My Tribute to Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey died yesterday. We lost an important thinker in the life and career success world. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, sold over 20 million copies. I love this book. I try to live my life by the seven habits. Check them out…

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

Habit 6: Synergize

Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (mediation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.

While I think that all of the habits are important, I have benefited the most from applying Habit 4 – Think Win-Win in my life.

I discuss the idea of thinking win-win in Rule 38 in my career advice book 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success

When you’re in conflict with someone, instead of focusing on where you disagree, focus on where you agree.”

Interpersonally competent people resolve conflict in a positive manner. No matter how interpersonally competent you are, or how easy going you are, you will inevitably find yourself in conflict. People will not always agree with you, and you will not always agree with others.

My favorite method for dealing with conflict is counter intuitive. By definition, conflict is a state of disagreement. When I’m in conflict with someone however, instead of focusing on where we disagree, I focus on where we agree.

This is a great way to not only resolve conflict positively, it helps strengthen relationships. And, as we all know, conflict often leads to a deterioration of relationships. So to me this approach is a no brainer. First, you get to resolve conflict positively. Second, you strengthen your relationships.

I look for any small point of agreement and then try to build on it. This is win-win thinking. I find that it is easier to reach a larger agreement when I build from a point of small agreement, rather than attempting to tear down the other person’s points with which I don’t agree.

Most people don’t do this. They get caught up in proving their point. They see things from a win-lose perspective. If I win, you lose. If you win, I lose. It doesn’t have to be this way. These folks hold on to their position even more strongly when they feel as if someone is attacking it.

If you turn around the discussion and say, “Let’s focus where we agree, and see if we can build something from there,” you are making the situation less personal. Now the two of you are working together to figure out a mutually agreeable solution to your disagreement. You’re not tearing down one another’s arguments just to get your way. Try this. It works.

President Obama demonstrated this in his first speech to a joint session of Congress. As he was winding up his talk, he said…

“I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

“And if we do — if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.”

Regardless of your political views, the President is right on with this one. When you come together with the people with whom you are in conflict by identifying some small point on which you agree, when you think win-win, you are putting yourself in the position to begin building a resolution to the conflict – one that is likely to better than either side’s opening position. And, by working together, you’ll be strengthening your relationship. This will facilitate even more effective conflict resolution down the road. Look for common ground. When you find it, build on it. You’ll find that this is a great way to resolve conflict in a manner than enhances, not destroys relationships.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Stephen Covey passed away yesterday. The career advice in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, 3) put first things first, 4) think win-win, 5) seek first to understand, then to be understood, 6) synergize, 7) sharpen the saw — is something from which we can all benefit. Habit 4, think win-win has been the most helpful to me in my life and career success journey. Which is most helpful to you?

That’s my career advice on the passing of Stephen Covey. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.