In Celebration of Steven Covey

Posted by Dave Hoy on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 @ 06:48 AM




Steven Covey, author of many outstanding books on management and leadership including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle Centred Leadership, died this past week. He had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on individuals and teams in organizations. Over the past twenty years his work has significantly influenced my own approach to leadership, my work with clients, and my personal life. In the field of leadership and organizational development, Steven covey was a giant. He is a legend. His life’s work should be celebrated.  


Over the years we have strived to embrace the work of Steven Covey. Here is how three of the 7 Habits and Principles have been embedded in our approach.

The habit of “Seek first to understand before being understood yourself”, is infused in our approach to virtually all the work we do with our clients. It is at the heart of interpersonal effectiveness.  It is the essence of team understanding. When we introduce it to our clients we express it as a focus around four elements of extraordinary listening. 

  • Pay Attention  - Stay in the moment, eliminate distractions and focus on what is being said by other individual(s).

  • WAIT – Listen first before responding. Listen, respecting others in the conversation.

  • Be Curious – Ask insightful open-ended questions that facilitate a depth of understand

  • Prove You Understand – Summarize and Paraphrase what is heard, pausing to ensure you have it right.


Covey’s first habit of “First Things First” and second habit “Begin with the End in Mind” are essential for both leaders and organizations.  Clarity and alignment to personal and organizational purpose is fundamental to success. The habits speak to the need for definition of purpose, priorities and approach.  I first heard this quote when reading Principle Centred Leadership and it has a significant impact our work.

“A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”
– Old Proverb

When working with clients this is the point of entry into our relationship with them. We believe it is important to think and act strategically. Taking the time to define, build shared understanding, and ensure common commitment to purpose and priorities as essential. Having a bias and focus on execution of what is truly strategically important knits purpose.


I am grateful for having the opportunity to read and understand much of Steven Covey’s books including The 8th Habit, which elevates the habit of  “thinking win-win” to a whole new level. I have on many occasions engaged clients in conflict resolution situations to use Covey’s two norms of …”would we agree to not comment on what the other has said until we truly have demonstrated understanding, and would we agree to seek solutions that are different and better that what either one of us is currently proposing”.  This works! It has a calming effect on participants. It gives people faith that they will be heard and it opens the door for new thinking and problem solving.  The world would not have these tools for constructive dialogue were in not for Steven Covey.


I was aware that Covey was injured in a cycling accident. I was stunned and saddened when I heard of his passing. The world has lost an amazing leader and thinker. He leaves a great legacy that lives on in his family, in what he has written and his many videos. 

What can we do to continue to embrace his legacy of leadership?

How do you embrace the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

About Dave Hoy

Dave’s first career was as a highly successful national champion college basketball coach. He shifted careers to work in organizational development and over the past 20 years has brought his passion and experience in leadership and facilitation to dozens of organizations supporting; individuals, teams and entire organizations achieve high levels of performance and extraordinary results. Dave holds a M.A from the University of Alberta, an MBA in Human Resources from Royal Roads University and is an ICF Certified Executive Coach.


Tags: strategic planning implementation and execution, Dave Hoy, Leadership, New Managers, Leadership Development