This past week millions of people who have been impacted by the writings, teachings, and private consultations of Stephen Covey mourned his passing. Best known for his widely acclaimed and ever popular best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey has had enormous influence on the development and growth of my profession of executive coaching, not to mention the influence he has had on me personally. While it is impossible to summarize this comprehensive piece of work in such a brief message I would at the very least like to make three observations about the title itself and what it means to me:
1. Effective: Effective is a term I use daily with clients. In my mind it is the primary goal of coaching, to move clients toward a higher level of effectiveness, and I am blunt in communicating that with them. Too often clients believe they need to change who they are to become more effective. An introvert, for example, thinks he should become more sociable. No, I will say, your nature is to be introverted and there is nothing wrong with that. Instead, let us discover habits you can form to be more “effective” without disrupting who you naturally are.
2. Habits: Covey defines habit “as the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire.” Knowledge, he explains, is “the what to do . . . skill is the how to do . . . [and] desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives,” he explains, “we have to have all three.” Forming the right habits is the “how to” to higher effectiveness.
3. Seven Habits: The “seven habits” are the principles followed by those most highly effective in their lives according to Covey’s observations. They are to (1) be proactive, (2) begin with the end in mind, (3) put first things first, (4) think win / win, (5) seek first to understand . . . then to be understood, (6) synergize, and (7) sharpen the saw. I leave it to you – urge you in fact – to read (or re-read) the book as the case may be for a deeper understanding of the “habits”.
Thank you Stephen Covey for your contributions in helping us become more effective, and for inspiring those of us in our profession to help move others toward higher levels of effectiveness. May your work thrive for generations to come.