together we can change ourself

together we can change ourself

Personal/Individual Effectiveness Stephen R. Covey

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Be Loyal to Those Absent
Stephen R. Covey
July 1994

Being loyal to those who are absent and assuming good faith of others are keys to building trust in a culture. The ultimate test of principle-centered leadership is to be loyal to people who are absent when their names come up in conversations and meetings. When other people are not with you, they’re in the dark they don’t know what’s happening, what you’re saying about them, and whether you are loyal to them. And that’s when you show your true character. That doesn’t mean you’re not critical. You could be critical. But you’re constructively critical and loyal to the point that you would not be ashamed if they happened to overhear the conversation, or if word got back to them, as it often does. You don’t just sit on the sideline cutting, labeling, and stereotyping people and then look for evidence to support it.

Four Short Stories
Perhaps a few stories will help make this point.

Story 1. Once I was a faculty member at a university in Hawaii. I was very upset about our housing situation, and so I went directly to the president, since he worked with me on my visiting professorship. In the meeting, I complained about his housing director, who seemed to me to be incompetent and uncaring. The president immediately said to me, “Stephen, I’m sorry to hear about your housing situation, but I want you to know that our housing director is a very fine and competent person. Why don’t we have him come here right now so we can solve the problem together.” Can you see how loyal the president was toward that man? I was embarrassed because the president was so right in what he was doing. I hesitated to say to him, “No, you go ahead and handle it. I just wanted you to be aware of the problem,” because he was forcing me to take the responsible position, too. Well, the president got on the phone and invited this man to join us. Soon I could see this guy walking across the campus. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I wonder if I communicated clearly? Maybe I’m partly responsible for this mess.” By the time the housing director arrived, I was very mellow and humble. I was also very impressed by the character of this president, by his loyalty to the absent, even though it was embarrassing to me. The president was teaching me a correct principle the hard way.

When the housing director entered the room, my whole spirit had changed. I was nice to the guy: “How are you? Nice to see you.” Just minutes before, I was criticizing the guy behind his back, so the president could sense my duplicity, adding to my embarrassment. But this was a powerful learning experience for me. I learned not to talk behind people’s backs in ways that I would be ashamed to have them overhear. People who are present know you would do the same thing to them, especially if there was a strain on your relationship.

Story 2. One time I told this story in a speech. After my speech, an executive vice president of a large bank came up to me and said, “I’ve had a similar experience. I visited a branch bank and was served by one of the tellers. The service was so poor that I complained to the department head about the woman who served me. Most department heads are so awed by my very presence that they can hardly even deal with me. But this department head said, ‘I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience. She’s such a fine person. Let’s call her in and talk this through together. Maybe you can tell her directly what your experience was.'” The VP then said to the department head, “No, go ahead and handle it. I just wanted you to be aware. I don’t want to get involved.” But the department head said to this executive VP, “Well I know that if it were me, I’d want to get involved. If you were this teller, wouldn’t you want to be involved?” Imagine the courage it took for this department head to deal with the executive vice president of the bank in that direct, truthful manner. The answer was so self-evident: “Yeah, I guess I would.” “Well, then, let’s call her in.” So she came in, and they dealt with it. The person received the feedback, and it was handled in a responsible way.

The vice president then told me, “Later when we were trying to select a president for one of our branch banks, I nominated this department head totally on the basis of that experience, because I knew if he would have such courage, honesty, and loyalty to someone who wasn’t there in the face of a highly positioned individual, he would handle other matters with integrity. So I nominated that person to be the new president without knowing anything more about him.”

Story 3. Once a manager of a remote service station trained his new attendants how to make higher-margin revenue from customers who drove into the station by teaching the attendants how to find problems inside a car that weren’t there. So, when a car pulls in, the manager first sees the plates and says, “Notice this is an out-of-towner. That means you’ll probably never see the person again. So probe to learn if the person knows anything about his car. Talk to him about some technical thing under the hood. You might say, ‘Your starting motor looks like it might go out on you.’ If the person says, ‘Starting motor? What’s that?’ then you know you’ve got a total idiot, so you can do whatever you want.” You then say, “Well, if it were my car, I wouldn’t want to take a chance with my starting motor, especially driving through the desert. I could be stranded.” “I can’t have that happen. What should I do?” “Well, we could give you a good deal on a new one. I’ll sell you one at cost and throw in all the labor free.” So the victim thinks, “What a deal I got! I only had to pay $200 for the starting motor. It was normally $349 with labor.” But the manager winks at his attendants, knowing he has a 40-percent margin built into the price of the motor. Later, the attendants huddle and say to each other, “Now, if this guy would do that to his customers, how is he going to deal with us?” Each attendant knows that the manager will look for ways to cheat them as well.

