Stephen R. Covey was one of the first thinkers to present a kind of holistic, integrated and principle-centered approach to business and life.
His passing creates a wonderful opportunity to honor him by reviewing his most impactful Legacy (besides his family): THE 7 HABITS.
Here are the 7 big principles and action words that Covey has made famous. I added a brief thought around application for the For Impact Org and for You.
*It’s amazing how much of our thinking is captured in these 7 Principles.
- 1. BE PROACTIVE.
Think Big. Build Simple. ACT NOW. ENGAGE then plan. Covey contrasts this Habit #1 with what the majority of organizations do, which is react.
Covey (Page 71): “Proactive means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.”
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.
Vision. Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Think Big. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP). Covey says about this principle,“All things are created twice. The first creation is mental and the second is physical.”
*This is also where Covey talks about the difference between leadership and management. Is the ladder leaning against the ‘wrong wall’? Are we in the ‘wrong jungle’?
3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST.
Covey captures essence of best thinking re: time management in a single phrase: “Organize and execute around priorities.” This is also where he created one of the most memorable and important contributions: The Time Management Matrix (or as it is known in Covey circles by the shorthand QUADRANT II.) Urgent. Not Urgent. Important. Not Important. Hard to beat the simplicity of these quadrants. Read and refresh yourself on this important subject.
4. THINK WIN-WIN.
Represented in so much of our For Impact thinking and activities. Arm wrestling. Step across the line. Partnerships. And much more.
All the ‘Win-Win’ makes so much sense the older you get. Relationships. Children. Etc.
5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD.
I re-read this habit and believe it can be summarized in one word and demonstrated with our 3 of Hearts card trick. LISTEN.
As Covey summarizes it: “Diagnose before you prescribe.”
How about this from Covey? “When properly understood, SYNERGY is the highest activity in all of life. The true test and manifestation of all the other habits put together.” (!) He goes on to say, “Synergy is the essence of principled leadership.”
Bottom line: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Cliche but true.
7. SHARPEN THE SAW.
To me, this is all about training. Practice. Renewal. Balance. Continuous learning.
Personal Note: I’m guessing that Stephen Covey used all of these habits to form a pretty amazing and impactful life. My application of Habit #2 (Begin with the End in Mind) also translates into EIA (Eulogy in Advance). What do we want people to say about us at the end of our lives?
I’m confident that what people are saying about Stephen Covey at the end of his life are what he wanted people to say 30, 20, 10 years ago: THANK YOU.