Sunday, May 4, 2008

‘7 Habits' guru offers timeless advice

The Arizona Republic, 2 May 08

Nearly 20 years have passed since Stephen Covey became a business megaguru with his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Since then he has added The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, produced a slew of further variations on the habits theme and helped lead Salt Lake City-based FranklinCovey Co. into a multimillion-dollar enterprise best known for its effectiveness training services and time-management planners.

Covey comes to Scottsdale Wednesday as the keynote speaker at the company's Greatness Summit. Staying true to the "7" standard, we talked to Covey for effective insights into business and life today:

1 The 7 Habits philosophy and why it's important

When the book came out in 1989, 80 percent of the value added to goods and services came from manual labor and machines. Today, 70 to 80 percent comes from knowledge work.

Unless managers get with it and realize that people are the most important asset they have, they'll be mired in the old practices of the Industrial Age.

I'm proposing a break with the old way of thinking. You can see in history that nothing fails like success. It makes companies most vulnerable when the whole place is mired in Industrial Age, top-down, bureaucratic control, and rules and regulations take the place of human judgment.

2 The three circles of greatness

The first is personal greatness, using the seven habits and finding your voice. It's still relevant, and even more so, because unless people have integrity and the ability to synergize, they can't develop the leadership circle.

The second circle, leadership greatness, inspires others to find their voice. Inspire trust, clarify your purpose or what you're trying to accomplish, and align the systems. Then you unleash the talent of the person and the team.

Here's why you need the third circle, organizational greatness. If you don't institutionalize the principles of the seven habits and the four leadership imperatives, the organization won't last. It's totally dependent on who happens to be the leader today. And the real test of leaders is that their successors do better than they.

3 Managing a business in tough economic times

Involve your people in the problem and work out solutions together. Don't try to use the top-down approach and say, "This is what we should do."

Let them become economically literate - on the industry, the economy and their own company - so you have a very open-book management style with the employees. It's risky initially, but as their education increases, the trust goes up and the risk goes down.

4 How his ideas apply to small firms

In small businesses, entrepreneurial businesses, sometimes it is so geared around one person with a vision. They try to wear all the hats, but their strengths become weaknesses.

I just finished talking to an entrepreneurs' group in San Antonio. I asked how many knew their strengths and how many knew their weaknesses, and all the hands went up. I asked how many had created a team to address their weaknesses, and just one-fifth of the hands went up.

The problem is ego. They invest in the old ways because the old ways brought success. Until people can emotionally accept it, they'll have a hard time without that team.

5 Finding your next career

The basic approach is to be a solution to their problem. Do your homework on the economy, the industry and the company. Interview associates, customers and suppliers, and get to know their concerns.

It takes a lot of work, which is why most people won't take this advice.

6 What he's working on now

I'm working on a book on the end of crime. We're researching different cities that have a new paradigm based on prevention, not just on finding the bad guys.

Another book is Blessed are the Peacemakers. It's for attorneys and people who hire them, on how to communicate.

Other books are on how to bring character education into schools, how universities can transform communities, and one for college students on management.

Then there will be Live Life in Crescendo, which says the most important work you're going to do is ahead of you, with your children and grandchildren.

It's geared toward serving your community, not what's in it for you.

7 The Highly Effective man's typical day

When I'm on the road, I'm speaking during the day and at night, and I do pro bono work with families. I work with businesses, health care, government, military, heads of state. They are hungry for this. They just don't know how to communicate and they fall into the old paradigm.

When I'm not on the road, I spend a lot of time with my book projects. I stay away from meetings, voicemail and e-mail.

I have a team that does that so I can spend time at home. I find I can get more done then.

We have nine children and the 50th grandchild on the way, so I organize a lot of family things.

towards excellence>>

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