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Lovey Covey

by Clara Chow

7 Questions

In an exclusive e-mail interview with Life! last week, Stephen R. Covey kept to his signature number by fielding a total of only 7 questions.

He prefaced his answers with his thoughts on Asia's Boxing Day tsunami. "My heart and prayers go out to all who have lost loved ones, their homes and livelihood, and for those who are left to pick up the broken pieces," he said.

"One of the opportunities we all have before us is to learn powerful lessons from this disaster. We are truly interdependent, and we are all connected by shared universal, timeless principles such as love, compassion and trust."

Here are the answers to the 7 questions:

If you could meet God and ask him one question, what would it be?

I don't think I would ask a question. I would just bow down and worship Him and express gratitude.

What is your worst habit?

My worst habit is eating when I'm exhausted late at night in a hotel. I usually eat much too late then and I've put on weight and must now struggle to take it off.

Besides that, I most often struggle with Habit 5, that is, seek first to understand then to be understood. When I'm tired, I find myself not listening and trying to be heard before I hear someone out.

This often leads to my not understanding them and jumping to conclusions or assumptions. People are much more likely to open up to dialogue when they feel listened to, when they feel understood.

Empathic listening takes deep focus on another individual. You must listen with your heart in addition to your ears. You must watch for body language and tone of voice. You must reflect what the person is telling you and allow them to present their view point.

This doesn't mean that you have to agree with the person, it means you are hearing and listening to their point of view. When a person is respected with understanding, we then open the way for us to be understood.

How have you changed in the 15 years between your 2 books—the 7 Habits and now The 8th Habit?

Through my many travels around the world and teaching opportunities, I have expanded and deepened my awareness of how the world has changed—and continue to be amazed at the speed of change.

I have also deepened my understanding, both personally and professionally, for the universal pains we all share and how principles are the lasting answers or solutions to the pain we face and will face.

Also, I now have 36 more grandchildren, for a total of 43.

What do you wish you knew at 27 that you now know at 72?

I wish I had known how wise my wife truly is. I trust her judgment and know that she sees the world differently; I have come to trust her intuitive wisdom more than ever.

The 8th Habit refers to identifying one's passion, and then using it to make a difference. How do you think you have made a difference in your field?

I think that I've helped remind people of the idea of universal, timeless, self-evident principles and how they can apply principles to better their lives, families, organisations, societies and nations.

I do not claim these principles as my own. They were not my invention. What I did was to put them into a framework called the 7 Habits, which when used consistently and sequentially could change and sustain people's lives at home, at work and in their communities.

I will always be grateful and humble for the opportunity I continue to have to make a difference.

How much ground do you think you've lost to latter-day management gurus such as Spencer Johnson (author of Who Moved My Cheese?), or investment experts like Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad)?

That question assumes I'm in competition with them.

I feel our work complements one another. The more we think, learn, practise and teach, the more we contribute to an expanded knowledge of leadership and management.

Overall, my esteemed colleagues and I have all gained more ground. The rising tide lifts all boats.

You've said you learnt a lot from the FranklinCovey merger and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. How differently would you do it if you could do it today?

I would practise synergistic communication throughout the entire organisation in a more consistent and patient way.

Instead of managing people like things we need to empower people with leadership so they can fulfill the true measure of their capabilities and potential.

7 Habits

Covey's 7 Habitsand his 8that a glance:

1) Be proactive: You can always choose how to respond in any given situation, so choose what earns you respect, trust and love.

2) Begin with the end in mind: Ask yourself what moves you to act in principled and fulfilling ways. Then write that down, plus how you could make a difference.

3) Put first things first: Picture what you really care aboutlike quality time with family and friendsas rocks. Then picture the day's many demands that, while immediate, will not add much to building character. Make sure you fill your week with more rocks than stones.

4) Think win-win: If you and I have only one orange between us, don't just slice it in half. I might actually want only the peel, and you the juice. So strive for solutions which make everyone better off.

5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Always listen deeply and respectfully first to what others have to say, before you jump in with what you think and feel.

6) Synergise: Make the most of others' strengths and always be open to new ways of doing things.

7) Sharpen the saw: Living all the above habits are useless if you're physically weak. So exercise and live responsibly and joyfully.

8) The 8th Habit: Find your own voice and help others find theirs.

From Good To Great: A Review Of "The 8th Habit" by Cheong Suk-Wai

Unlike the clear and simple way in which motivational guru Srephen R. Covey conveyed his "The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People" some 15 years ago, his latest book bombards its readers with a plenthora of diagrams and bon mots from leadership greats gone by.

This strongly suggests that he did not have enough fresh material to fill in this impressive-looking tome and so had to pad it up with tiresome teaching toolsand an inspirational DVD to boot.

In contrast, his original "7 Habits..." was bursting at the seams with new ways of looking at timeless values and the occasional diagram and aphorism. It was a smoother, better structured read which made it both compelling and inspirational in scope and ambition.

Still, "The 8th Habit" is an informed and sensible guide to how you can go from being good to being great. Among its chief ideas:

> The future belongs to those who are wise: You start by being courageous enough to be humble in whatever you do. That teaches you to understand where others are coming from and listen to what they have to say.

> Identity is destiny: If you have courage and humility, you have integrity. This, in turn, is the mother of wisdom and abundance that is, good things are most enjoyable and meaningful when they are shared.

> 90% of all leadership failures are character failures: One should strive to zap Man's 5 ever-growing emotional cancers: criticising, complaining, comparing, competing and contending.

> The power paradox: When you flaunt your position, you weaken yourself on all scores because you rob yourself of moral authorityor being principled and disciplined in your choicesand attract those who do only what you tell them to do.

> Find your own voice: Stop just following what the world says, thinks and feels. Most adults are big children, so aim to be an adult adult by understanding where you come from, who you are today and what meaningful thing you find yourself doing most oftenthen use it to help others.

> Inspire others to find their voice: You become all that you can be by giving yourself to others. Always see what is possible in people and projects, and find ways to help them reach their full potential. That way, you will find yourself respected, trusted and remembered with love.

> To lead is to serve: The litnus test of greatness is how we treat those who test us most. Ask: What is the best thing I can do at this moment?

Extracted from The Straits Times.

Recognized as one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans, Stephen R. Covey has dedicated his life to demonstrating how every person can truly control their destiny with profound, yet straightforward guidance. As an internationally respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, organizational consultant, and author, his advice has given insight to millions.


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