Last week, we lost a great contributor to leadership and personal development, Stephen Covey. His passing was quiet–just a little blurb on the Internet and a mention on CNN. After all, there was European economics, the drought, Penn State, and Aurora to talk about. Don’t get me wrong–those things were all very important. I just felt there needed to be a little more attention given to the author of one of the greatest selling leadership/self-help books of all time who significantly impacted the course of business for the last several decades.
I wasn’t a great fan of seeing Stephen Covey in person. At conferences, I didn’t care for having to wait outside the hall for several hours prior to his presentation; so, I decided to let others who hadn’t seen him have my seat. I am, however, a great fan of his books and his audio programs. There was something about his quiet, soothing voice and manner that would keep my attention and motivate me to attempt to make changes in my behavior. My favorite has always been, Living the Seven Habits, because it provides practical application of those principles. I attended the Seven Habits Workshop in New Orleans in 1995 and, as a Franklin Covey certified facilitator, have been exposed to his work for many years.
I remember the first time I saw the video about the “Big Rocks” when Covey is making the point about “Putting First Things First.” Since it was a video, even if it was at a live event, I concluded that the exercise was rigged. I couldn’t see how the same rocks that wouldn’t fit in one bucket would fit in the other bucket just because the order they were put in the bucket changed. So, I had to try it myself. I got my own buckets, rocks, and sand. Wouldn’t you know it? It worked! After that, I never used the video in my classes–I used the real thing so that others could see that putting the big rocks in first was legitimate. That exercise has a significant impact on attendees who are struggling with time management and what matters most.
All of the 7 Habits (and the 8th one, too) are important. I do have my favorites. Of course, Habit #3, Putting First Things First is high on my list. Next, I’d have to go with Habit #5, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This is so important to leaders in developing listening skills and an attitude of servant leadership where others’ needs take precedent over your own. Habit #2, Begin with the End in Mind, is essential to understanding goal setting, project management, and just everyday visioning of what needs to be accomplished.
Naturally, since I am a trainer and a coach, Habit #7 is my favorite–Sharpen the Saw. Everyone needs to practice continuous learning and growth. Everyone needs to take care of their health, nurture their relationships, and strengthen their spiritual side. Everyone needs to re-energize–take a break in order to regain the passion and vigor needed to be their best. And, they need to find a balance in taking care of all of these dimensions of their lives.
Stephen Covey may not have coined all the names for things that he used; yet we need to thank him for bringing them to the forefront. Such things such as emotional bank account, circle of influence/concern, Quadrant II thinking, and public/private victory are all terms and principles that have been integrated into the leadership practices of many. His work will be a part of leadership development for many decades to come.
I thank Stephen Covey for what I learned from him and for all the material and resources that he shared that I use in my leadership/management classes. I thank him for the influence that he has had on the leaders of our nation and the world. I thank Stephen Covey for hopefully making me a “highly effective person.” I hope that you have reasons to thank him too.