What I Learned from Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey was an influential person in the development of my philosophies on life and leadership. Many knew him as the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold over 25 million copies since it was first published in 1989. In April, at the age of 79, Covey fell off of his bicycle, and was in the hospital for months trying to recover. On July 16th, he lost that battle. It is a sad loss, of an illustrious teacher, for the business community. To honor him, I have decided to share the three most important things I learned from this great man.

Begin with the end in mind
This habit encourages a person to start every project, life change, and decision by focusing on what they want the end to look like. Covey said that it “is based on imagination—the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes.” This habit or mental model has shaped my life in three different areas: my vision, my relationships, and my projects.

Think Win-Win
Most people think in terms of either/or. It is a natural human process. However, by defeating this mindset, a person can open up new doors. Covey said: A person or organization that approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:

  •  Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  • Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  • Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

The WIN-WIN model has helped me shift from dichotomous ways of thinking during conflict, with my clients, and even in relationships. I’m constantly asking, “How can we both get what we want?” Many people think WIN-LOSE/ LOSE-LOSE/ or LOSE-WIN … so I love thinking in terms of having it all – WIN/ WIN!

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
The simple temptation to show what you know can be extremely inhibiting, especially in leadership. It takes practice and patience to simply listen. Listening is an art and it doesn’t mean simply sitting without speaking, or even just paying attention.  What Covey is referring to is the ability to actively listen and ask good questions.  Questions like, ““What does this person want?” “What’s at the root of this?” “What happened before this that may have triggered this response?”” Finding answers to these questions—thus understanding the other person—is an easy way of finding solutions.

What it all boils down to is mindset. Developing and holding the right mindset on a daily basis makes a person more successful. It doesn’t always come easy and often takes effort, especially at first, but once mastered the results are undeniable.

Covey, Stephen R. “Books: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” StephenCovey.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2012.

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