Story 4. Once I was at the Canadian border, and I went into this store where there was a “half-price sale” going on. I started looking at a leather coat marked 50 percent off. I was the only customer in the store, but there were two salespeople and the owner-manager. The manager said to me, “What a deal this is.” He really sold me on it. The coat fit me well, and I liked it. I then said to him, “Even with this discount, it could be expensive. How much duty would I have to pay?” He said, “None. You don’t have to pay anything on this.” I said, “Well, it says on the customs form that I must declare everything I purchase abroad.” He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just wear it. Everyone else does it.” I said, “But I signed the form.” He said, “Listen, mister, everyone does it. They won’t even ask you questions. Just wear the coat when you cross the border. Don’t worry about it.” And I said, “Well, the thing that worries me most is what these two gentlemen behind you might think now about how you will deal with them on matters of commission, career training, and things of this nature.” The manager and the two salespeople all blushed.

So What’s the Big Deal?
Now, you might say, “Every organization has its competitors and its enemies. Why is it such a big deal to talk about them in a cavalier or casual way?”

It’s a big deal because if you allow people around you to stereotype, castigate, and label others, you basically tell them that you would make snide remarks about them behind their backs. You tell them that you’re not centered on principles; you’re seeking gain, pleasure, or popularity at someone else’s expense. If you talk loosely about a customer, you will likely talk loosely about employees. I think the key to the 99 is the one. If people know that if you treat one person with respect, then under a different circumstance you would likely treat them the same way, even if there was some strain or pressure added. In meetings, we often talk about people who are not in attendance in demeaning ways to undermine their position or cut their credibility in the eyes of others.

Many times I have defended people who are absent from meetings. I won’t allow people around me to label and castigate those who are absent. When a glib remark is made, I’ll say, “Wait a minute. That’s not the way we want to talk about people.” I may also point out what good that person has done. I may also be critical of the person, but I would not be ashamed to have the person there. When you defend the integrity of a person who is absent, what does that say to those who are present? It says that you would do the same thing for them. Sure, it takes courage to speak up at the time. It’s much easier to just say nothing. But I believe that if we have a chance to defend others or to speak up for our cherished beliefs and values, we need to do it. For example, I was talking to my son, Sean, about the debates at Harvard University regarding traditional family values. I counseled him not to take people on with a combative spirit and not to be the judge of others, but to speak up for the family and to do everything he can to preserve the traditional family.

Other Ways to Be Loyal
What are some other ways to be loyal? Here are seven.

Defend the defenseless the outcast, the underdog, the low person on the totem pole, the minority, the scapegoat. I like what Dag Hammerskold said: “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” When we attend to the one, it shows our character, and affects the many. Just look what we do in a democracy to preserve the rights of the one, even though we don’t do it perfect justice. We aspire to the ideal of justice.

Anticipate discussion and get clearance. Suppose you know in advance of a meeting where some controversial person and position will be discussed. It would be wise to call that person and say, “I know you can’t be present, but would it be all right if I talk about you or represent your position in this way?”

Call the person after the discussion and report what was said. You could call the person and say, “This is what happened, and this is what was said, and here is what we did.” This is very important when you think what was said might get misrepresented. You might say, “I want to be clear on my intentions and what I said.”

Think of the customers who are not present. The whole quality movement focuses on the customer. Business has gradually come to realize that customers and suppliers – all stakeholders -must be treated with respect.

Bring up the background of the person or the context of the event. With more geographic distance and cultural diversity, there’s more potential for divisiveness and differences. When a person is being demeaned or talked about in a negative way, you may need to remind others: “This person is from a different culture or background, so rather than be such harsh critics, let’s try to understand and give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Give people a chance to explain or defend their position or the circumstance in the next meeting. Every person wants his or her day in court a chance to explain what happened and why.

Bring up the bright side, the positive side of the person. Once when I was meeting with members of a project team, team members started bashing a person whom they perceived to be a competitor. I said, “I don’t think he would be comfortable with that judgment. I think he deserves better. He’s one of the great presenters of our time.” People often have an unconscious energy about negative gossip. They may sense that their name is being used in vain, that their enemies are conspiring against them. I think that’s more common than we know. I think people have a sixth sense for when they’re being slighted. Also, I see that many “idle words” spoken in “secret” or written without consideration are later published or broadcast. So, one of the best reasons for defending people who are absent is that those idle words – those character assassinations, hasty judgments, and poor decisions – won’t come back to haunt you.

