Habit 8: Find Your Voice

Written by Maren Schmidt on April 04, 2017

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Over this school year I’ve shared insights from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.

In 2004 Covey published The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness To Greatness.

In The 8th Habit Covey urges us to find our voice and help others find their voice. 

One idea from this book that I use almost everyday is this:

What is the best thing I can do under these circumstances?

Life may not be rolling out as I think it should, but asking that question helps me focus my efforts.

When I consider my circle of influence I begin to see how I might leverage my efforts for the maximum benefit. This could be about anything from cleaning the house to expressing my frustration of the state of the world.

Covey tells us about 7 levels of initiative or self-empowerment. Over the years I’ve likened these 7 levels of initiative to the three levels of obedience we use in our Montessori teachings.

We step into self-empowerment as we exercise our responsibility and skills in a certain area thus pushing the edge of our circle of influence.


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At the most basic level of initiative we wait until told or asked to participate.

At this first level our sphere of influence and our responsibilities may seem small, but we are willing to act when asked. Perhaps that first step is to donate to a cause, to volunteer for a committee when the phone rings, or drive a neighbor with a flat tire to work. Or go get the coffee for your boss.

The second level is to ask.

One of my cousins, every visit she asks right away: What can I do to help?

See how asking that question can grow your circle of influence?

The third level is to make a recommendation.

There are five basic steps in this process:

  1. Discover and analyze the problem
  2. Determine alternative and recommended solutions
  3. Figure out the steps for the solution
  4. Consider all the ramifications of the solution implementation
  5. Make a recommendation so that it needs only the approval of a single person.

Making a recommendation is right at the edge of your circle of influence.   It forces you to step out of your comfort zone and be part of the solution.

The fourth level is intention.

You say, "I intend to."

What a powerful phrase to move your circle of influence into action.

I intend to go to college. I intend to exercise three times a week. I intend to see this project to the end.

Leadership clarity begins with the phrase, I intend to. Accepting responsibility with intention extends the circle of influence.

The fifth level is to do it and report immediately.

The operations manager for a manufacturer was aware of the plans and budget to purchase an expensive piece of equipment for that fiscal year. While the CEO was on a trip out of phone service range, the sales rep for the equipment company called.

The sales rep explained that this piece of equipment was available immediately due to the original purchaser cancelling the order. The price, good for only an hour, was $100,000 less than they had expected to pay. The operations manager made a commitment on the spot to accept the price and signed a purchase order, aware that he might be fired for overstepping his job responsibilities.

But he did it and reported immediately to the CEO who was thrilled that they had saved $100,000 on a budgeted expenditure.

This operations manager stepped out of his sphere of influence to do the right thing for his organization.

The sixth level is to do it and report periodically.

When our responsibility and our sphere of influence are fairly balanced we act on the information we have using the previous five steps of initiative.

The seventh level? Do it.

At this level of self-empowerment you just do it. You see the problem. You see the solution. You have and take the responsibility for your actions. You move confidently within your sphere of influence. You just do it.

Use these 7 levels of initiative to help you find your voice and help others find their voice. Grow your circle of influence one task at a time.

Because leadership is a choice.


For additional reading: The 8th Habit, Chapter 7: The Voice of Influence–Be A Trim-Tab, pages 126 to 145.


Put it into action!

To remind you to keep on growing your voice,

download your Levels Of Initiative Chart.


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Tags: leadership, 7 habits of highly effective people, health