In Praise of Stephen Covey
Adopting His Philosophy Would Certainly Be a Successful HabitStephen R. Covey, a teacher, author, and business consultant, passed away in July at age 79 from complications after a bicycling accident. Known for his bestselling books, his words affected millions of people, and in his passing, many reflect on his teachings.
Covey’s management principles were founded on values and behavioral psychology. Part motivational speaker, part business consultant, his concepts have been embraced by an international following.
Covey graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree and Harvard Business School with a master’s, both in Business Administration. Dedicating himself to teaching, he completed a doctorate degree at Brigham Young University. In 1984, he left his life as a university professor and founded the Covey Leadership Center. The center merged with FranklinQuest in 1997 to become Franklin Covey Co., a publicly traded company providing services in 147 countries worldwide. The management-consulting firm specializes in leadership training, improving productivity, and implementing business strategies.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Covey’s best known work. The book has sold more than 20 million copies and was named the most influential business book of the 20th century. The success of 7 Habits spawned a series of followup editions, Webinars, and management trainings. The seven habits have been adapted for families, associates, and managers. Covey toured the world lecturing and facilitating workshops. Business courses at universities often include the book in their curriculum and show excerpts of his presentations. Fortune 500 companies have even accredited his management principles as the foundation for their business processes.
The habits focus on maximizing individual effectiveness while improving teamwork and communication. For instance, Covey comments on the distractions that have come along with advanced technology and their polarizing effect on interpersonal relationships. e-mail, for example, muddles communications. Active listening is not just hearing a person, but also seeking to understand. The book defines for us the differing realities of the personal and the interpersonal. Our intentions and expectations are not always a shared understanding. Working together as a team, our individual self can get in the way of common goals. We are most successful when we are able to achieve the ‘win-win’ scenario.
Time management is a concept we all struggle with. When people are busy, they become overwhelmed by small tasks and have trouble prioritizing. Covey presents a matrix for determining how to plan and execute assigned responsibilities. As a famous exercise at his workshops, he demonstrates this concept with different sizes of rocks and a glass jar. The large rocks represent the most important considerations in your life — for example, family time. The small rocks are the small daily jobs we all have to do, like laundry. If you pour the small rocks into the jar as you place the large rocks, you can then fit in everything you need to accomplish.
The book is motivational, with step-by-step processes and relatable anecdotes. Included are visual and mental exercises designed to reinforce the material. Concepts in 7 Habits are assigned buzzwords, which have since been adopted into the language of business. These terms include ‘win-win,’ ‘proactive,’ and ‘synergy.’ The secret to the book’s success, however, is the understanding of human nature it demonstrates the behavioral commonalities we all share. The insights span both business and personal relationships, and thus countless individuals have found them applicable to their lives.
Accolades for Covey and his work are too numerous to mention. Covey was named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans in 1996. He received eight honorary doctorate degrees, an International Man of Peace award, and an International Entrepreneur of the Year award. A dedicated family man with nine children, 52 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, he was also awarded with a Fatherhood Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative. He considered this to be the most meaningful award that he ever received.
Covey dedicated his life to helping people achieve their business and personal goals though books, workshops, and lectures. An international management icon, he shaped what business is today and what it strives to be. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey addressed tendencies that hold people back from achieving their best in life. While he admitted that, at times, he himself had trouble applying his concepts to everyday life, he no doubt achieved a great deal of success in his time.
Charlotte Cathro is a tax manager with the Holyoke-based CPA firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 536-8510; [email protected]