To all of our valued Nightingale-Conant Customers,
It is with great sadness that I announce the death of our friend and long-time N-C author, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Stephen died at 2:15 a.m. on July 16th of this year at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, due to the residual effects of a bicycle accident he suffered the previous April.
Stephen was a personal mentor to me, ever since I read his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, back in 1990. And, of course, he was a bestselling author for N-C, with an audio program based on that classic book, as well as several other audio programs, such as Principle-Centered Leadership, First Things First and The 7 Habits Mastery Series. Stephen was also a professor, lecturer, and philanthropist, but knowing him, he would likely want to be remembered most as a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by his wife Sandra, his nine children (a couple of them are authors as well), and 52 grandchildren.
He accomplished much in his 79 years, and he will be missed.
In light of his death, it is worth revisiting Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and attempt to put them in perspective.
- Habit 1: Be proactive. Covey believed that true leaders take responsibility for their behavior, as well as the choices they make in difficult times. This habit isn’t simply about being aggressive or assertive. Rather, Covey advocated never blaming others when things go wrong, but instead looking at our own actions and how we can improve ourselves before looking at the actions of others.
- Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Covey argued that creating a “mental vision” for where you want a particular project or initiative to end up is essential to deciding how you will conduct yourself.
Consider business meetings. If we asked ourselves how we want our meetings to conclude, how much more effective would our meetings be? Covey’s brilliance was arguing that we should start with the end first.
Habit 3: Put first things first. Covey said; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Easier said than done. Too often, we confuse activity with productivity. Covey wrote a wonderful book entitled “First Things First,” which some people consider a book on time management, but in many ways is a classic case study on how to prioritize your business and personal life. Great leaders decide on their priorities before they act, rather than simply acting out of the need to seem busy and engaged.
- Habit 4: Think win-win. Instead of believing that in order for you to win, someone else needs to lose, Covey argued that there is an ever-expanding pie or, as he called it, “a cornucopia of opportunity.” Covey believed that when you think “win-win,” you are better able to resolve conflict and find ways to solve problems as opposed to achieving your goals while creating unnecessary enemies along the way.
- Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. So many professionals argue that they are misunderstood. However, Covey said that great communicators and leaders work hard to make sure they understand where the other person is coming from. By doing so, they are better able to have their message understood. However, Covey warned, “Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness lies in balancing the two.”
- Habit 6: Synergize. The word synergy is often nothing more than jargon, but the way Covey used it, the term was both practical and profound.
Said Covey; “Synergy is about producing a third alternative — not my way, not your way, but a third way that is better than either of us could come up with individually.” Covey was referring to the need for communicators and leaders to be creative negotiators that build powerful relationships with others.
- Habit 7: Sharpen the saw. Covey concluded that great leaders and communicators are never satisfied with the status quo. They are constantly working to improve themselves and those around them. They never say; “We are good enough.” Covey believed that all professionals need to continually challenge themselves, read more and ask more questions. Stephen Covey’s contribution to the art of leadership and the practice of communication are legendary.
The best way you can honor Stephen and his legacy is to take these seven timeless principles and put them to work in your own life.
Warmest personal regards,
VP of Publishing, Nightingale-Conant