I got to see Stephen Covey present recently. I’ve long admired his work. Here are some of the most meaningful takeaways I got:
1. “The key to leadership is moral authority.”
You don’t have to have a title to live by a high moral code: no one would question Gandhi as a revered leader yet he never served in government. Nelson Mandela acquired his leadership from 26 years in jail protesting apartheid.
Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.
2. “The key to life is not accumulation; it’s contribution.”
Covey extolled the virtues of being a servant leader.
3. Our choices determine our growth and happiness
We are the only species that has the ability to choose how we respond to any given situation. We should strive to expand the gap between stimulus and response. Letting others control our responses takes away a powerful freedom.
Animals react. The less we are reactive, the more control we have over our happiness.
4. To succeed in the 21st Century, we must be knowledge workers unleashing the talent of others
90% of hunter – gatherers were downsized when the agricultural age came along. 90% of farmers were downsized when the industrial age came along. Now 90% of industrial workers are being downsized as we move into the information age. We must be knowledge workers helping others be the same. Treat your team as partners who can make a unique contribution.
5. Finding your voice means listening to four things: the needs of others; your passion; your talents and your conscience.
6. Write a mission statement and spend time visualizing what you want in your future.
“Writing your mission statement imprints the subconscious mind. So does visualizing. It makes you free of your environment and genetic tendencies.”
If you have under-performing people on your team, check to see how much they buy into your company’s mission statement.
7. Paradigm shifts often come when we learn from the best in other fields
London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital was concerned how safely patients were being transferred from surgery to intensive care. While watching a Formula One race on television during a break, one doctor had the wild idea to study how the Ferrari pit stop crew was able to do so much work on a car in so little time. What they learned and implemented has had a dramatically positive impact that has saved many lives.
Victor Frankl, the Austrian concentration camp survivor, learned under Nazi torture that the one freedom that could not be taken away was one’s freedom to choose one’s response under any circumstance.
In order to make significant change in your life, you have to change your paradigm – including your beliefs – about how you currently see yourself and what’s possible for you. When it comes to having your own dramatic paradigm shift to enable you to succeed, consider this: Frankl was a human being; you are a human being. If he could have a dramatic shift, you can too. You are perfectly capable of achieving great things.
8. Improve your self-awareness by keeping a journal
“Light is the greatest disinfectant and growth agent.” Reflecting on what’s happening in your life and why you are getting the results you are getting can help one take more responsibility and handle situations proactively.
9. Spend increasingly more time on things that are important but not urgent.
Financial planning and exercise are two great examples. Study his four quadrants of time management for more insights on applying this. Read his excellent book, First Things First.
10. Live life in crescendo
Covey mentioned that this is the title of one of 10 books that he is working on. The wonderful theme of the book is that your best work should always be ahead of you. “Never retire from making a significant contribution.”
There are good forms of pressure – eustress – that keep you on top of your game and keep you young. All those who live a very long life maintain a sense of purpose.
11. Become a trim tab
This tab is the tiny part of a rudder that even changes the direction of huge cruise liners. Covey’s point was that one person can make a difference. Identify a need and then ask yourself: “How can I be a part of the solution?”
12. There is no success in life if there is not success at home.
Nurture love at home and in your family.
Whether this serves purely as a reminder that you too can have profound paradigm shifts with enough self-belief, or you are asking: “How can I serve others better?” or you start keeping a journal again, Covey’s work continues to make a difference – and so can yours!