Building Character Through Competition
Dick Roth
September 1990

If we’re in business to beat the competition, thinking that there can only be one winner, we’ve already lost the game.

In October 1964, I stood under a cloudless autumn sky on the infield of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. From my vantage point as a competitor, I was deeply moved by the tradition and the pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies. The brightly colored flags and traditional costumes, the presence of the Emperor of Japan, the jets, the myriad balloons, the swarms of pigeons, and the hundreds of thousands of people all contributed to my awe.

During a quiet moment, the huge scoreboard at one end of the stadium flashed the words of the Olympic motto: “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s how you play the game.” I was jarred out of my state of reverie. “No way!” I said to myself, “I’m here to win!”

This viewpoint, while commonly accepted, is really quite jaded. Just competing in the Olympics is a tremendous honor and feat. Winning any medal is extraordinary. Yet somehow we have come to believe that winning is everything; nobody remembers who got second.

It has not always been so: Pierre de Coubertin penned the words of the timeless Olympic motto less than 100 years ago. Competition for the joy of it used to be the focus, even in Olympic athletics. In the movie Chariots of Fire, a true story about the 1920 Olympics, an English gentleman gives his place in a race to another, simply for the pleasure of watching him run. As recently as 1936, Jesse Owens helped an Olympic competitor better himself without thought of how it might affect the eventual outcome of the race. When I competed in 1964, our attitudes toward winning had become quite egocentric, but we still thought of ourselves as amateurs. Very few of us ever considered making a living from our sport.

What a difference today! Not only do athletes train under professional coaches, many have several specialty coaches for strength, endurance, form, flexibility, choreography, costume, and mental conditioning. Why? Because our society now values winning so much that the stakes and rewards are immeasurably higher. An athlete can be set for life by beating the world. We expressed collective shock when Ben Johnson got caught for using steroids. But he is only a symptom of our societal overemphasis on “winning at any cost.” This attitude has totally captured our collective psyche and permeates society far beyond the boundaries of sports.

Over the last 50 years, we have seen not only the decline of the traditional character ethic that has made our country and culture strong, we have also seen a corresponding rise in all-or-nothing competitiveness. Winning used to be like the cream rising to the top: if you let things alone, the best would appear all by itself. Now we think of winning in terms of beating others. While the difference is subtle, it is profound. This win-lose ethic comes out of a mentality of scarcity the idea that there is not enough for everyone; that if someone else wins, I can’t.

The first 150 years of our country were dominated by expansion, optimism, and growth. There was so much freedom and opportunity that realizing the American dream was limited only by energy and imagination. The country was working toward a common goal: “The business of America is business.”

Then came the depression of the 1930s. Our government assumed new responsibilities: it took care of us. And quietly, our beliefs about limitless abundance and expansion started to shift. For the first time, we perceived a limited pool of resources. As survival became a main concern, people started looking out for number one: “Maybe there isn’t enough for everybody if not, I’ll get mine first.” This new attitude was reflected in the growth of self-centered success literature, as well as in the excessive competitive attitude of “beating” instead of “winning.” True “winning” requires starting with a level playing field: if everyone has an equal chance, the best will naturally prevail. The word “win” comes from the Old English winnan, “to struggle, to contend, to contest.” This definition implies that winning is a process, not an outcome. “Beating” has come to mean doing whatever you can, ethically or unethically, to gain an advantage over others.

The word “competition” is derived from the Latin word competere, “to seek together, to coincide, to agree.” In this root meaning, there is no connotation of “losing.” But in modern business usage, competition implies a winner and a loser: competition for a bid; competition for a promotion; competition to be the best sales team; competition between divisions, companies, or countries.

Inner Competition
The idea that you beat someone else is a fallacy. Athletes never beat anyone but themselves, never conquer anything but their own doubts and fears. We used to talk about “psyching out” others, but we were only “psyching ourselves up.”

We always give our approval to our own state of mind, either tacitly or directly. We have the power to choose our reactions. Pavlov’s model works well for dogs and rats, but people can choose their response. Our choices are derived from what is important to us, our values. Born from these values are our attitudes, including competitive attitudes. In other words, we choose how we react to competition. To judge your competitive attitude, ask yourself this simple question: “Do I care if the score is kept when I play games?” If the answer were placed on a continuum, one end would be, “I have to know the score,” and on the other end, “I just play to do my best and would rather not know the score.”

