchy.

I took his advice and went to see the people who matter in the banking section. Everybody told me the same thing. Finally, after several days of running around I offered myself as a guarantor. “I’ll guarantee the loan. I’ll sign wherever they want me to sign, and they can give me the money and I’ll give it to the people that I want to.”

So that was the beginning. They warned me repeatedly that the poor people would cheat me. I said “I’ll take a chance.”, and surprisingly they repaid every penny I’d lent them. I got very excited and told the manager “look, they pay back, there’s no problem.” But he said,” oh, no they’re just fooling you. Soon they will take more money and never pay you back.” So I gave them more money, and they paid me back. I told this to him, but he said, “Well, maybe you can do it with one village, but if you do it in two villages it won’t work.” And I hurriedly did it in two villages – and it worked.

So it became a struggle between me and the bank manager and his colleagues in the highest positions. They kept saying that a larger number, five villages probably will show it. So I did it in five villages, and it only showed that everybody paid back. Still they didn’t give up. They said “ten villages. Fifty villages .one hundred villages.” And thus it became a contest between me and them. I came up with results they could not deny because it was their money I was giving, but would not accept it because they were trained to believe that poor people are not reliable. I was not trained that way so I could believe whatever I was seeing, as it revealed itself. But the bankers minds, trhier eyes were blinded by the knowledge they had.

Finally, I had the thought, why am I trying to convince them? I am totally convinced that poor people can take money and pay it back. Why don’t we set up a separate bank? That excited me, and I wrote down the proposal and went to the government to get the permission to set up a bank. It took me two years to convince the government. On October 2nd 1983 , we became a bank – a formal, independent bank. And what excitement it was for all of us, now that we had our own bank and we could expand as we wished. And expand we did!

Grameen bank now works in more than 46,000 villages in Bangladesh, through 1,267 branches and over 12,000 staff members!! They have lent more than $ 4.5 billion, in loans of twelve to fifteen dollars averaging under 200$ . Each year they lend about half a billion dollars. They even lend to beggars to help them come out of begging and start selling. A housing loan is 300 $. These are of course small numbers to those of us who are in business. But think in terms of the individual impact : to lend $500 million annually required 3.7 million people, 96% of whom are women, to make a decision that they could and would take steps to change their lives and the lives of the their families; 3.7 million people had to decide that they were capable of creating change; 3.7 million people survived the sleepless night to show up trembling but committed at the Grameen office the next morning. At the heart of this empowerment lie individual women who chose individually and in synergistic norm – producing groups to become self- reliant, independent entrepreneurs producing goods out of their own homes or neighbourhoods or backyards to become economically viable and successful. They found their voices.

Covey emphasises that from interviewing the world’s great leaders he realizes that their sense of vision and voice has usually evolved slowly. There are exceptions of course. Some may have a vision of what is possible suddenly burst upon their consciousness. But generally, the visions come as people sense human need and respond to their conscience in trying to meet that need. And when they meet that need, they see another, and meet that, and on and on. Little by little, they begin to generalize this sense of need and start thinking of ways to institutionalize their efforts so they can be sustained.

Muhammad Yunus is an example of a man who did exactly that – sensed human need and responded to conscience by applying his talent and passion to meet that need – first personally, and then in building trust and searching for creative solutions to problems, and finally institutionalizing the capacity to fill the needs of society through an organization. He found his voice in inspiring others to find theirs. The microcredit movement is now spreading across the world!

At this point I find myself reflecting on a meeting I attended yesterday. There is a large hearted doctor who happens to be my neighbour as well as my uncle, and he saw many human lives enmeshed in poverty and the tragedy of not even having a firm roof above their heads. He came together with the Kerala Action force and Film actor Dileep’s social organization to put together new houses for these people. I have been to atleast four of these functions where they hand over the key to these people, and it is quite an experience. There is a profound sense of gratitude and relief as they take the keys. For them, it is a new start, a start with a firm roof to sleep under. The doctor must have also sensed human need amongst his poor patients and responded to his conscience by applying his talent and passion to meet that need.

The pain – the problem – the solution

The purpose of this book is to give us a road map that will lead us from the pain and frustration to true fulfilment, relevance, significance and contribution in today’s landscape – not just in your work and organization, but your whole life. In short, this book will lead us to find our VOICES. If you so choose , it will also lead you to expand your influence regardless of your position – inspiring others you care about, your team and your organization to find their voices and increase many fold their effectiveness growth and impact. You will discover that such influence and leadership comes by choice, not from position or rank.

The best and often only way to break through the pain to a lasting solution is to first understand the fundamental problem causing the pain. In this case, much of the problem lies in behaviour that flows through a flawed paradigm or view of human nature – one that undermines people’s sense of worth and straitjackets (limits) their talents and potential.

The solution to the problem is like most significant breakthroughs in human history – it comes from a fundamental break with old ways of thinking. The promise of this sharing is that if we be patient and pay the price of understanding the root problem and then set a course of living the timeless , universal principles embodied in the solution outlined in this book, your influence will steadily grow from the inside – out ; you will find your voice and will inspire your team and organization to find theirs in a dramatically changed world.

This chapter briefly touches on the painful reality.

Chapter 2 identifies the core problem. Understanding this deeply entrenched problem will shed profound light on the challenges we face personally, in our family and work relationships and in organizations in which we spend much of our lives. It will require some mental effort, but the investment of delving into the human side of what has happened in organizations over the last century will give you the key paradigm for the rest of the book and will begin to give you wisdom, guidance and power in dealing with many of the most significant personal and relationship challenges and opportunities that you face.

So hang in there; I promise you it will be worth it.

Chapter 3 provides an overview of the 8th habit solution that unfolds in the remainder of the book .

In each of the chapter’s covey has included a short video that enhances the material we read. This chapter has a video that is titled “Legacy”. It will give you a few moments to reflect on core elements of your voice and four corresponding universal human needs – living , loving, learning and leaving a legacy. This video subtly communicates the book’s one basic paradigm discussed in the next chapter – the WHOLE PERSON model.

Please find the video free of cost : Legacy at

Until the next chapter,

Love and wishes

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