This morning Mr. Covey, of Seven Habits fame, passed away. He ended up dying from residual effects of a bicycle accident in April, according to the article. Whether you liked him, his books, his management or organizational style or not, there’s no question he had an impact with several of his books in the Seven Habits pack. So here’s my take on the seven things I learned from Stephen Covey:
1. Curating content is just as important as new content
My first presentation to more than fifty people was based back in college and it was a summary of his material as it related to time management. That presentation was over twenty years ago, but it led to several repeat presentations and opened the door for other presentations. People were interested in the material, even if it wasn’t my own. I learned (all the way) back then that learning, distilling, and passing on quality information was valuable in and of itself.
2. Personal Investment is Critical
These days I may read something like 50-60 books a year, but for over a decade I was reading three times that. I started my love affair with books back in elementary school, but I didn’t really branch out and get my hands on anything I could about several subjects (business, marketing, presentations, brain science, software, history, history of science, physics, etc) until I learned what it meant to ‘Sharpen the Saw’. That was a clear turning point for me.
3. Think in Series
The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People not only had an impact on its own. It was the first of several titles that started with the same, “Seven Habits…” which made them easy to consume. People logically assumed if they liked one, they’d like the other. They assumed that it would be as easily readable as his first one (most were). They could easily tell which ones they owned and which they still needed to buy (by the topic/application). When I create presentations, tutorials, and ebooks, I think in terms of series, not just one work – mostly because of Stephen Covey.
4. Make It Adoptable
His initial book also spawned several spin-offs that were inspired by him, and countless slides in presentations around the world – because it was an easy model to adopt. It’s like David Letterman’s top ten list. If it’s easy to copy, people will use it, and every time they do, it’s a slight tip of the hat to the originator. My list right here, of seven things I learned from Mr. Covey, is doing that very thing.
5. Urgent doesn’t mean Important
A little over a week ago I created an image which I placed on Pintrest:
Because I was going on vacation soon (and it was great!), I wanted to make it clear that important things would drive my priority. Where did I learn that? That’s right, Mr. Covey!
6. Focus on Strengths
While most of my strength-focus comes from Marcus Buckingham, I first started thinking about it when reading Covey’s take on synergy in the original Seven Habits book. If I brought people together, each who was good at their own stuff, the result of the synergy could be amazing! So I have to give him the original credit for it. I’m sure Marcus won’t mind.
7. There’s room for multiple winners
I know we all get caught in zero-sum thinking, but Covey was the first to introduce me to an abundance mentality. In the early days of start ups I remember reading his books yearly because I needed to remind myself that our winning didn’t require anyone else losing. It wasn’t going to be just one player in each market. The notion that there’s more than enough for everyone to win impacted how we competed, but also how I work today (often giving away a lot of services for free, because of the same abundance framework).
So thank you Mr. Covey. I’m sure many others will have their own stories to tell. I’m glad to have read your work, applied it, and seen the fruit of it for the last couple of decades.