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In the more than fifteen years since its publication, the classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has become an international phenomenon with over fifteen million copies sold. Tens of millions of people in business, government, schools, and families, and, most important, as individuals have dramatically improved their lives and organizations by applying the principles of Stephen R. Covey's classic book. The world, though, is a vastly changing place. The challenges and complexity we all face in our relationships, families, professional lives, and communities are of an entirely new order of magnitude. Being effective as individuals and organizations is not longer merely an option--survival in today's world requires it. But in order to thrive, innovate, excel, and lead in what Covey calls the new Knowledge Worker Age, we must build on and move beyond effectiveness. The call of this new era in human history is for greatness; it's for fulfillment, passionate execution, and significant contribution. Accessing the higher levels of human genius and motivation in today's new reality requires a sea change in thinking: a new mind-set, a new skill-set, a new tool-set--in short, a whole new habit. The crucial challenge of our world today is this: to find our voice and inspire others to find theirs. It is what Covey calls the 8th Habit. So many people feel frustrated, discouraged, unappreciated and undervalued--with little or not sense of voice or unique contribution. The 8th Habit is the answer to the soul's yearning for greatness, the organization's imperative for significance and superior results, and humanity's search for its "voice". Profound, compelling and stunningly timely, this groundbreaking new book of next-level thinking gives a clear way to finally tap the limitless value-creation promise of the Knowledge Worker Age. Covey's new book will transform the way we think about ourselves and our purpose in life, about our organizations, and about humankind. Just as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helped us focus on effectiveness, The 8th Habit shows us the way to greatness.
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Dr. Stephen R. Covey is an internationally respected leadership authority, teacher, author, organizational consultant, and co-founder and vice chairman of Franklin Covey Co. He is author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which Chief Executive magazine has called the most influential business book of the last 100 years. The book has sold nearly 20 million copies, and after 20 years, still holds a place on most best-seller lists. Dr. Covey earned an MBA from Harvard and a doctorate from BYU, where he was a professor of organizational behavior. For more than 40 years, he has taught millions of people — including leaders of nations and corporations — the transforming power of the principles that govern individual and organizational effectiveness. He and his wife live in the Rocky Mountains of Utah.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 3: The Solution
There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."1 This book is dedicated to striking at the root of the significant problems we face.
We've started with the pain; we've explored the underlying problem -- one that has personal roots and that involves a deeply imbedded paradigm and set of traditions in the workplace. Now let's set the context for the solution and give an overview of how it will be unfolded in the remainder of the book.
I've worked with organizations around the world for over forty years and have been a student of the findings of the great minds who have studied organizations. Most of the great cultural shifts -- ones that have built great organizations that sustain long-term growth, prosperity and contribution to the world -- started with the choice of one person. Sometimes that one person was the formal leader -- the CEO or president. Very often it started with someone else -- a professional, a line manager, someone's assistant. Regardless of their position, these people first changed themselves from the inside out. Their character, competence, initiative and positive energy -- in short, their moral authority -- inspired and lifted others. They possessed an anchored sense of identity, discovered their strengths and talents, and used them to meet needs and produce results. People noticed. They were given more responsibility. They magnified the new responsibility and again produced results. More and more people sat up and noticed. Top people wanted to learn of their ideas -- how they accomplished so much. The culture was drawn to their vision and to them.
People like this just don't get sucked into or pulled down for long by all the negative, demoralizing, insulting forces in the organization. And interestingly, their organizations are no better than most organizations. To some degree, they're all a mess. These people just realize that they can't wait for their boss or the organization to change. They become an island of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. And it's contagious.
Where does a person get such internal strength to swim against the current and to withstand negative cultural provocations, subordinate selfish interests and develop and sustain such vision and determination?
They learn of their true nature and gifts. They use them to develop a vision of great things they want to accomplish. With wisdom they take initiative and cultivate great understanding of the needs and opportunities around them. They meet those needs that match their unique talents, that tap their higher motivations and that make a difference. In short, they find and use their voice. They serve and inspire others. They apply PRINCIPLES that govern growth and prosperity in human beings AND in organizations -- principles that draw the highest and best from a "whole person" -- body, mind, heart and spirit. Equally significant, they also choose to influence and inspire others to find their voice through these principles as well.
This two-part solution -- Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs -- is a road map for individuals at ANY level of an organization to maximize their fulfillment and influence, become an irreplaceable contributor, and inspire their team and the broader organization to do the same. Accordingly, the book is organized into two main sections:
1. Find Your Voice
2. Inspire Others to Find Their Voice
Let's briefly introduce each.