People with a win-win ethic do not gain security or satisfaction from keeping score and beating others. Competing at the highest level of mutual competence is the win-win goal of the game. The outcome is incidental. The fun is in the playing, not the victory. Winning is the process, not the outcome. Owners of win-lose attitudes gain self-respect through comparisons with others by keeping score, which is an illusory or distorted source at best. When you realize that you are only competing with yourself, your source of self-esteem comes from an inner measure, which is ultimately more correct. Competition, of course, is a tremendous motivator. Properly understood and channeled, it can be a vital component of success. However, competing only to beat someone is a defective attitude that doesn’t align with timeless principles.

When the win-win attitude is rooted in our subconscious, it builds relationships. Our natural state of existence is interdependent, both socially and environmentally. An attitude of “beating” would lead us to try to get things for ourselves; an interdependent attitude of win-win allows us to be in harmony with the way things naturally are.

Why Japan is Winning
Why are American companies getting clobbered in the international marketplace by Pacific Rim countries? In large part, because these societies place a higher value on working together towards a common end. The governments and the people are achieving the same purpose through a mentality that says there is enough to go around. This more closely matches the original meaning of “compete,” to seek together. Our rush to embrace Japanese team-building management techniques will eventually fail if we don’t change our underlying attitudes and paradigms. Team building is only a technique. It works in an Oriental culture because their sense of ego expands to embrace more than one’s self. When they hear the word “you,” they hear it in the plural.

The only true prescription for leadership success is to first change one’s character, then apply techniques that come from that character. Surface techniques will not counterbalance our underlying character tendencies. In fact, technique-oriented prescriptions will eventually be counterproductive because they cause deep subconscious confusion. We simply must alter our scripting first. This can only come after much effort.

There is no quick fix. We see corporations throwing one trendy management tool after another at their people. But what is at the core of your company speaks much louder than whatever new trend you wear on the sleeve. The leader’s job is to influence the core character of the company. Without a shift in paradigms, we will see the same old cycle: new techniques will sprout to replace the “outdated, shop-worn, surface-oriented” fads we are using today. What we will eventually learn is that style and technique only work if they are aligned with the principles and beliefs from which our conduct flows.

Now is the time to realign our character and actions with timeless principles, to place winning (in business and athletics) in proper perspective. We will then see a return to an abundance mentality and win-win attitudes. Our culture will again take competition to mean working together toward a common goal. We will hear “you” in its plural, not its singular meaning. Our other choice is to see ourselves slip further and further behind in the new international realities of the 1990s.

Dick Roth, who won an Olympic Gold Medal in swimming in 1964, has been a successful entrepreneur, businessman, consultant, and public speaker.

Three Resolutions
Stephen R. Covey
January 1991

Well-intentioned resolutions will fall flat in the face of stiff restraining forces without character and social reinforcements.

Every organization and individual struggles to gain and maintain alignment with core values, ethics, and principles. Whatever our professed personal and organizational beliefs, we all face restraining forces, opposition, and challenges – and these sometimes cause us to do things that are contrary to our stated missions, intentions, and resolutions. We may think that we can change deeply imbedded habits and patterns simply by making new resolutions or goals only to find that old habits die hard and that in spite of good intentions and social promises, familiar patterns carry over from year to year.

We often make two mistakes with regard to New Year’s resolutions:

First, we don’t have a clear knowledge of who we are. Hence, our habits become our identity, and to resolve to change a habit is to threaten our security. We fail to see that we are not our habits. We can make and break our habits. We need not be a victim of conditions or conditioning. We can write our own script, choose our course, and control our own destiny.

Second, we don’t have a clear picture of where we want to go; therefore, our resolves are easily uprooted, and we then get discouraged and give up. Replacing a deeply imbedded bad habit with a good one involves much more than being temporarily “psyched up” over some simplistic success formula, such as “think positively” or “try harder.” It takes deep understanding of self and of the principles and processes of growth and change. These include assessment, commitment, feedback, follow-through.

We will soon break our resolutions if we don’t regularly report our progress to somebody and get objective feedback on our performance. Accountability breeds response-ability. Commitment and involvement produce change. In training executives, we use a step-by-step, natural, progressive, sequential approach to change. In fact, we require executives to set goals and make commitments up front, teach and apply the material each month, and return and report their progress to each other.

If you want to overcome the pull of the past – those powerful restraining forces of habit, custom, and culture – to bring about desired change, count the costs and rally the necessary resources. In the space program, we see that tremendous thrust is needed to clear the powerful pull of the earth’s gravity. So it is with breaking old habits.

