Covey Culture

I was saddened to hear the news that Stephen Covey, author of the groundbreaking bestseller of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had passed away.

Covey, a university business/leadership professor and founder of an entire empire of subsequent books, high profile speaking engagements, widely acclaimed seminars and associated business tools (Franklin-Covey), was 79 when he died of complications from a bicycling accident earlier this year.

I first read 7 Habits when it first came out in 1989. I was young much younger.

Well into my Federal government career – a rising mid-level manager in a male-dominated profession - I wanted to stay abreast of the latest developments in leadership, management and team-building to bring private sector insights into the public sector.

From a leadership and management perspective, Covey’s book was monumental in at least two ways: shifting focus from the collective organization to the individual, and from the employee’s job position within that organization to the specific person him or herself.

Suddenly it didn’t matter where you were on the organizational chart: CEO or minion, branch chief or new hire, Covey was very clear in saying that we each have a responsibility to live, work and act according to the seven principles enshrined in the book.

To say that the book became a hit is an understatement. The 7 Habits went on to be published in 38 languages, with sales topping 20 million copies.

It resonated with people in a much broader way that few business books do, in large part because it didn’t seem limited to the business culture. The relaxed, engaging yet clearly focused manner in which Covey fleshed out his 7 Habits spoke to people’s interest well beyond the boardroom, pressroom or mailroom.

In short, readers felt that Covey was talking about life. And he was. Unashamedly, unabashedly so.

I happened to have some free time last summer and one day went in search of a good book in which to become lost. My eyes alit on 7 Habits. As it had been decades a few years since I’d last read it, I wondered whether life, experience and the passage of time would color the way in which I perceived the habits.

In a word, yes.

The book was every bit as fresh and entertaining after all this time. Several of the phrases have even worked their way into everyday lexicon without many of us realizing we have Covey to thank.

Most of all, I did feel that Covey was imparting wisdom about about far more than business.

He was sharing a blueprint – his blueprint – for life.

So exactly what are Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Glad you asked:

Moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self-mastery):

  • Be proactive -> Take initiative and responsibility for decisions and choices
  • Begin with the end in mind -> Create a life mission statement with your self-discovered character values and goals for each of your roles and relationships
  • Put first things first -> Prioritize and execute based on importance rather than urgency; ensure your efforts align with the values and goals, and enrich the roles/relationships identified in the previous habit.


  • Think win-win -> Strive for mutually beneficial agreement for maximum resolution
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood -> Engaging in empathetic listening first encourages your partner to reciprocate in kind, for better overall understanding
  • Synergize -> Combine people’s strengths and talents to create high-functioning teams reaching top performance

Self-Renewal (self-rejuvenation):

  • Sharpen the saw -> Balance and renew energy, resources and physical and mental health to ensure a sustainable, long-term lifestyle lived in congruence with that envisioned in the second habit.

The habits are simple yet solid, steeped with life lessons, astute thinking, discernment and focus on what’s truly important. Thanks to Stephen Covey, we have them as guideposts.

[P.S. – Check out the comments and see what one blogger owes to Stephen Covey!]





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