Stephen Richards Covey (October 24, 1932 - July 16, 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and motivational speaker. His most popular book was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Stephen Covey was a successful man, not just in his career but also in his life of faith, his family life, and his relationships with friends and colleagues. A faithful Mormon, his religion and his relationship with God were central to his life.
His 7 Habits and later writings encouraged and inspired people in the world of business and beyond. With the advent of the twenty-first century and the Information Age, the challenges and complexity of work and human relationships greatly increased. Covey's insights motivated people to accept these challenges and be successful in ways that benefit not only individuals but society as a whole.
Stephen Covey was born on October 24, 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Stephen Glenn Covey and Irene Louise Richards Covey. Louise was the daughter of Stephen L Richards, an apostle and counselor in the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under David O. McKay. His parents constantly affirmed him in everything he did. Stephen had three sisters and a brother, John, whom he considered his best friend.
In high school he became interested in public speaking and debating. He entered the University of Utah at age 16, and graduated with a degree in business administration. His grandfather, Stephen Mack Covey, founded the original Little America, a successful hotel and truck stop near Granger, Wyoming and it was expected that he would take over the business. However, both Stephen and his brother John intended to become teachers and the business was sold.
A practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Stephen Covey went to England to serve his two-year mission for the LDS Church. He was quickly taken out of proselytizing and sent to Nottingham to train branch presidents of new congregations. Returning to the United States, he enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, he would on occasion preach to crowds on Boston Common. After completing his MBA, in July 1962 he returned to the mission field serving as the first president of the Irish Mission of the church.
Covey then returned to Utah, where he became assistant to the president of Brigham Young University and professor of business management, at the same time working on a Doctor of Religious Education (DRE). During his time as a missionary he met Sandra Merrill, who was traveling abroad with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They married on August 14, 1956, in the Salt Lake Temple. During his time in Provo, he and Sandra raised nine children (Cynthia, Maria, Stephen M.R., Sean, David, Catherine, Colleen, Jenny, and Joshua). Covey continued teaching at Brigham Young University until 1984, when he left teaching to establish the Covey Leadership Center.
In February 2010, Covey joined the faculty of Utah State University, receiving the first appointment to the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership. A research position, this allowed him to be a scholar and mentor to students, sharing his insights, knowledge, and experience to professors and administration as well.
During his long and successful career, Covey was awarded several honorary doctorates, including one from Utah State University. He also received numerous awards and honors from a variety of organizations for his work on leadership, including the Sikh's International Man of Peace Award and the International Entrepreneur of the Year Award.The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, which is part of the Huntsman School of Business, inducted him into the Shingo Academy in April 2002 He was inducted into the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum Hall of Fame on November 14, 2009
A dedicated family man, father of nine and grandfather of fifty-two (forty-four at that time), Covey received the Fatherhood Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2003.
Stephen Covey died at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on July 16, 2012, due to complications from a bicycle accident. His whole family—wife, siblings, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—attended the funeral service held at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University. All his sons and daughters gave tribute to their father, the man known to the world as a best selling author and influential speaker, and known to his family as a man who put family and faith first.
Covey achieved fame with the publication of his The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Prior to that, he authored several devotional works for Latter-day Saint or Mormon readers, including: Spiritual Roots of Human Relations (1970) and The Divine Center (1982).
In his books Covey argued against what he called the "Personality Ethic," something prevalent in many modern self-help books. Instead, he promoted the "Character Ethic": aligning one’s values with "universal and timeless" principles. Covey regarded principles and values as separate and distinct, viewing principles as external natural laws, while values remain internal and subjective. He claimed that values govern people's behavior, but principles ultimately determine the consequences.
Critics have argued that Covey's principles are not universal, but rather are grounded in the Mormon teachings. Covey's response was always that the principles are timeless, found in all major religions, and are basically common sense.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book that has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages. It is widely recognized as one of the best-selling business books of all time. The audio version is the best-selling nonfiction audio in history and the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies.
Covey's teachings take the form of a series of habits, manifesting as a progression from dependence via independence to interdependence. These "habits" extend from the personal level of individual character to interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and colleagues, to relationships between business and other organizations in society. Before being able to adopt the seven habits, however, Covey stated that a "paradigm shift"—a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works—is needed. The first section of the book focuses on going through this change which he illustrates by challenging the reader to imagine trying to find a location in Chicago by using a map of Detroit. Covey argued that people approach life with the wrong map, and it is only after a paradigm shift in which they start using the correct map that they can be successful.
The First Three Habits are concerned with moving from dependence to independence (self mastery):
- 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. This involves the realization that you are in control of your life, if not through action then through your attitude and reactions.
- Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. The step of seeing the end is the first part of any successful plan—create a mission statement.
- 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.
The next three habits have to do with Interdependence (working with others):
- 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 succeeds.
- 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 and adopt an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving. To implement this involves a paradigm shift in how communication is viewed—change from seeing it as a way to transmit information to others to understanding that communication flows both ways and flows most easily when resistance is lowered.
- Habit 6: Synergize
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could accomplish alone. In this way, the creative forces of everyone are combined to produce a result that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Last habit relates to self-rejuvenation:
- Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. The primary emphasis is on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, and so forth) and good reading for mental renewal. Service to the society is also recommended for spiritual renewal.
- Abundance mentality
Covey coined the idea of "abundance mentality" or "abundance mindset," a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and success to share with others. He contrasts it with the "scarcity mindset" (destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that if someone else wins, or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning in a given situation. In game theory, the scarcity mindset corresponds to viewing the situation as a zero-sum rather than a non-zero-sum game. Individuals with an abundance mentality are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it. Covey later argued that the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security (see Habits 1, 2, and 3), and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition, and responsibility.
- Upward spiral
Covey explained the "upward spiral" model as part of the "inside out" approach—private victories precede public victories, improve oneself before improving relationships with others. The upward spiral model consists of three parts: learn, commit, do. According to Covey, one must increasingly educate the conscience in order to grow and develop on the upward spiral. Through the conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the upward spiral results in growth, change, and constant improvement. In essence, one is always attempting to integrate and master the principles outlined in the 7 Habits at progressively higher levels at each iteration—thus progressing upward along a spiral path.
The 8th Habit
In 2004, Covey published The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness as a sequel to The Seven Habits. With the greater challenges and complexity in relationships, families, professional lives, and communities that have emerged in the twenty-first century, effectiveness is not enough. Covey's book addresses how to move beyond effectiveness to greatness.
The eighth habit, which Covey said is what is needed in the Information Age of the Knowledge Worker, is to "Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs." The book details how, after finding their own voice, a leader inspires others to recognize their own worth and potential creating a vibrant and effective workplace where all people feel engaged and inspired to succeed.
The Leader in Me
The Leader in Me—How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time tells the story of how some schools, parents, and business leaders have incorporated the 7 Habits into their educational programs as they faced the challenge of preparing the next generation to meet the great challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.
In particular, the book shows how an elementary school in Raleigh, North Carolina, decided to try incorporating The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and other basic leadership skills into the curriculum in unique and creative ways. They taught the principles of personal leadership and effectiveness found in the 7 Habits to elementary school students, using everyday language and ideas appropriate for young children. Teachers and parents were also trained in the principles, creating a common language and culture that supported the educational process.
Inspired by the success of Principal Muriel Summers and the teachers and staff at this school in Raleigh, other schools and parents around the world have adopted the approach and have seen remarkable results.
Covey established the "Covey Leadership Center" which, in 1997, merged with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey, a global professional-services firm and specialty-retailer selling training and productivity-tools to individuals and to organizations. Their mission is to "enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere" and, according to their website, they provide "content, tools, methodology, training and thought leadership" to "deliver not just incremental, but transformational results"
Covey developed his book The Leader in Me into several education-related projects. FranklinCovey also established a website dedicated exclusively to the Leader In Me concept, They hold conferences and workshops to train elementary school administrators who want to integrate the Leader In Me process into their school's academic culture.
While his contributions to the world have been remarkable, we know he measured his success in the individual lives of those he taught. We are grateful for the time and effort he invested here with each of us as the first Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership, sharing his insights, talking with our students and helping us refine a vision of the kind of leaders we can all be. He has left a legacy that will continue to inspire individuals and organizations to lift and bless the lives of others.
Following Covey's death, Utah State University made plans to establish the Stephen R. Covey Center for Leadership in his honor. Covey had initiated this project, donating his salary from his position as chair in leadership at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business since 2010.
In addition to the work directly inspired by Covey and his writings, his children have also carried on his legacy. Stephen Covey's eldest son, Stephen M.R. Covey, served as CEO of the Covey Leadership Center for several years, orchestrating its merger with Franklin Quest in 1997. He wrote a book entitled The Speed of Trust which shows that trust, and the speed with which it is established, is the most important component of success in the global economy: establishing trust is "the one thing that changes everything."
