Seven Habits of Highly Effective Administrators

Texas Ruegg |
April 2, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Competencies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Professional Well-Being
male speaker in a pink dress shirt and grey vest gestures with his hands from behind a podium by Lisa Erck, Associate University Registrar & Law Registrar at the University of the Pacific 

In a Monday session at AACRAO’s 105th Annual Meeting, presenter Texas Ruegg of LeTourneau University, Texas, shared his perspective on applying the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey to our work as administrators in the higher education field. Texas Ruegg is an outstanding presenter, leader, teacher, mentor, encourager, and storyteller. He brought energy, insight, humor, and heart to a presentation that was educational and personally moving. [Ed note: Ruegg was recognized at this year's Annual Meeting with an Emerging Leader Award.]


Ruegg challenged the audience to consider that how we view situations is based on our own paradigm. It is the assumptions that we make based on our beliefs, unique experiences, and understanding. He provided a story about Steven Covey who was on the subway observing a man with his children running amok. Covey saw this as disruptive and out of control until the man explained that the children did not know how else to behave as their mother had just died. This demonstrated how our unique circumstances shape our perception of reality and we are quick to judge inaccurately when we do not have the same experience or understanding.

Habit #1: Be Proactive
Being proactive is a function of maturity versus immaturity, which is allowing ourselves to be the victim. It is the habit of attitude, which is completely up to the individual. Be willing! Our personal responsibility determines how we react to situations and the decisions we make in response to the stimulus. We have the freedom to choose. The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that moment of decision between stimulus and response. 

Ruegg demonstrated how subjecting two people in an office to the same stimulus (one person represented by a bottle of water and the other a bottle of Coke). He listed several stimuli that affect workers such as difficult student interactions, coworkers, faculty late with grades, and traffic on the freeway, etc. while shaking the bottles vigorously for each stimulus. The difference between the two is how they react to pressure. He explained that what it would take for the response of these two individuals to be the same is time. The amount of distance (time) that can be placed between the stimulus and the response. 

Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind 
He explained this is the habit of personal vision. We must start with an idea or a goal. If we do not set our own goals, someone else will. In order to get what you want you must have a goal.

Habit #3:  Put First Things First
Ruegg utilized Covey’s Time Management Matrix to breakdown tasks by Quadrant 1- urgent/ important, Quadrant 2 – not urgent/important, Quadrant 3 – urgent/not important, and Quadrant 4 – not urgent/not important. He had the audience provide examples for each of the four quadrants. He identified that the only person that puts you in Quadrants 2 and 4 is yourself. Knowing your priorities are the ones that set you up for success. He emphasized putting first things first, in other words, put important things first. He challenged the audience to consider how to put their teams at work into the right quadrants. 

Habit #4:  Think Win-Win
Ruegg described this habit as a mindset of abundance versus scarcity. He illustrated with the example of getting our piece of the pie. The problem is people focus on scarcity and as if we are all fighting for our fair share. It implies that there is a limited amount available. He described that with an abundance mindset we can create an infinite amount of things. He used the workplace example of recognition for one employee does not mean that all recognition has been expended with none for another employee, instead the amount of praise is unlimited. Just because one person is successful, this does not mean that others cannot be successful. Help to mentor and raise others up along the way.

Habit #5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
He defined this as the habit of empathetic communication. First, we must recognize when we are not actively listening; but instead just waiting for the other person to finishing talking so that we can speak. It is important first to seek to understand the other person before trying to come up with a solution. Listen to find out what the problem is rather than to vying to speak. We must diagnose before we prescribe.

Habit #6:  Synergize
Ruegg emphasized this is the habit of creative cooperation. He asked how often we catch ourselves just offering to do something or solve a problem ourselves because it is faster or easier. He suggested that we should then ask ourselves, “Who have you just robbed from being appreciated or noticed?” We must allow people the opportunity to experience and learn from doing things rather than doing it for them. He illustrated this with the concept of playing a musical instrument. Alone one person plays a single instrument, but the music is more beautiful when the whole room is playing collectively (synergistically) like a symphony.

Habit #7:  Sharpen the Saw
Ruegg stressed this habit is the concept of sharpen the saw versus experiencing burnout. He explained the model of the oxygen mask on the plane; without taking care of ourselves first, we cannot help others. If we are not good for ourselves, we are not good for anyone else. Work-life balance is critical. He had an example of how the same boiling water that softens a potato also hardens an egg; the difference is what we are made of inside. How we interpret events determines if we experience post-traumatic stress versus post-traumatic growth.

What’s Important
In an approach on how to achieve balance, he suggested each audience member, select one thing in each area (body, heart, mind and spirit) to make an intentional decision to take care of ourselves. He then requested we schedule a daily/weekly time for each of them. Reminding everyone that you get out of it what you put into it. Writing an intention down increases the likelihood of success by three percent, scheduling a time to do increases it by eight percent.  

Ruegg powerfully shared the story of losing his first wife to cancer and the importance of knowing our priorities, seeking work-life balance and being intentional in our actions. This session was a call to seeking effectiveness in both the workplace and in each person’s own personal journey. His outstanding presentation was heartfelt and carried a powerful message about what is most important in life.


AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.