Topic of the Week Covey's Top Tips
Covey's Top Tips, Executive Summary:
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Begin with the end in mind
- Be proactive
- Sharpen the saw
The Habits of a Very Effective Person: Stephen Covey
DEAR READERS: Last week Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," died at 79 years old. With 25 million copies sold in 32 languages, "Habits" has been called the best selling business book of our time. I had the opportunity to interview him a while back and I wanted to share his insight with you.
Workplace911: There is something I've heard you talk about that probably would surprise your readers: how you struggle to live up to the habits in your book.
Covey: My kids would ask, "Why don't you practice what you teach? Listen to me, don't judge me." I have to say they're right. Drawing a circle on the table with his finger. Your knowledge area is here and your ignorance is the space on the outside of your knowledge. As your knowledge expands, your ignorance also expands.
911: "Living the Seven Habits" (Simon & Shuster, 1999) is a storybook. How did you end up writing a storybook?
Covey: My wife convinced me that I have to tell more stories. I discovered that stories carry emotional content that is more powerful than all my so-called "theoretical analysis." It also came from sitting in the public restroom during the breaks in my program listening to what people really think about my speeches!
911: Any stories from the book that moved you?
Covey: Colin Halls heads up one of the largest retail organizations in South Africa. One day he is playing Monopoly with his son. He doesn't only beat his son but really piles it on. His son says, "Father, it's only a game." He asks himself, what has become of me? He goes deep inside himself and begins to explore every rationalization--explores them in depth and finally concludes apartheid is wrong. I gained a tremendous reverence for the power inside people.
911: You've written a book on time management, "First Things First" (Simon & Shuster, 1994). What did you learn?
Covey: Don't get schedule-oriented; be principle-oriented. Have schedules, but keep them soft so you have plenty of time for spontaneity, your children, your family, and one-on-one time with the key people in your business. Those are the key elements that have high leverage.
911: You are a person who loves to learn. But what would you say to a person who doesn't have the opportunity to keep learning at work?
Covey: Tremendous question. A lot of people with a work ethic don't have a learning ethic. And they just reduplicate their one-year experience every year. Turn down the TV and build into your schedule time for disciplined learning experiences that throw you out of your comfort zone. Read Scientific American if you hate science. If you love science, read a novel because that will drive you crazy. Discipline yourself. Don't just read the psyche-up tapes in your car, get the great books in your car. Force yourself to sharpen the saw at least an hour a day. If you don't schedule it, it won't happen.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.