Opinion
July 17, 2012

Remembering Stephen R. Covey, 1932-2012

“The principles of human behaviour are the same in public, private and voluntary sectors… The carrot and stick approach is for jackasses, not knowledge workers … we want to use our mind (to learn, to have challenging work, to be creative); our heart (to love, to be respected, to build relationships, treat people kindly); our body (to live well, be paid fairly); and our spirit (meaning and contribution, to leave a legacy),” Stephen R. Covey told Canadian Government Executive in 2005. [Click here for the interview.]  

Covey became famous by articulating enduring principles of behaviour. Looking at the stories in this magazine over the years, it’s remarkable how those principles can be found driving success. And how they still apply to our current chief objective: driving effectiveness while decreasing costs.

Shortly after joining this magazine ten years ago, I was at a Covey seminar, and approached his press secretary to see if I could get an interview. She looked at me as if I had just fallen off the back of the turnip truck: “His schedule is quite full, sorry.” But at the end of the day my cell phone rang: “Hi, this is Stephen; if you’ll ride with me in the limo to the airport we can do an interview.” Later, we got to know his son, Stephen M.R. Covey, who presented to a CGE audience in Ottawa in June on his work on Smart Trust. The Coveys walked the talk.

Stephen R. Covey suffered serious injuries and was in hospital for two months after crashing while riding his bicycle down a hill in April. He was at a family reunion when he was taken to hospital again with complications from the injuries, where he died Monday. His wife and their nine children were at his bedside.
 
Covey is perhaps best known for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which included:
1.    Be proactive; accept responsibility. Make choices based on principles and values rather than moods or circumstances. Change yourself and then change your organization;
2.    Begin with the end in mind, and create a culture that supports that mission;
3.    Put first things first. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing;
4.    Think win-win;
5.    Seek first to understand, then to be understood;
6.    Synergize. Produce a third alternative, not my way, not your way, but a third way that is better than either starting position.
7.    Sharpen the saw. Constantly renew yourself in four areas – physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Organizationally, it’s about continuous improvement, increasing capacity, promoting vision and renewal.

He later added an eighth: Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.

Covey was in the middle of writing a couple of books and we were looking forward to having him in the magazine again. He blessed many lives, and his work will continue to inspire.

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