Marriott Alumni Magazine

Summer 2012

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During the Clinton administration, Stephen R. Covey heard several family members criticizing the president’s policies. “What do you think?” one of them asked him. “Certainly you don’t think he’s doing a good job as president.” Stephen’s answer: “I don’t want to criticize him, because I never know if I’ll have a chance to influence him. I don’t want to be a hypocrite if he ever needs my help.” Two months later, while enjoying the Christmas holiday with his family, Stephen received an unexpected call. After a few moments on the phone Stephen turned sheet white, stood up, and said, “Mr. President, I appreciate talking to you.” “I just read 7 Habits twice,” President Clinton relayed. “I want to integrate this into my presidency.” Three days later Stephen flew to Camp David to counsel President Clinton and his wife, Hillary. The Clintons showed keen interest in what he had to say and even asked him to stay an extra day. “He was able to serve because he refused to be critical,” says Cynthia Haller, Stephen’s oldest daughter. “That experience was a wonderful example to me and my family.” Stephen consistently acts according to the principles he teaches, as his family can attest with countless stories. “That’s the source of my father’s power as a teacher,” says his oldest son, Stephen M. R. Covey. “He is who you think he is.” That constancy has led him to numerous opportunities to do what he set out to do at the onset of his career: teach, inspire, and help others achieve greatness. Doing so has brought him unanticipated success. “His key is integrating the gospel into every aspect of his life,” Cynthia says. “He lives his personal mission statement: If you put the Lord first, He’ll teach you what to put second.” Coming in a close second in Stephen’s life is family, followed by his passion expressed in the mission of his company, FranklinCovey: “To enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere.” Developing Habits Stephen has done this by teaching principles he calls timeless and God-given. “These principles are so universal, in fact, that they can be considered laws, like gravity,” says his longtime business partner Boyd Craig. “He teaches that if you put these principles at the center of your life, you’ll have security, guidance, wisdom, and power.” These principles—such as be proactive, think win/win, and sharpen the saw—have resounded with diverse groups across the world, all starting with the publication of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When 7 Habits climbed to the top of best-seller lists, the demand for a conversation with Stephen skyrocketed. He began consulting big-time business and political leaders worldwide who had read his book—Oprah, Nelson Mandela, both George Bushes, Victor Frankl, Desmond Tutu, Vicente Fox, Mikhail Gorbachev. 7 Habits was named the No. 1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century, and its sales topped twenty-five million copies—not including huge sales in China, where books are often printed illegally. But that doesn’t bother Stephen much, as long as readers glean something helpful. “My father doesn’t claim to have invented these ideas,” says his son Stephen. “He has simply organized them and sequenced them in a way that will be memorable and useful to others.” Early Influence Born in Salt Lake City in 1932, young Stephen was high-spirited and active. He put his verve into sports—especially tennis and marbles, placing third in the national marble championship. In junior high Stephen was diagnosed with a painful, crippling disease called slipped capital femoral epiphysis that kept him on crutches for three years. He transferred his passion from athletics to academics. He began reading with ardor, joined the debate team, and graduated from high school early. Those years changed the course of his life, says Sandra, Stephen’s wife. When President A. Hamer Reiser of the British Mission needed a missionary to help with training, Elder Covey got the assignment. He had already graduated with a business degree from the University of Utah. Stephen spent the remainder of his mission training missionaries and branch presidents. It was in the small meetinghouses of Great Britain and in the square of Hyde Park

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