Breaking deeply imbedded habits such as procrastinating, criticizing, overeating, or oversleeping involves more than a little wishing and willpower. Often our own resolve is not enough. We need reinforcing relationships, people, and programs that hold us accountable and responsible.

Remember: response-ability is the ability to choose our response to any circumstance or condition. When we are response-able, our commitment becomes more powerful than our moods or circumstances, and we keep the promises and resolutions we make. For example, if we put mind over mattress and arise early in the morning, we will earn our first victory of the day (the daily private victory) and gain a certain sense of self-mastery. We can then move on to more public victories. And as we deal well with each new challenge, we unleash within ourselves a fresh capacity to soar to new heights.

Universal Resolutions
In each of our lives, there are powerful restraining forces at work to pull down any new resolution or initiative. Among those forces are 1) appetites and passions, 2) pride and pretension, and 3) aspiration and ambition.

We can overcome these restraining forces by making and keeping the following three resolutions:

First, to overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial. Whenever we over-indulge physical appetites and passions, we impair our mental processes and judgments as well as our social relationships. Our bodies are ecosystems, and if our economic or physical side is off-balance, all other systems are affected.

That’s why the habit of sharpening the saw regularly is so basic. The principles of temperance, consistency, and self-discipline become foundational to a person’s whole life. Trust comes from trustworthiness and that comes from competence and character. Intemperance adversely affects our judgment and wisdom.

I realize that some people are intemperate and still show greatness, even genius. But over time, it catches up with them. Many among the “rich and famous” have lost fortunes and faith, success and effectiveness, because of intemperance. Either we control our appetites and passions, or they control us.

Many corporations and cities have aging inventories and infrastructures; likewise, many executives have aging bodies, making it harder to get away with intemperance. With age, the metabolism changes. Maintaining health requires more wisdom. The older we become, the more we are in the crosscurrents between the need for more self-discipline and temperance and the desire to let down and relax and indulge. We feel we’ve paid our dues and are therefore entitled to it. But if we get permissive and indulgent with ourselves – overeating, staying up late, or not exercising – the quality of our personal lives and our professional work will be adversely affected.

If we become slaves to our stomachs, our stomachs soon control our mind and will. Gluttony is a perversion of appetite, and to knowingly take things into the body that are harmful or addicting is foolishness. More people in America die of overeating than of hunger. “I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand,” observed Ben Franklin. When I overeat or overindulge, I lose sensitivity to the needs of others. I become angry with myself, and I tend to take that anger out on others at the earliest provocation.

Many of us succumb to the longing for extra sleep, rest, and leisure. How many times do you set the alarm or your mind to get up early, knowing all of the things you have to do in the morning, anxious to get the day organized right, to have a calm and orderly breakfast, to have an unhurried and peaceful preparation before leaving for work? But when the alarm goes off, your good resolves dissolve. It’s a battle of mind vs. mattress! Often the mattress wins. You find yourself getting up late, then beginning a frantic rush to get dressed, organized, fed and be off. In the rush, you grow impatient and insensitive to others. Nerves get frayed, tempers short – and all because of sleeping in.

A chain of unhappy events and sorry consequences follows not keeping the first resolution of the day to get up at a certain time. That day may begin and end in defeat. The extra sleep is hardly ever worth it. In fact, considering the above, such sleep is terribly tiring and exhausting.

What a difference if you organize and arrange your affairs the night before to get to bed at a reasonable time. I find that the last hour before retiring is the best time to plan and prepare for the next day. Then when the alarm goes off, you get up and prepare properly for the day. Such an early-morning private victory gives you a sense of conquering, overcoming, mastering – and this sense propels you to conquer more public challenges during the day. Success begets success. Starting a day with an early victory over self leads to more victories. Second, to overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.

Socrates said: “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”

This is to be, in reality, what we want others to think we are. Much of the world is image-conscious, and the social mirror is powerful in creating our sense of who we are. The pressure to appear powerful, successful and fashionable causes some people to become manipulative. When you are living in harmony with your core values and principles, you can be straight-forward, honest and up-front. And nothing is more disturbing to a person who is full of trickery and duplicity than straight-forward honesty that’s the one thing they can’t deal with.

I’ve been on an extended media tour with my book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I’ve become aware of how everyone is very anxious about the entertainment value of the program. Recently, I was in San Francisco, and I thought I would make my interview more controversial by getting into the political arena. But my comments threw the whole conversation off on a tangent. All the call-ins commented on political points. I lost the power to present my own theme and represent my own material.

