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7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Changing From the Inside Out

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” – Henry David Thoreau

Do you manage your time efficiently? Do you live with fairness, integrity and honesty? Are you proactive, and do you have a vision? These are just some of the questions raised in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop regularly run by Urban Systems, the most recent of which was held in Calgary.

A 7 Habits tower building exercise led by Shannon McQuillan (far left)
Back in 2010, the course was offered because staff members were asking about the best way to manage their time. Today over 160 people have been through the program, which is offered approximately every 18 months.

The course is about so much more than just time management—as facilitator Shannon McQuillan, explains it’s had a big impact on many lives.

“We hear just such amazing feedback about the impact this course has on personal and professional lives,” she says. “This stuff really sticks. We are very committed to helping people develop—not just as engineers or as producers—as real, whole people. There are so many cases we hear back from people that this course has improved not just their work relationships, but their significant relationships at home too. We hear great stories like that a lot.”

At the most recent course held in Calgary, Alberta, 25 people from around the company gathered for three days, with most offices and many professions and generations represented. This time the course featured a twist—it was the first run of revised, newly freshened content.

Anne Huizinga - Community Planner
Anne Huizinga – Community Planner in Edmonton
Community Planner Anne Huizinga attended the class and said her experience was very positive.

“I think two things were at play. First, the course material was very strong, and second we are very good at providing safe spaces to grow. We were able to genuinely explore things and given the ability to screw up. People were looking out for each other.”

Anne says one part of the course that stuck out to her was the focus on developing character rather than skills.

“Your character really defines all the little decisions you make. I went into this course expecting to learn about seven habits I could develop and practice but it was a lot deeper and more thoughtful than that—it was less about learning skills and more about changing your entire mindset.”

Shannon agrees, saying that the program is not about techniques, but rather paradigms and principles and because of that, it goes deep. “We see big shifts in how people look at their lives and careers.”

Blair Smith - Corporate Communications
Blair Smith – Corporate Communications in Vancouver
Blair Smith from the Corporate Communications team was also in attendance at this last sitting of the course, and he said that he was surprised at the value it held for him.

“I tried to read the 7 Habits book years ago and it didn’t really stick with me, but I decided to give the course a try.”

Before taking the course, students send a survey out to some of their colleagues, asking for honest feedback. Blair says that the survey helped motivate him to be proactive about being the type of employee and person he truly wants to be.

“You get to a maturity level in getting feedback and making honest attempts to improve. I think we were all in that same boat in the course—trying honestly to improve ourselves. Some of the skills we learned were so valuable, like listening without trying to solve everything. We went through exercises practicing that and it was funny to see how wired we are to solve things. I learned a lot about myself and would really recommend the course to anyone.”

Change Comes From the Inside Out

Both Blair and Anne said that the group atmosphere and the safe space created by Shannon contributed to a great learning environment in general. They left the course with a feeling of renewed hope, personal responsibility—oh, and homework and follow up assignments.

“You can’t take the course and just walk away and that’s it,” says Anne. “The real reward comes after. And in our case we have help. So many people at Urban have taken this course, and it allows us to use the same language and support each other as we put into practice what we’ve learned. It’s inspiring.”

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