Find Your Voice
Everyone chooses one of two roads in life -- the old and the young, the rich and the poor, men and women alike. One is the broad, well-traveled road to mediocrity, the other the road to greatness and meaning. The range of possibilities that exists within each of these two destinations is as wide as the diversity of gifts and personalities in the human family. But the contrast between the two destinations is as the night is to the day.
The path to mediocrity straitjackets human potential. The path to greatness unleashes and realizes human potential. The path to mediocrity is the quick-fix, short-cut approach to life. The path to greatness is a process of sequential growth from the inside out. Travelers on the lower path to mediocrity live out the cultural "software" of ego, indulgence, scarcity, comparison, competitiveness and victimism. Travelers on the upper path to greatness rise above negative cultural influences and choose to become the creative force of their lives. One word expresses the pathway to greatness. Voice. Those on this path find their voice and inspire others to find theirs. The rest never do.
The Soul's Search for Meaning
Deep within each one of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution -- to really matter, to really make a difference. We may doubt ourselves and our ability to do so, but I want you to know of my deep conviction that you can live such a life. You have the potential within you. We all do. It is the birthright of the human family.
I once visited with the commander of a military base who was truly on fire with his commitment to undertake a significant cultural change inside his organization. He had been in the service for over thirty years, was a full colonel, and was eligible for retirement that very year. After he had been teaching and training his organization for many months I asked him why he planned to stay on and undertake such a major initiative -- one that would require swimming upstream against the tremendous resisting forces of tradition, lethargy, indifference and low trust. I even said to him, "You could relax. You'd have a good retirement. Award banquets would be held in your honor. Loved ones and associates would celebrate you."
He became very sober, paused for a long time and then decided to share with me a very personal, almost sacred, experience. He said that his father had recently passed away. When the father was on his deathbed, he called his wife and son (the colonel) to him to say good-bye. He could barely speak. His wife wept during the entire visit; the son drew down close to his father, and his father whispered into his ear, "Son, don't do life like I did. I didn't do right by you or by your mother and never really made a difference. Son, promise me you won't do life like I did."
Those were the last words the colonel heard from his father, who passed away shortly thereafter. But he regarded them as the greatest gift and legacy his father could have ever given him. He made his mind up then and there that he was going to make a difference -- in every area of his life.
Later the colonel told me privately that he had been planning to retire and relax. In fact, he had secretly hoped that his successor would not do as well as he had and that this would be obvious and apparent to all. But when he had this epiphany with his father, he determined not only to become a change catalyst in building principles of enduring leadership into the culture of his command but also to see to it that his successor would be more successful than he had been. By striving to institutionalize these leadership principles into the structures, systems and processes of his organization, he would increase the likelihood of passing on his legacy one leader-generation to another.
He said further, that up until that experience with his father, he had knowingly taken the easier road, acting basically in a custodial role in the traditions of the past, and that he had chosen a life of mediocrity. But with his father, he resolved, as never before, to live a life of greatness, a life of real contribution, a life of significance -- one that really made a difference.
All of us can consciously decide to leave behind a life of mediocrity and to live a life of greatness -- at home, at work and in the community. No matter what our circumstances may be, such a decision can be made by every one of us -- whether that greatness is manifest by choosing to have a magnificent spirit in facing an incurable disease, by simply making a difference in the life of a child, giving that child a sense of worth and potential, by becoming a change-catalyst inside an organization, or by becoming an initiator of a great cause in society. We all have the power to decide to live a great life, or even simpler, to have not only a good day but a great day. No matter how long we've walked life's pathway to mediocrity, we can always choose to switch paths. Always. It's never too late. We can find our voice.
Once you make the choice to follow this "road less traveled," the pathway to finding your own voice is to:
1. Discover Your Voice by coming to understand your true nature -- what I call three magnificent birth-gifts (chapter 4) and by developing and using with integrity the intelligence tied to each of the four parts of your nature.
2. Express Your Voice by cultivating the highest manifestations of these human intelligences -- vision, discipline, passion and conscience (chapter 5).
Film: Discovery of a Character
I would like to share with you a powerful, true story that embodies this process of finding your voice. Several years ago, our firm participated with our local PBS station in broadcasting a video dramatization we developed and filmed in England. The central figure in this remarkable story is an Englishman who transcended a childhood spent as a street urchin to become a reasonably successful writer with a nice home and a loving family. At the time of the story, however, he had developed "writer's block." It seemed his creativity had turned off. His debts were mounting. He was under tremendous deadline pressure from the publisher. He was becoming more and more depressed. He began to fear that his own children would end up on the streets like ...
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