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Habits that grow careers

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Donna Titley, Peerpoint’s talent development manager for Asia Pacific, reflects on the habits and principles that can help build professional success.

In 1989 Stephen Covey first published his business bestseller, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. A runaway success with 25 million copies sold worldwide, it’s now in its 25th edition. The book focuses first on the habits that support the growth of our independence: being proactive, thinking about what we want to achieve, essentially our goals, and then prioritising our actions to make those goals happen.

For a girl from Shropshire, one of the least populated and most rural counties in the UK, my first goal was to access city life and live overseas. That goal was pretty swiftly achieved. My next goal was more serious: to develop and define my career.

Self-reflection and choice

I first read ‘The 7 Habits’ when I was in my late 20s, while working for a corporate. Fast forward 20 years and I can confidently say that my career to-date has benefited from the basics of setting professional goals and action plans to achieve them. I’ve had some great jobs, and some not-so-great jobs, but all of them were my choice and I took away some very valuable experiences, which have helped me build and sustain a long-term career. Each role has helped me understand what my skills are, where my strengths lie, and what I enjoy doing. 

Key to this has been self-reflection, a trait that I believe is extremely important in building the kind of career individuals want. So if there’s one more habit I’d like to see added to Covey’s 7, it would be this.

In those early days when I was starting out, I could never have anticipated that ‘my career’ would be other people’s careers. It was a job that didn’t exist and something I’ve worked to define. This ultimately brought me to Peerpoint where, as talent development manager, I support consultant lawyers on the Peerpoint panel to build their own professional success. Their success now equals my success.

Career fluidity

Naturally, my personal circumstances have changed over time, affecting the professional choices I’ve made – single to married, Europe to Asia, two children – babies to kindergartners to school, and most recently and unexpectedly to home-schooling, aging parents and so on.

What we need from our careers can change subtly, or dramatically in response to life changes.

As well as the personal aspects, there’s the bigger picture of what’s going on around the world. We’re currently living through a global pandemic, which reached us in Hong Kong very quickly and while it’s under control, it affects the way we live and work. We have all learnt to work differently – from home, telecommuting, sharing work tables, and broadband with family, friends, and pets. Change is very much all around and we can all feel stretched by the experience. This brings me back to ‘The 7 Habits’.

The power of being part of a team or community

Covey’s second half of ‘The 7 Habits’ is about working together, our interdependence – creating win: wins, listening (properly listening), empathising with others, and initiating positive teamwork that values the strengths of each individual. These are the things I think we do extremely well as a small and effective management team.

Finally, Covey defines the habit of continuous improvement, created by supporting our own independence and interdependence, which is another form of the ‘growth mindset’ popularised by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.

Community matters, and personally I enjoy bringing it to life for our panel through our consultant engagement programme, including webinars, events, training, pro bono opportunities that foster individual growth, well-being, and professional development.

The great thing about Covey’s 7 Habits is that by improving one habit, we increase our ability to improve others. To me, that’s true development – professionally and personally.

To discuss anything in this article, please do contact Donna.