Stephen Covey breathed his last in July 2012 at the age of 79. He has been the shadow-mentor of many - meaning, people who didn’t at all or who barely knew him, but were influenced by him greatly.
He was known best for his much acclaimed, much quoted and much read book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A book which has become part of folklore in the personal development literature.
Many of his principles have become clichéd, but even though they are widely used in everyday language, people still don’t practice them as commonly as one would have thought.
A quick recap of the 7 Habits Covey propounded:
1. Be proactive.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
3. Put first things first.
4. Think win-win.
5. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
7. Sharpen the saw.
These translate into the basic principles of personal development – taking initiative, goal setting and focus, prioritizing, time management, collaboration, conflict management, communication, trust, teamwork, personal mastery and continual improvement.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey (October 24, 1932 – July 16, 2012), a Harvard MBA, had a graceful personality, was a powerful speaker and had an interesting manner of putting forth ideas and concepts, exemplifying them with impressionable stories. He could hold large audiences spellbound with his delivery.
This is as good a time, as any, to revisit the plethora of knowledge and ideas he leaves behind him as a much valued legacy, there for the taking.
After the 7 Habits, Covey also wrote “The 8th Habit (From Effectiveness to Greatness)” and “The Third Alternative” amongst other books. He said, for individuals and organizations, effectiveness is no longer merely an option — survival requires it.
In the 8th Habit, he talks about four assumptions – a simple yet powerful idea.
Each one of us should give it a try.
“I have also found that by making four simple assumptions in our lives we can immediately begin leading a more balanced, integrated, powerful life. They are simple – one for each part of our nature – but I promise you that if you do them consistently, you will find a new wellspring of strength and integrity to draw on when you need it most.
1) For the body – assume you've had a heart attack; now live accordingly.
2) For the mind – assume the half-life of your profession is two years; now prepare accordingly.
3) For the heart – assume everything you say about another, they can overhear; now speak accordingly.
4) For the spirit – assume you have a one-on-one visit with your Creator every quarter; now live accordingly.”
He wrote about “trust” in many of his writings and a powerful metaphor called the 'Emotional Bank Account'. This is a novel concept and I would like to discuss this very briefly, quoting Stephen Covey most of the time.
We all know what a regular bank account is. We deposit money, build reserves and withdraw during periods of need. An Emotional Bank Account is an account of the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship. The deposit tells you how safe you feel with another person.
When your trust amount is high, because you’ve made lots of deposits, communication is easy, instant and effective. Then, when you make mistakes or offend someone unexpectedly, you draw on that emotional reserve and the trust level will compensate for it. Make a conscious effort to make meaningful deposits in your relationships out of your empathy and integrity to make your account grow and build trust. When you make a withdrawal, apologize and correct the mistake.
Conversely, when you betray trust, your emotional bank account becomes overdrawn because you have jeopardized the trust level. When the trust level is low, you have to be very careful of what you say; you are walking on mine fields.
Deposits - Understanding the individual, Keeping commitments, Clarifying expectations, Attending to the little things, Showing personal integrity, Apologizing when we make a withdrawal.
Withdrawals – Showing discourtesy, Being disrespectful, Interrupting others, Overreacting, Ignoring, Threatening, Becoming arbitrary.
Reach out to someone today with whom you have a strained relationship or someone whose relationship needs strengthening. Make a deposit in their Emotional Bank Account…and commit to continuing the deposits. And don’t forget making deposits in your strong, high-trust relationships – it is what keeps them strong!
I leave you with one of Covey’s most profound thoughts, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”