Whenever we indulge appetites and passions, we are rather easily seduced by pride and pretension. We then start making appearances, playing roles, and mastering manipulative techniques. If our definition or concept of ourselves comes from what others think of us from the social mirror we will gear our lives to their wants and their expectations; and the more we live to meet the expectations of others, the more weak, shallow, and insecure we become. A junior executive, for example, may desire to please his superiors, colleagues, and subordinates, but he discovers that these groups demand different things of him. He feels that if he is true to one, he may offend the other. So he begins to play games and put on appearances to get along or to get by, to please or appease. In the long run, he discovers that by trying to become “all things to all people,” he eventually becomes nothing to everyone. He is found out for who and what he is. He then loses self-respect and the respect of others.

Effective people lead their lives and manage their relationships around principles; ineffective people attempt to manage their time around priorities and their tasks around goals. Think effectiveness with people; efficiency with things.

When we examine anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, pride, and prejudice or any other negative emotion or passion we often discover that at their root lies the desire to be accepted, approved, and esteemed of others. We then seek a shortcut to the top. But the bottom line is that there is no shortcut to lasting success. The law of the harvest still applies, in spite of all the talk of “how to beat the system.”

Several years ago, a student visited me in my office when I was a faculty member at the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University. He asked me how he was doing in my class. After developing some rapport, I confronted him directly: “You didn’t really come in to find out how you are doing in the class. You came in to find out how I think you are doing. You know how you are doing in the class far better than I do, don’t you?”

He said that he did, and so I asked him, “How are you doing?” He admitted that he was just trying to get by. He had a host of reasons and excuses for not studying as he ought, for cramming and for taking shortcuts. He came in to see if it was working.

If people play roles and pretend long enough, giving in to their vanity and pride, they will gradually deceive themselves. They will be buffeted by conditions, threatened by circumstances and other people. They will then fight to maintain their false front. But if they come to accept the truth about themselves, following the laws and principles of the harvest, they will gradually develop a more accurate concept of themselves.

The effort to be fashionable puts one on a treadmill that seems to go faster and faster, almost like chasing a shadow. Appearances alone will never satisfy; therefore, to build our security on fashions, possessions, or status symbols may prove to be our undoing. Edwin Hubbell Chapin said: “Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.”

Certainly, we should be interested in the opinions and perceptions of others so that we might be more effective with them, but we should refuse to accept their opinion as a fact and then act or react accordingly. Third, to overcome the restraining forces of unbridled aspiration and ambition, I resolve to dedicate my talents and resources to noble purposes and to provide service to others.

If people are “looking out for number one” and “what’s in it for me,” they will have no sense of stewardship, no sense of being an agent for worthy principles, purposes, and causes. They become a law unto themselves – a principal.

They may talk the language of stewardship, but they will always figure out a way to promote their own agenda. They may be dedicated and hard working, but they are not focused on stewardship – the idea that you don’t own anything, that you give your life to higher principles, causes, purposes. Rather, they are focused on power, wealth, fame, position, dominion, and possessions.

The ethical person looks at every economic transaction as a test of his or her moral stewardship. That’s why humility is the mother of all other virtues because it promotes stewardship. Then everything else that is good will work through you. But if you get into pride into “my will, my agenda, my wants” then you must rely totally upon your own strengths. You’re not in touch with what Jung calls “the collective unconscious” the power of the larger ethos which unleashes energy through your work.

Aspiring people seek their own glory and are deeply concerned with their own agenda. They may even regard their own spouse or children as possessions and try to wrest from them the kind of behavior that will win them more popularity and esteem in the eyes of others. Such possessive love is destructive. Instead of being an agent or steward, they interpret everything in life in terms of “what it will do for me.” Everybody then becomes either a competitor or conspirator. Their relationships, even intimate ones, tend to be competitive rather than cooperative. They use various methods of manipulation such as threat, fear, bribery, pressure, deceit, and charm to achieve their ends.

Until people have the spirit of service, they might say they love a companion, company or cause, but they often despise the demands these make on their lives. Double-mindedness, having two conflicting motives or interests, inevitably sets a man at war within himself and an internal civil war often breaks out into war with others. The opposite of double-mindedness is self-unity or integrity. We achieve integrity through the dedication of ourselves to selfless service of others.

Implications for Personal Growth
Unless we control of our appetites, we will not be in control of our passions and emotions. We will, instead, becomes victims of our passions, seeking or aspiring our own wealth, dominion, prestige, and power.

