The challenge of our world is this: To find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.
He was an entrepreneur, organizational guru. You name it. The late Stephen R. Covey had seen and done it all when it came to helping people from all walks of life realize the greatness that lies within them. His first book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, was chosen as the most influential business book of the 20th Century by Forbes magazine. In 1996, Time magazine named Covey one of the 25 most influential Americans. Tens of millions of people in business, government, schools and families have greatly benefited by applying the principles of Covey’s classic book. Even though the world is a vastly different place than when Covey wrote his groundbreaking book in 1989, the principles in the book still ring true today.
In 2005 I was able to interview him about his then new book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, his ties to the direct selling industry and how everyone, regardless of business background, can find their true voice while inspiring others to find theirs. Here is the full interview from the archives:
Was there a particular spark that ignited your decision to write The 8th Habit?
SC: Well, I think the key thing that caused me to get into this material was an awareness that came about five or six years ago of how the shift from the industrial age to the knowledge worker economy has become so profound. The world has changed drastically since The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published in 1989. Being effective as individuals and organizations is no longer enough in today’s world. In this new “Knowledge Worker Age,” people will be required to build on and reach beyond effectiveness. The call for this new age is for greatness and a longing to gain fulfillment, experience passion and to contribute to society. Getting access to these higher levels of human genius and motivation requires a new mindset, a new skill set, a new tool set; essentially an entirely new habit. The 8th Habit is about finding your voice while inspiring others to find theirs.
You spent years of research in preparation for The 8th Habit. Can you tell us a little about the fact-gathering process that led you to your findings?
SC: For instance, I found that throughout most of the 20th century, only 20 to 30 percent of the value-added goods and services came from knowledge work. Today, it’s 70 to 80 percent. This points to the absolute necessity to get out of the industrial age practices, which suppress the release of human potential, and into the “Knowledge Worker Age” that unleashes and realizes the greatness of human potential. We also gathered all kinds of data on how alienated most people are in their job environments and how much compartmentalization and lack of trust there is, how disempowered and frustrated people are.
From what we’ve learned, your findings are being confirmed by many that attend your speaking engagements. Tell us a little about the feedback you’ve received so far.
SC: I ask two questions of the audience right up front that really hit them hard. The first one is, “How many of you have achieved your level of success, whatever it may be, partly or largely because someone believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself?” You’ll find that immediately about 60 to 70 percent of the hands in the room will go up. And if you listen to their stories, they become very tearful and emotional and so authentic and real that others around them also become quite emotional. You come to realize that we need to affirm people’s worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.
The second question I ask points out the disempowerment that is out there. I ask them, “How many agree that the vast majority of the workforce possesses a lot more talent and capacity and passion and intelligence and creativity then their present jobs require or even allow them to use?” Nearly every hand goes up. It just goes to prove that the industrial age model is really sick and even though it’s still the dominant model, it’s becoming increasingly obsolete. It suppresses the human spirit so terribly.
Does The 8th Habit make the other 7 Habits irrelevant?
SC: I get this question a lot and the answer is no. The 7 Habits are more essential than ever. The greater the change and more difficult the challenges, the more relevant they become. The 7 Habits are about becoming highly effective. They represent a complete framework of timeless principles. The 8th Habit is not about adding one more habit to the other 7, it’s about seeing and harnessing the power of a third dimension to the 7 Habits that meets the central challenge of the new Knowledge Worker Age. The 7 Habits are the foundation and are based on general truths like taking responsibility, being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, thinking win-win and using the golden rule. These are all foundations of general truths that are accepted throughout society. But to find your voice, coupled with your unique calling to inspire others to find their voice is a very a personal truth.
In your opinion, how does this yearning for people to find one’s voice tie in with direct selling?
SC: In my mind, the direct selling industry finds a huge market in people who are frustrated with their current situation. These are people who are disenchanted and who are broken in spirit that are looking for some kind of entrepreneurial opportunity where they can really use their talent and their passion towards a greater good. Direct selling helps affirm these people’s worth and potential and can open up a whole new alternative income stream that can make a huge difference in their life. I’ve worked with many in the direct selling industry, and I’m pretty familiar with the kinds of realities facing the industry. These are the people that are trying to find their voice.
What advice would you give someone who was looking at starting a direct selling business? What are some of the things they can look for in a company that will help them find their voice?
SC: For those people who are excited about the direct selling concept, they need to choose a company they can get passionate about, making sure they find a particular product or service that really meets a human need, and most importantly, gets them excited. Having a great compensation plan and the financial benefits of the opportunity are equally important, but there needs to be a balance. I think to find a person’s voice means that you are serving in a very motivating and meaningful way the human need as well as serving your own need for financial independence.
What can happen to someone who is solely focused on the money aspect of the business and is neglectful of the benefits a product/service can have for people who need it?
SC: Financial success is a secondary success. Primary success is about character and contribution. I have worked with many successful people who have made a lot of money in the direct selling industry, and I’ve found that a singular focus on financial rewards can gradually change a person. It changes their motivation, and it can change the quality of their integrity as well as their family life. Even number one objective, you will not be able to affirm other people’s worth and potential to help them find their voice.