Covey's son Sean received an MBA from Harvard and became Executive Vice President of Innovation for FranklinCovey. Sean Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, which presents the 7 Habits he learned as a "guinea pig" for his father's theories applied to the world of teenagers, addressing the issues and decisions they face: improving self-image, building friendships, resisting peer pressure, achieving goals, getting along with their parents, and so forth, using humor and cartoons to get the points across. For example, he explains the 7 Habits by showing their opposites, entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Defective Teens," which include "react by blaming others; put first things last; begin with no goal in mind; don't cooperate; think win-lose; seek first to talk, then pretend to listen; and wear yourself out." Sean Covey also published The 6 Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make: A Guide for Teens which highlights key issues in the life of a teen and gives advice on how to deal with them: school, friends, parents, dating and sex, addictions, self-worth. and The 7 Habits of Happy Kids which introduces the 7 habits in the form of stories suitable for younger children.
- Spiritual Roots of Human Relations. Deseret Book Company, 1993 (original 1970). ISBN 978-0875797052
- The Divine Center. Deseret Book Company, 2004 (original 1982). ISBN 978-1590384046
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press, 2004 (original 1989). ISBN 978-0743269513
- Principle Centered Leadership. Fireside Press, 1992 (original 1990). ISBN 978-0671792800
- First Things First, co-authored with Roger and Rebecca Merrill. Free Press, 1996 (original 1994). ISBN 978-0684802039
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Simon & Schuster, 1999. ISBN 978-0684860084
- Living the Seven Habits. Free Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0684857169
- 6 Events: The Restoration Model for Solving Life's Problems. Deseret Book Company, 2004. ISBN 978-1573451871
- The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Free Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0684846651
- The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child At a Time. Free Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1439103265
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Network Marketing Professionals. FranklinCovey/ Sound Concepts, 2009. ISBN 978-1933057781
- The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems. Free Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1451626261
- The 7 Habits for Managers: Managing Yourself, Leading Others, Unleashing Potential. Franklin Covey/Brilliance Audio, 2012. ISBN 978-1455892907
- Pat Reavy, Influential author Stephen R. Covey remembered as 'Papa' who put family first Deseret News, July 21, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Timothy K. Smith, What's so effective about Stephen Covey? The author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People sells a message of moral renewal, and corporate America is buying it. Is this a good thing? Fortune Magazine, December 12, 1994. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Clayton Christensen, My Story About Stephen Covey—fellow Mormon, teacher and friend Washington Post, July 17, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- David Woods, Influential HR thinker Stephen R Covey (1932-2012) HR Magazine, July 18, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Stephen R. Covey Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Grace Leong, Stephen Covey to join USU's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business Daily Herald, February 18, 2010. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Erin Hong and Blaze Bullock, Stephen Covey's achievements Deseret News, July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Covey Joins Faculty, Collaborates with Shingo Prize Reliable Plant. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Covey selected for Utah Hall of Fame Deseret News, October 29, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Tom Harvey, ‘7 Habits’ gave business guru Stephen R. Covey fame, fortune The Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Bill Gordon, A Closer Look At Stephen Covey And His 7 Habits, Apologetics Index. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Will Edwards, Stephen R Covey - Biography Inspiration. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Stephen Gandel, The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books TIME Magazine, August 9, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Black Book, Summary & Analysis: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen R. Covey (2018, 978-1793288622).
- Larry English, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Information Professionals, Part 7 Information Management, September 1, 2004. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Michael S. Josephson and Wes Hanson (eds.), The Power of Character (Josephson Institute & Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2004, ISBN 978-1588321060), 103.
- Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (Free Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0684846651).
- The 7 Habits Inspire Teachers & Students Worldwide Business Wire, October 5, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- About Us FranklinCovey. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- What is The Leader In Me? Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- How do Schools Implement The Leader in Me? Retrieved April 30, 2019.
- Jasen Lee, Stephen Covey leaves lasting business legacy Deseret News, July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- The Associated Press, Utah State aims to launch center in honor of Stephen Covey Deseret News, July 30 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust (Free Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1416549000).
- Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens (Touchstone, 1998, ISBN 978-0684856094).
- Sean Covey, The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens (Touchstone, 2006, ISBN 978-0743265041).
- Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2008, ISBN 978-1416957768).
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Black Book, Summary & Analysis: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen R. Covey. 2018. 978-1793288622
- Covey, Sean. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens. Touchstone, 1998. ISBN 978-0684856094
- Covey, Sean. The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens. Touchstone, 2006. ISBN 978-0743265041
- Covey, Sean. The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2008. ISBN 978-1416957768
- Covey, Stephen M.R. The Speed of Trust. Free Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1416549000
- Josephson, Michael S., and Wes Hanson (eds.). The Power of Character. Josephson Institute & Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2004. ISBN 978-1588321060
All links retrieved February 9, 2023.
- FranklinCovey's official site
- Stephen Covey at the Internet Movie Database
- Global Dharma Center's interview with Stephen Covey on Spiritual Based Leadership
- The Leader in Me
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