I once tried to counsel a junior executive to be more committed to higher principles. It appeared futile. Then I began to realize that I was asking him to conquer the third temptation before he had conquered the first. It was like expecting a child to walk before crawl. So I changed the approach and encouraged him to first discipline his body. We then got great results.

If we conquer some basic appetites first, we will have the power to make good on higher level resolutions later. For example, many people would experience a major transformation if they would maintain normal weight through a healthy diet and exercise program. They would not only look better, but they would also feel better, treat others better, and increase their capacity to do the important but not necessarily urgent things they long to do.

Until you can say “I am my master,” you cannot say “I am your servant.” In other words, we might profess a service ethic, but under pressure or stress we might be controlled by a particular passion or appetite. We lose our temper. We become jealous, envious, lustful or slothful. Then we feel guilty. We make promises and break them; make resolutions and break them. We gradually lose faith in our own capacity to keep any promises. Despite our ethic to be the “servant of the people,” we become the servant or slave of whatever masters us.

This reminds me of the plea of Richard Rich to Thomas More in the movie, A Man For All Seasons. Richard Rich admired More’s honesty and integrity and wanted to be employed by him. He pleaded, “Employ me.” More answered, “No.” Again Rich pleaded, “Employ me,” and again the answer was no. Then Rich made this pitiful yet endearing promise: “Sir Thomas, employ me. I would be faithful to you.”

Sir Thomas, knowing what mastered Richard Rich, answered, “Richard, you can’t even so much as answer for yourself tonight,” meaning, “You might profess to be faithful now, but all it will take is a different circumstance, the right bribe or pressure, and you will be so controlled by your ambition and pride that you could not be faithful to me.” Sir Thomas More’s prognosis came to pass that very night, for Richard Rich betrayed him!

The key to growth is to learn to make promises and to keep them. Self-denial is an essential element in overcoming all three temptations. “One secret act of self-denial, one sacrifice of inclination to duty, is worth all the mere good thoughts, warm feelings, passionate prayers, in which idle men indulge themselves,” said John Henry Newman. “The worst education which teaches self-denial is better than the best which teaches everything else and not that,” said Sterling.

Making and keeping these three universal resolutions will accelerate our self-development and, potentially, increase our influence with others.

Pay the Full Price
Stephen R. Covey
October 1994

The principle of “paying the uttermost farthing” is to apologize when you make a mistake or fail to meet expectations and then to behave better.

An executive once told me: “My biggest worry and concern is my poor relationship with my most creative people at work and with my teenage son at home. In the past, I have lost my temper and yelled at them. How can I improve these relationships and change the image they have of me?”

There is no greater heartbreak for leaders than to feel they are losing or have lost influence with people they most want and need to lead. Fortunately, no situation is hopeless. There are several powerful ways to heal a broken relationship, to restore the emotional bank account, and to have positive influence again.

Consider carefully what was taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”

The Uttermost Farthing
People often get offended or they offend others and then neither party has the humility to take full responsibility for their part. Instead, they rationalize and justify themselves. A collusion then occurs as they look for evidence to support the perception of the other person, and that only aggravates the original problem. Ultimately, they put each other in a mental-emotional prison.

You can’t come out of prison until you pay the uttermost farthing. The “uttermost farthing” means exactly that – the uttermost, not the first, second, or third. It means a humble and complete acknowledgment of your responsibility for the problem, even though the other was partly responsible as well. If you take full responsibility for your part in it and acknowledge it and apologize out of deep sincerity and concession of spirit the other person will sense the utter sincerity of what you say.

Of course, your behavior must then comport with that expression so that others can see your integrity. Paying the uttermost farthing requires behavior consistent with the apology over a period of time, because your emotional bank account with that person may be so overdrawn that no apology will redeem it.

You have to do much more. You have to show your sincerity. You can’t talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into particularly if you’re constantly apologizing, but your behavior pattern and style remain unchanged.

If you pay only the first farthing, expecting other people to also acknowledge their part and their responsibility, that is insufficient. The other person may pay a farthing with the attitude, “Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not all one way. You’ve been a party to this thing as well.” But he won’t pay a second farthing until you pay the uttermost farthing.

To pay the uttermost farthing, you might say, “I was wrong.” “I embarrassed you in front of your friends.” Or, “I cut you off in that meeting, when you had made this tremendous preparation. And I’m not only going to apologize to you, but also to the other people who were in that meeting because they could see the way I dealt with you, and it offended them as well.”

