More than 25 years ago, I was invited with my wife to Stephen R Covey’s home. She was working on her Masters of Organizational Behavior at BYU where Dr Covey was heavily involved. Dr Covey’s wife, Sandra sang for us and we sat at the feet of the master for two hours. My life since then has been so positively impacted by his words that night and later by books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and The Divine Center. When I think of people that I want to be like “when I grow up,” S.R. Covey is at the top of the list. Many new and powerful personal and business coaches like my own coaches Garrett White (Awaken Soul Purpose) and Heather Madder can trace their growth back to principles taught by this master.
On Saturday, Nov 14. 2009 Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum (UVEF) honored the master communicator and entrepreneur, Stephen R Covey by inducting him into the UVEF Hall of Fame. He joins the likes of Alan Ashton, Novell, and Bill Pope in the Hall. Many of the young entrepreneurs in the dinner audience of more than 100 are too young to remember the meteoric rise of Dr Covey as a globally in-demand corporate counselor, consultant, author, and business leader. After sitting at his feet for an hour, these young leaders certainly must know who he is now—a master communicator, a visionary, and a world influencer in the present tense.
Dr. Covey’s son, Stephen M.R. (Speed of Trust), the talent behind the growth of the Covey corporate dynasty, introduced his father with an intimate look into the heart of this very public man. He highlighted Dr. Covey’s public accomplishments including publishing 14 books, training 33 heads of State, including Presidents Clinton, Bush, and soon to be Obama. His book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was voted one of the two most influential business books of the last century with sales topping 16 million, and still rising.
Unique to this night was Stephen M.R.’s glimpse into the private man that is Stephen R Covey, a man who truly “walks the talk.” The younger Covey shared the “7 Habits You May Not Know About My Dad.” Here they are:
1 He is generous and abundant, even in face of severe criticism.
2 He is a fun father to his nine children and grandpa to his 51 grandkids.
3 He works hard, even at 78 years of age.
4 He is always teaching, wherever he is.
5 He is family oriented and plans family events 2 years in advance to keep priorities straight.
6 He is deeply spiritual person and gives God source credit for the principles he teaches.
7 He is big on “making a contribution” and believes we should “live life in crescendo.”
A couple of stories illustrate these habits in Dr Covey’s private life. To live in crescendo, he believes his best book is still ahead of him and he is working now on 10 new books. If this does not demonstrate hard work enough, Dr Covey recently returned from giving 40 presentations in 10 countries in 14 days.
On the fun side, the faithful son told of a day many years ago when Dr Covey was at home on the phone giving business counsel to an important client. Because he was lying on the living room floor, his children thought he was fair game for play. So, one of his young sons brought in the ingredients for a perfect sandwich. He spread jelly, then peanut butter on his father’s bald head, capping it off with a piece of bread. Somehow, the consummate professional completed his call and enjoyed the ride. The children enjoyed the effort so much that they made the PB&J sandwich on dad’s head an annual tradition.
After Stephen R tolerated the applause that Saturday evening as he approached the podium, he proceeded to teach, habit number five. I only highlight one subject here, but there where many powerful points. Heads of State and heads of Native American tribes have all learned the lessons of the “Talking Stick” from this Yoda of communications and human behavior. Based on the well-known Covey teaching “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” the communications initiator hands his/her counterpart the Stick. The partner in communication then states his position or makes his point. Then, the initiator reflects back what he thought he heard to the holder of the Talking Stick. Only when the holder of the Stick feels understood is the stick returned to the initiator. Then, the process repeats until all parties feel they understand and are understood. This is a powerful lesson for not only heads of state and diplomats, but also for corporate public relations spokespeople, spouses, and parents.
Stephen R Covey feels his best work is yet ahead, which must be part of why he’s still moving fast at 77. Watch for his in-process book, The End of CrimeShare