Yesterday Stephen Covey, author and business leader died from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. Covey became a household name when “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was published in 1989. On bestseller lists for four years, it has sold in excess of 20 million copies in 40 languages and spawned a multimillion-dollar business empire that markets audiotapes, training seminars and organizing aids aimed at improving personal productivity and professional success.
His timing was perfect both for what culture was looking for at the time and what I was looking for. I was starting business school in 1989 and had become interested in business management and leadership principles. He addressed my desire to succeed through leadership and management.
I found his principles solidly aligned with my Mormon faith and will have to say his book is one of the most influential on my life. At the time I was looking for principles to lead my family and searching for things that would help me not only in leadership, but in relationships.
Covey summed up his philosophy in seven “unchanging principles” or habits that emphasize traits such as taking personal responsibility (“Be proactive”), having a road map or mission (“Begin with the end in mind”) and defining one’s priorities (“Put first things first”). All of these not only resonated to a young business student, but to a young men with two wives. I was looking for a mission statement of my own family for example, and together before we had even read his book we had created one for our family. So by the time I came across his book I found learning those principles have helped me build upon the foundations in my life both personally and professionally.
“Think Win/Win” for example became crucial as I had to navigate impossible choices such as which wife to take on a trip with me and which one to leave home with the kids. Similarly learning to focus on that which I have control of and that which I don’t helped me tremendously in my relationships. I quickly learned the only thing I have control of is myself.
His teachings were peppered with terms such as “synergy” and “paradigm shift,” but he also urged businesses to consider how employees feel. Overall his philosophy centered around principles that are about our consideration of others and they are principles that work.
By the time Valerie came ready to come into our family, I had purchased his 7 Habits for Highly Effective Families. I shared that book with her and we re-created a mission statement as we blended hers and my family together into one unbreakable bond.
I will ever be grateful for his contribution to the world and particularly to me. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and I highly recommend anyone serious in improving their lives to read his books as you won’t be disappointed.