The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

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My sons and I like to have fun and talk goofy at times, as anyone knows who has heard me answer my phone when one of them calls.  We talk about serious issues too, like leadership, ethics, business, coaching, God, and we can philosophize at length.  A couple of nights ago, my son, who I call “The Colonel”, called. He is reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  After listening to him enthusiastically share what he has been learning from the book, we decided it would be fun to flip things a bit and talk about the opposites:

The 7  Habits of Highly Ineffective People

The first three habits deal more with private ineffectiveness. But, rest assured that before long, that character base will flow over into public futility.

Here is our list…

Be reactive.

Go with the flow and allow yourself and mood to be determined by circumstances.  Let your behavior be a function of conditions, not your decisions. Do not take initiative and don’t take any responsibility.  Learn to say things like, “That’s just the way I am”, or “I can’t”, or “There’s nothing I can do”. After getting good at this habit, you might ramp it up to a whole new level by blaming others for your current circumstances.  Add a victim mentality and you are well on your way to personal and public ineffectiveness and mediocre living.


Live the downside of “You Only Live Once”. Don’t ever develop a clear understanding of your destination or think about where you want your life to go, what you value, or the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.  Developing a personal mission statement is way out of bounds for the ineffective person. Have no guiding principles to center your life. Do whatever feels good in the moment.  If you feel like “straightening deck chairs on the Titanic”, do it.  At least you will feel good as you sink to your death.

Live by the urgent.

Organize and execute your life around crisis and pressing problems. Just respond to the urgent. Don’t ever contemplate about your three priorities for the day. Besides being ineffective, you will also experience the added benefits of stress, burnout, crisis management, and the feeling of always putting out fires. I bet you can also feel the adrenaline rush of that!  Keep it up so you can maintain the energy from one urgent crisis to the next.

Once you have these three private habits of ineffectiveness down, you can successfully be ineffective with other people. That’s what these next three habits are about.

Think “Me first”.

Learn to become a transactional leader—only give out what you get. “Tit for tat”. But make sure you get yours first. Work on developing your scarcity mentality that says there is only so much good (recognition, credit, power, profit, love, etc.) to go around.  Make sure you grab your share before all the greedy people get it. Don’t be genuinely happy for the successes of others.

Speak more than you listen.

Ineffective people have things to say and points to make.  People need your wisdom whether they realize it or not. So make sure to launch into stories and lectures.  Repeat yourself and make sure you get your point across first.  Seek first to be understood-that way you model what being understood feels like for the other people.  If there is time left over, listen to others while multitasking on your smart phone. As you listen, evaluate the other person, interrupt with questions from your own frame of reference, diagnose quickly, give advice, and try to interpret and judge motives rapidly. This will help fix the other person sooner and save you valuable time to talk more.

Don’t cooperate. Don’t collaborate. 

Think discord, disunity, detached, disconnect, division. It can waste so much time to work in team.  Besides if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Don’t concern yourself with unused and untapped potential. Synergy is highly overrated and takes too much time.  If you have developed habits of distrust, poor listening, and lack of self-awareness, people may already leave you alone, so cooperation and teamwork may not even be an issue.


Don’t develop new skills or ever take time to rest, play, recharge, or refresh.  Other people will pass you by if you do. Ineffective people don’t have enough time to exercise for endurance, flexibility, or strength. They are good at neglecting the spiritual dimension of life.  Personal security comes from performance, so they must perform all the time.  That leaves little time for reflection, evaluation, feedback, and learning.

If you can commit yourself to doing these habits unconsciously, you are well on your way to being ineffective in your personal life, in your relationships (if you have any), in your leadership, and in your work.

Related posts:


What makes you ineffective? 

27 thoughts on “The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

Add yours

  1. This is awesome! You are so spot on–and your tongue-in-cheek approach makes it a little less painful to see me in these. It’s almost easier to see these tools of ineffectiveness and not do them then to follow the tools of effectiveness. Anyway, this is an outstanding post, my friend. Well done.

    1. Thanks Dayle. You are such an encouragement! It was fun to do and even more fun to talk about with my son. You are right on–it helps to see things from the other angle and avoid the ineffectiveness. I think I am in the process of breaking all these habits of ineffectiveness. Wow, why do those things come so naturally? Takes a lot of effort. I guess you pay one way or another though. Pay now or pay later. We choose.

  2. Brilliant, insightful, creative and innovative. I’m going to put as many of them into practice right now… (that was the point, right?). Are you going to turn it onto a book?

    1. Thank you Paul. But you have a lot of catching up to do because I have been practicing these habits for many years now! Terry just said that it is one of those blogs that are funny at first but turn more painful with time. 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing. I actually thought of you at one point as I was writing. Thanks for your comment. No books planned.

    1. The humor and fun part, of course. Not quite to the level of British humor yet , but that may be a too high and lofty goal for me to attain at this point in my life.

      1. Ah; phew. I thought of me at habit 1, habit 2, habit 3….
        and I have to say you’ve mastered dry British humour (note the “u”) like a pro.

      2. That is brill. I like the extra “u” in there also. Now, we better work to correct those habits or we’ll be pear shaped in no time at all.

  3. I can think of several situations where I need to read this to others, BUT first of all, I need to reread it quite a lot to myself. Entertaining, but painful as well. Thanks, Steve.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jan. The funny eventually gives way to the pain the longer those habits are in my life. Thanks for your comment. Hope you and Dean are doing well.

    1. Thanks Jeremy. Good seeing you this morning. Ouch, sorry for that former boss relationship. Glad to have you on board here! Which habit annoys you the most?

    1. Thanks Daniel. I’m glad you stopped by. It makes me laugh when I remember the goofy conversation I had with my son when we talked about these ideas. Who do you laugh with?

  4. I have been voted in as international students leader in my University and I want to read or at least send this to my students counsel colleagues.

    1. Thanks for finding me joseepha, and for reading the blog. Congratulations on being voted in as the international students leader! You obviously have done a great job building relationships, and are seen a resourceful. I would love for you to pass this on to your colleagues. What do you think will be helpful to your students?

      1. Don’t cooperate Don’t collaborate, i think this is what has been eating the top management. Which in term renders the students nonchalant and untouched by what is happening in our institution.

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