The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
MINISTERING TO COLLEAGUES
Joseph M. Mellichamp
Professor of Management Science
The University of Alabama
If you are like most Christian professors, you have felt a
burden for your colleagues and have wanted to reach out to them, to
minister to them -- especially those closest to you. Perhaps you just
haven't done so because you haven't been able to think of an appropriate
way. One of the real keys of ministry is to address felt needs.
Perhaps the universally perceived need of professors in academia is time
management, effectiveness. What better way to minister to busy
colleagues who are all under pressure to produce than to offer to help
them become more effective.
Consider leading a weekly discussion of the book The Seven
Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This
thoughtful book presents seven principles of effectiveness any one of
which if followed consistently would enhance effectiveness. The set of
seven principles is especially suitable for individuals working in
academia; the concepts integrate extremely well in the academic setting.
The book can easily be covered in nine or ten weekly sessions of forty-
five minutes to an hour. A packet of discussion notes is available from
Christian Leadership Ministries, thus one could lead a discussion group
with no additional preparation other than reading the book.
The following steps are suggested for setting up a discussion group.
Several suggestions will be useful as you begin to meet with the
- Make a list of several colleagues you wish to include in the
group. Six to eight people is probably the most effective group size.
Due to conflicts, individuals will miss occasionally; you need a minimum
of about six to ensure that on off days you have enough people to have a
discussion. With more than eight or so, individuals may feel inhibited
and be reluctant to participate. If you are in a large department, you
might like to target your group, for example to assistant professors or
to full professors.
- Begin praying systematically for each person on your list, that
God would impress him or her in the area of personal effectiveness and
that he or she would respond positively to an invitation to participate
in such a group.
- Make sure that sufficient copies of the book are available from a
local bookstore. You may want to consider purchasing copies of the book
and giving a gift copy to each person on your list.
- Challenge each person individually to participate in the study.
Obviously it will be helpful if you have already read the book and
started to apply the principles in your own life so that you can use
personal illustrations of how the book has helped you. If there are
other Christians on your list, you might approach them first and have
them pray as you challenge others.
- Once you have challenged each person on your list, get a schedule
of available times either from the individuals or from the department
and pick a convenient time for everyone.
As you conclude the study, several suggestions may be helpful.
- Use E-Mail or the departmental mail to remind each person of the
meetings. It only takes about five minutes to send an E-Mail message to
several people and it will certainly increase your attendance.
- Expect that from time to time people will have to miss. It may be
possible to juggle the schedule from week to week to maximize
attendance, but it is probably best to meet weekly even if a person or
two can't make the meeting.
- Start each session on time and end on time. You could hardly be
characterized as effective if you did otherwise and people are more
likely to come if they know what to expect in terms of the time
- Tell everyone up front that the format is discussion and that
everyone is expected to have read the assigned chapter(s) and to
participate in the discussion. Be prepared as the leader to ensure that
everyone participates; you may have to draw some people into the
discussion and you may have to be careful that some don't monopolize.
Make sure that you don't turn the sessions into a lecture series.
- Be prepared for some exciting results. Some will begin to see
dramatic changes taking place in their marriages and families. Some
will see applications in their instructional duties; some in their
research activities. Most will be enthusiastic about having
participated; a few may fall by the wayside, mainly for not having read
the material or having seriously tried to apply it.
By way of encouragement, let me share my experience at the University of
Alabama. When I returned to the University from summer break in the
Fall of 1993, I felt that I needed to reach out more to colleagues in
the department, to minister, to serve, and to give leadership. I
decided to challenge the eight assistant and associate professors in the
department to do the Seven Habits study. I bit the bullet and purchased
eight books and started praying for these eight men.
- Think of ways of continuing the sessions with a similar focus. A
study of The Man in the Mirror by Patrick M. Morley is
an excellent follow-on to the Seven Habits. You need to be up front in
communicating that while the Seven Habits is a secular study, the Man in
the Mirror is a Christian approach.
- You may wish to offer the Seven habits to another group; other
colleagues, a couple's group, or to a group in your church.
All eight of them were excited about the study and thought it would be a
good thing to do. We met on Friday afternoons from 2:00 to 2:45 for
about ten Fridays. To summarize the experience, we had a blast! We
would talk about applying the principles in the halls and over coffee in
the coffee room. Several of us worked to put Covey's scheduling system
up on our PCs and 4 or 5 of us are faithfully using the system to
organize our activities. Practically each week, someone in the group
would volunteer an application of the material to our work or family
situations. Toward the end of our sessions, I suggested that we might
like to continue the following semester with The Man in the
Mirror; six of the eight have decided to continue.
When the word got around the department that I was doing the study, two
of the full professors came to me and complained, good naturedly, that I
had excluded them. I suggested that if the study went well, I would do
it again the following semester for the full professors; it went well,
so I will be doing it again with four of the five full professors and
one of the assistants who had to drop out of the Fall study due to an
illness in his family. One of the full professors even purchased a copy
of the book and started reading it on his own as we were doing the Fall
study. The department head who will be joining the study for full
professors has commended me for exercising this leadership role in the
I was so enthusiastic about the study, that the Sunday evening adult
group in our church asked me to lead a study for couples in the church.
Some of the people involved in that study have commented on how the
study has significantly impacted their lives. I have already had
several requests for the discussion notes I prepared from participants
who want to start other groups; one such request came from a professor
from another university who was visiting the department one Friday
afternoon and was invited to the meeting by one of our members.
The bottom line on this whole experience for me is that it has opened
the entire faculty up to discussions on effectiveness, cooperation,
support, and other topics which foster a collegial atmosphere in a
department. My colleague in the next office and I have had frequent and
ongoing discussions on how to apply various of the principles; the study
would have been worthwhile just for the way it has helped the two of us.
I would encourage you to initiate this activity in your own situation.
It is a win/win ministry option -- I can't imagine any down side risks
and the potential benefits are significant.
[ Appendix D | Table of Contents | Appendix F ]