Jul 20

A Key Insight That I Got From Stephen Covey

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Dr. Stephen Covey, internationally renowned author, leadership guru, and motivational speaker passed away on July 16, 2012 from complications following a bicycle accident in April. He was 79.

Through his books and his teachings he has impacted the lives of millions of people around the world. His best-known book “The 7 Habits of  Highly Effective People” has sold more than 20 million copies in 40 languages. In 1996, Time magazine named him as one of the 25 most influential Americans. Stephen Covey helped his readers and followers to become more effective and productive in their lives. He made teaching principle-centred leadership his life’s work.

“With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”

-Stephen Covey during a seminar in Bangkok in 2004

“With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”

- Stephen Covey during a seminar in Bangkok in 2004

I am a fast paced person, an action – oriented leader. Sometimes (and maybe even occasionally today), I used to push too quickly for agreement among my leadership team members, my project team members or the whole organization. As a result of that, sometimes I didn’t have enough support and commitment from my team members.

Therefore, attending a seminar by Stephen Covey in 2004 in Bangkok, produced a real “Aha!” – moment for me. “With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”,  Covey stated. He mentioned that the process of setting up win – win agreements with people is usually slow. But once a win – win agreement is in place, the work will go fast. As a leader, you can make a quality decision, but if there isn’t commitment to it by your team members, it won’t be effective.

At that moment, I recalled our monthly meetings with my leadership team. I realized that, from time to time, I had pushed too fast for agreement when I introduced a new idea, new projects or a new initiative. Obviously, I did not spend enough time to generate better buy – in. Sometimes, I had discussed a new project or initiative only with some of the leadership team members, but not with all of them. Therefore, when I introduced the project in our monthly meeting, some colleagues were not able to connect the dots and to figure out how the new project fitted to the other existing projects and helped reaching our company’s overall goals. For an action – oriented, impatient leader like myself, it is a tough situation, because I want things to happen fast and smoothly rather than waiting “forever” for people “to get on board”.

Nevertheless, as a result of my attendance of Stephen Covey’s seminar, I started consciously doing what originally felt wrong or seemed to be too slow. I started spending considerably more time on giving my colleagues the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and to maximize the probability that they will buy – in to the new project or initiative. As a result, I experienced much less conflict and resistance than before, when I used to follow my natural desire to push things through quickly. Over time, I realized the importance of personally slowing down so that the organization can speed up.

Stephen Covey had an enormous impact on both the corporate world and the personal lives of millions. He has been a major influence in my career and life. Sean Covey, one of the sons of Stephen Covey, has written a book titled “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” based on his father’s most popular book. I bought it for my son when he was 8 years old to teach him good habits.

Stephen Covey made a significant contribution to the world. He will be sorely missed and his teachings will always be remembered. And he will serve as a source of inspiration for generations to come.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012 at 09:37 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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