The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Study Guide

Stephen Covey

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | 10 Things You Didn't Know


Professor and businessman Stephen Covey developed principles of work and life based on personal integrity, independence and interdependence, and leadership. His self-help tome The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, published in 1989, is intended to help people reach success in both business and life. It has been enormously successful, selling more than 25 million copies in more than 40 languages and propelling Covey into international fame. It also spawned a similar book for teens, written by Covey's son, and an online community in which Covey offered courses and information on his ideas about leadership.

1. Time magazine called Covey one of the 25 most influential Americans.

Covey created a business based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and taught his concepts and theories to business people, educators, and leaders around the world. His ideas, and the impact of his universal seven habits, led Time to proclaim him one of the 25 most influential Americans and his book one of the 25 most influential business management books.

2. Covey believed that Habit 5 was the most important for him personally.

Covey's Habit 5 states, "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood." He noted that for his own business success, this habit was the most important of the seven, giving this reason:

Listening for deep understanding is the key to influence with others and to true creativity and innovation. When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen. The spirit of win-win and creativity is unleashed. Trust is built. You can take on great differences, challenges, and problems together and create solutions neither had considered alone.

3. Covey developed the idea of an 8th habit after The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published.

As the world and business changed in the decades following the publication of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey began thinking about the new problems raised by technology and advances in knowledge. In 2005 Covey published The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. This 8th habit involves finding one's voice, which he defines as one's "unique personal significance and purposeful meaning," and then helping others to find their own voices. He stated:

Voice lies at the nexus of talent, passion, need and conscience. When anyone engages in work that taps into their talent and fuels their passion―that rises out of a great need in the world that they feel drawn by conscience to meet―therein lies their voice in life.

To Covey, finding that voice enables people to help others develop their own purposes and to use their potential fully and effectively.

4. A childhood injury crippled Covey as a youth and led to his interest in public speaking.

Covey developed a problem with his hip and thigh bone while in junior high school and was forced to use crutches for more than a year. He had been an enthusiastic athlete until then, but he noted, "this shifted me totally into academics, and also into forensics. I got into debate, and speaking, and I got turned on by that."

5. Covey had an intricate morning routine consisting of physical and spiritual exercises.

Covey was very firm about balancing mind and body and incorporating spirituality into his life. He began his mornings each day by pedaling a stationary bike while reading Scripture to help him center himself. But he didn't stop there:

Then I swim in a home pool vigorously for 15 minutes, then I do yoga in a shallow part of the pool for 15 minutes. Then I go into my library and pray with a listening spirit, listening primarily to my conscience while I visualize the rest of my entire day, including important professional activities and key relationships with my loved ones, working associates and clients.

This daily mental and physical workout allowed him to win what he called "the private victory," committing to "correct principles" and serving "worthy purposes."

6. President Bill Clinton personally consulted with Covey during his presidency.

In late 1994 Covey received a surprise telephone call from President Bill Clinton. He reported that the president told him over the phone, "I just read 7 Habits twice. I want to integrate this into my presidency." President Clinton invited Covey to Camp David for a private session. Covey never talked about what he discussed with the president. However, Clinton later named Covey's book as one of three that every person should read to increase the country's productivity.

7. Covey was awarded 12 honorary degrees from various universities.

Covey received a PhD in religious education from Brigham Young University, but he was also the recipient of 12 honorary degrees from other universities, among them Utah State University. He won a number of other awards, including the International Entrepreneur of the Year Award (1994), the International Man of Peace Award (1998), Speaker of the Year (1999), and The National Fatherhood Award (2003).

8. Some critics referred to Covey as a "snake oil salesman."

In 1995 reporter Jon Margolis referred to Covey as a "snake oil salesman." He went on to say:

He's become a rich man by fooling big companies into thinking they should pay legal American money to have somebody tell their employees to "stop blaming others" because "you are the programmer of your life" and you should "listen to understand."

CBS Reporter Dave Logan accused Covey of perpetrating "Religious Leadership Tourette Syndrome," using the word "leadership" constantly while mixing religion and leadership. Logan also accused Covey of turning readers and audiences into victims of fraud by selling "leadership" and delivering something else.

9. Covey preached the Mormon gospel to passersby when he was a student at Harvard.

Covey was raised a Mormon, and when he went to business school at Harvard in 1956, he invited a fellow student to go with him to Boston Common. There, Covey put down a wooden box, climbed atop it, and gave a sermon on the life of Jesus Christ. His classmate was instructed to hand out religious pamphlets to listeners who seemed interested. Covey managed to gather a crowd of 50 passersby to listen. He continued this habit throughout his time in Boston.

10. Hundreds of elementary schools have integrated ideas from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into their programs.

In 2013 the Franklin Covey organization developed a program called "The Leader in Me." The program was designed to help elementary school students learn Covey's seven habits, developing leadership skills and self-confidence. Its aim was to improve student behavior and performance. Over a thousand schools signed on to the program, with mostly positive results. The program has also expanded to more than 35 other countries.

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