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Stephen Covey's 'Habits' Spanned Business, Life

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Stephen Covey's 'Habits' Spanned Business, Life


Stephen Covey's 'Habits' Spanned Business, Life

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A guru of management and self-help has died. Stephen Covey wrote "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." He was 79. His family said his death stemmed from the residual effects of a bike accident earlier this year. As NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, Covey's book is considered one of the most influential guides for business managers.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Stephen Covey's "7 Habits" was first published in 1989 and was on The New York Times best-seller list for more than five years. Covey, according to his longtime publicist, had examined the literature surrounding success over the past two centuries. He then turned what he learned into catchy notions - a mega hit - and a publishing and consulting empire. As a young man, Covey was planning to go into the family business. But as he told a convocation of students at Montana State University back in 2008, his plans changed. The leader of a volunteer organization he'd been working with asked him to train other leaders. At first, he demurred. He felt it was outside his comfort zone.


STEPHEN COVEY: But he said to me, I see that you have the ability to do this. I will help you. You don't have to be a great font of wisdom. You just bring people together to get them to share best practices and to learn to collaborate and to become creative with each other. He helped me, and I found my voice.

KAUFMAN: His "7 Habits" book begins by urging people to move from dependence to independence or self-mastery. So number one is be proactive, take initiative and accept the consequences; number two, begin with the end in mind. And the list goes on - put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; and his last admonition, sharpen the saw, focus on self-renewal.

JENNIFER CHATMAN: His impact has been enormous, and it really has spanned not just the business world but how to live your life.

KAUFMAN: Jennifer Chatman is a management expert at the UC Berkeley business school.

CHATMAN: His brilliance was in boiling down some life practices that lead to action in a way that people could get their arms around and digest, and it seemed actionable and doable and contained and straightforward.

KAUFMAN: None of it, Chatman says, was complex or very sopsitcated, but many Fortune 500 companies embraced it. He became a management consultant to lots and lots of them, and many of those companies still rely on those seven basic principles.

More than 800 schools worldwide have also embraced his ideas. The first was the A.B. Combs School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Following the Columbine shootings, the school was looking for a way to improve the school environment and student performance. The school's principal is Muriel Summers.

MURIEL SUMMERS: Our children are making better decisions. We're seeing a huge decline in discipline. We're seeing an increase in test scores. We're seeing more engaged families because we also are teaching our families "The 7 Habits" along with our children, and so it's pretty amazing what is happening.

KAUFMAN: And her words would likely be music to Stephen Covey's ears. He loved inspiring and working with young children. He had more than 50 grandchildren of his own, and his publicist said today, she thinks Covey would most want to be remembered for being a good family man. Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.


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