I think this could be a very unique exercise for your readers to learn more about the nature of the product and services they sell and he needs they serve. There is a hunger out there to represent a service that really is a peacemaking or healing service instead of just making people richer.
Could you explain more about the four dimensions that make up the Whole-Person Paradigm?
SC: At the core, there is one simple, overarching reason why so many people remain unsatisfied in their work. The fundamental reality is human beings are not things needing to be motivated and controlled; they are four-dimensional–body, mind, heart and spirit. The body basically deals with the physical and economic side. This is where you deal with your physical well being, your physical intelligence as well as your economic well being and success. It’s that financial independence that gives you the flexibility to do a lot of things with your family, giving service and so forth. The mind has to do with the development of one’s talents. The heart deals with your natural inclination and passions. And finally, the spirit has to do with the meaningfulness of the product or service you provide and how it meets a human need. Lastly, it deals with living with total integrity and a peace of conscience, void of offense toward God and man.
Peace of conscience is so much greater than peace of mind, where you’re not worried about finances and other worries. Peace of conscience gives you a sense of calling. I really do believe that when we are born, our work is born with us and we have to find out what that is. And for many, direct selling is the work that they were called to do. You can hear it when they get on stage and tell their story. They have found their voice and are doing exactly what they were born to do.
How is your concept of finding your voice much like “finding your ‘Why'” -a common phrase used within direct selling companies that helps business owners remember “why” they started their business in the first place?
SC: I really like the concept of finding your ”Why” because it is so similar to finding your voice. No matter what term you use, it’s important to learn that everyone is unique in their own way. You cannot try to mold someone in your image. They must find their own style, their own way of doing the business. For example, Sue might only want to make a couple hundred dollars a month to help with the car payment. John might want to work a little harder to earn enough to pay his oldest son’s college tuition. Everyone has their own motives and dreams for what they want their business to provide them. Everyone needs to find their own calling in life, finding your ”Why” is just like finding your voice.
For those who have read my first book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this goes to the heart of habit number five. It teaches that you need to get inside the head and heart of other people by not trying to project your motives on their behavior so that you really do tailor and individualize your approach.
Is it true you found your “Why” just after graduating from business school, much to the chagrin of your father? Please tell us about it.
SC: That is true! I was part of a family that had a very successful business. And I was the heir apparent to our family business which owned several hotels, motels and lots of land. But something happened. I found my ”Why” somewhere else. A gentleman I knew got me into teaching, mainly training leaders, and I loved it dearly. I had just finished Harvard Business School when I realized I wanted to make teaching a career. Then came the hard part: breaking the news to my father. Initially, he was disappointed, but later on in life, he told me that he never found his true voice in business. His passion all along was in architecture, history, philosophy and sociology. This personal story, along with many others-is the impetus behind why I wrote The 8th Habit.
How did you get the courage to tell your father about your desire to teach?
SC: I think practicing The 8th Habit in my own life is what enabled me to make that decision to become a teacher. Sure, I was afraid of what my father was going to say. But I had to be true to myself, I had to find my voice, my ”Why.” And today I feel that I have truly found my voice and it causes me to say to other people, ”You, too, have a unique calling. Have you found it?”
Most of your books talk about business and the experiences you’ve drawn from researching and studying companies throughout the world. Can everyone benefit from reading The 8th Habit, regardless of business background?
SC: Absolutely. Even if you’re not in business, The 8th Habit applies to anyone searching to find their calling–their voice. Although most of the stories I use in my books are business stories, the principles are universal. The 8th Habit, namely “finding your voice,” is right down the line of what the direct selling industry is all about. And if each individual business owner would see their role of leadership as being one of moral authority, where they help other people and inspire others to find their voice, I think they would not only keep their own integrity on track, but they would develop such a reputation for trustworthiness that it would be like a magnet in drawing other people to them.
Happiness and success is a byproduct of service. So it’s not about what’s in it for you. My good friend, Jim Collins, in his book, From Good to Great, found that the most important ingredient that brought their organizations from good to great was humility. They were servant leaders. Something to think about.
How can people who are starting a business for the first time tum their fear into confidence and assurance?
SC: The key to overcoming fear is not the absence of fear, it’s just the awareness of having something more important than fear. If you have this sense of calling, the fear will subside eventually. You may have it, but you are subordinating the fear to that which is more important. But those who try to overcome fear by not having a more meaningful ”Why” are messing with the symptoms and not getting to the source of the problem.
I remember when having a little fear myself while growing up, my father would always say, “If you can do it, you do it. If you can’t do it, you teach.”
The Soul’s Yearning for Greatness
The purpose of The 8th Habit is to give you a roadmap that will lead you from such pain and frustration to true fulfillment, relevance, significance and contribution in today’s new landscape—not only in your work and your organization but also in your whole life. In short, it will lead you to find your voice.
Voice = Talent
(your natural gifts and strengths)
(those things that naturally energize, excite, motivate and inspire you)
(what the world needs to pay you for)
(that still, small voice within that assures you of what is right and that prompts you to actually do it)
When you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion—that rises out of a great need in the world that you fee drawn by conscience to meet—therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code. There is a deep, innate, almost inexpressible yearning within each of us to find our voice in life.