Saturday, July 21, 2012

Remembering Stephen Covey

This week I learned of the passing of Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People plus numerous other books and articles. Covey was one of the great thinkers of our day. I read the 7 habits over 25 years ago and it has had an immense impact on my life and my work.

I have always admired Covey's work because he understood that life is seamless. That it was worthless to become a better business person if doing so costs us our humanity. Dr. Covey's 7 habits offers lessons on being not just a better business person, but how to get the most from every aspect of our lives. He does not teach how to "beat the other guy" but rather how to foster communication and cooperation to develop solutions that benefits all parties involved in any interaction.

Dr. Covey's teaching affirmed the possibility of change and growth as a human being. He encouraged his readers to decide what they wanted from life and to evaluate every action against this yardstick. He believed that we differ from the animals because of our ability to respond rather than react to our environments. He believed in living mindfully. My favorite Stephen Covey quote is that "we should live out of our imagination rather than our history." He believed that we can recreate ourselves and that we can transcend our past and our current situation.

Finally, I commend Dr. Covey for his honesty. His book has remained on the business/self help books bestseller lists for decades while many other books which offered a quick fix have come and gone. He doesn't tell us that we can "double our income over night" or "become a business genius in a week." Covey's book are deep with meaning and require multiple reading to fully grasp their message. He tells the reader that becoming a better person requires hard work and constant effort. Covey tells us that we must achieve a private victory before we deserve to win victories in the world at large. He acknowledges that anything worthwhile must be earned.

I have tried to apply Dr. Covey's principles to my life and to my work. I believe that they have helped me to achieve professional success, but I am absolutely confident that his ideas have enriched my life. Stephen Covey maintained that the best way to absorb his ideas was to teach them. Over the years I have given away dozens of copies of the 7 habits to co-workers and friends. I have taught his ideas in my training classes and coaching sessions. I highly recommend that you read, or reread, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as the information it offers is truly timeless.

Several years ago i wrote a series of Link and Learn articles on applying Dr. Covey's Seven habits to selling advertising. If you would like to read these, you'll find them in the Link and Learn archive at

In the 7 habits Stephen Covey tells us that we should "begin with the end in mind." He recommended that as an exercise we should imagine our own deaths, He told us to think about what our families, our friends and our co-workers would say about us. He suggested we keep this in mind and to live our lives so that we will be pleased  with what they say at our graveside. Well Dr. Covey, thank you for all you've given to the world, you will be missed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three great books for sales people and managers

On my 60th birthday, I asked my wife when I am allowed to become a "crotchety old man--DAG NABBIT!" She said not yet but she'd get back to me. I believe the secret to staying mentally young is to constantly feed the mind with new ideas. I have recently read three books that gave the old neurons a great workout and which offered some valuable insights for anyone in sales or sale management. Here are brief reviews of these books:

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemen. this book reviews much of the current research into how the human brain functions. This book is packed with studies that delve into the decision making process and the motivations that drive us. Since we make our livings getting others to decide to buy our products or to motivate our teams to do what we need them to do, this book is a powerful tool for advertising professionals. Because of the sheer amount of data contained between its cover, this is not an easy book to get through, but it is well worth the effort.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. I chose Ideas and Eyeballs for the name of my training/consulting business for a reason...I think the key to success in advertising, and in any enterprise, is creativity. Creativity expands the world and helps us to find new ways to help our customers. Creativity is the well spring of value, generating new ideas is what we get paid to do. Jonah Lehrer's book explores the creative process and provides some valuable techniques for creating an environment that encourages the creative process. A easy entertaining book to read, Imagine helped me to understand my own creative processes.

It Worked for Me by Gen. Colin Powell. Like serving dessert, I saved the best book for last. This book is as entertaining as a novel, but still offers some great hands-on ideas about leadership and career success. Whether you agree or disagree with Colin Powell's actions or politics, you must admit that he is an extraordinary man. A ROTC officer from a small public college, he surpassed his West Point educated peers to become the leader of the US military machine and  then secretary of state. This book relates many incidents from his long career and the lessons he learned from them. Unlike many books by those who achieved greatness, Powell doesn't give the impression that he is coming down the mountain with all the answers carved into stone tablets. His title says it all, he is simply relating what worked for him in his long career. He not only writes about what success taught him, but also what he learned form his mistakes. This book is a series of short anecdotal chapters written in a simple conversational style that makes it hard to put down, I highly recommend this book for anyone but especially for those in, or those who aspire to, a position of leadership.


Jim Busch