You make no effort to justify, explain, defend, or blame in any way, only an effort to pay the uttermost farthing in order to get out of prison. What happens when you pay the full price? Assume, to begin with, that relationships are strained and that you are at least partly responsible. If you merely try to be better and not to confess and apologize, the other person will still be suspicious. He has been hurt and wounded; therefore, his guard is up. He will question your new behavior, your “kind face,” and wonder what might happen next. Your improved behavior and manner won’t assuage his distrust. Nothing you can do will change it, because you are behind bars and walls in a prison of his own making in his mind. The bars and walls are the mental and emotional labels that he has put upon you. Only by making a complete, and specific acknowledgment of your own failings or mistakes do you break down these bars.

The Principle in Practice
I constantly rediscover the efficacy of this age-old principle in my work with people who are low in desire and responsibility and who tend to blame others for their poor performance.

Once I worked with a young man who was barely getting along in the organization I was leading. I labeled him as an underachiever, and for months, every time I saw his face or heard his name, I would think of him in this way.

I became aware of how I had labeled him and how this label had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I realized that people tend to become like you treat them or believe them to be. I decided that I needed to “pay the uttermost farthing.” I went to this young man, confessed what I believed had happened and how I had played a role, and asked for his forgiveness.

Our relationship began on a new base of honesty. Gradually he “came to himself” and began to build more internal controls; he then performed magnificently.

The “uttermost” price must be paid to the last ones who keep you in their mental-emotional prison, where they label you and where they look for evidence to support their label. Labeling defends and protects their ego, thus making them less vulnerable. That’s why they’re not willing to pay even one farthing, let alone the uttermost one, because it makes them too vulnerable, too exposed to rejection, exploitation, or manipulation.

The theme of many novels is unrequited love, where people simply refuse to love unconditionally because they’ve been wounded and hurt before. And so they recoil and defend themselves by going inside and being cynical, suspicious, or sarcastic. They’re not open because they don’t want to be vulnerable.

I once told my daughter after she had been hurt in a relationship, “Be sure you maintain your vulnerability.” She said, “Why? It hurts too much.” And I said, “Well, you don’t need to get your security from that relationship. If you get your security from your integrity toward timeless principles, you can still maintain your vulnerability. That’s what makes you beautiful and lovely – your willingness to be open and authentic. If you reject other people and new opportunities on the basis of having been rejected, you will build a shell around yourself that will keep you from being loved. One of the lovely things about you is your willingness to trust and to risk being hurt.”

Clearing the Legal Hurdle
Many people face a legal barrier to paying the uttermost farthing. For example, some lawyers might caution their clients against making any form of apologies, but to maintain “100 percent” innocence, because apologizing to anyone might imply guilt.

Many executives have their own thinking straight-jacketed by legalities and by an attorney’s mind-set. While protection is prudent in some cases, thinking like a lawyer contributes to future problems. It’s like drafting a pre-marital contract: “In the event we have a divorce, this is how we’ll settle the estate.” Such contracts may actually contribute to a break-up. They may be, but they’re not idealistic. And if we abandon our ideals, we abandon the essence of our humanity – our ability to rise above tendencies of protectiveness and defensiveness.

As we develop a legal mind-set, we imagine worst-case scenarios, assume the worst of other people, and seek evidence to justify our position. Such thinking becomes a causal, contributing force of adversarialism. We need to work with attorneys who have the ability to transcend the legal mindset who know when and how to properly apply their skills but who have a more positive attitude toward life and people.

Many problems can be resolved by executives and their business partners, if only someone would admit up front, “I was wrong.” For example, I once met with a chief executive who said that the union had walked out of an important meeting with him earlier that day. I asked, “Why?” He admitted that the company had mistreated some union member but that it was a “very minor issue.”

I said, “Well, to that union, their mission is your minutiae. And you’ve got to apologize. If you’re wrong, you’ve got to acknowledge it, right now, today. Don’t go another hour. Call them up at once while you are still on speaking terms.”

The chief executive did as I suggested, and his sincere apology was well received by the union leaders; in fact, it caused them to come back to the meeting.

I’m convinced that this principle will work wonders to resolve differences, heal relationships, settle strikes, and foster international business deals. When a relationship is formed between people on a very personal level, the spirit of paying the uttermost farthing is stirred up. People say, “I was wrong on that. I apologize, and I want to make it up to you.”

Paying the uttermost farthing also means making the effort to get to know the other person better. In some languages, “enemy” and “stranger” are the same word. By getting to know our “enemies” on a very personal level, they will cease being strangers. Little by little, we create a culture of civility and charity where members know that each person has weaknesses, but they have the humility, authenticity, and honesty to confess them and to try to compensate for them.

Six Points
When applying this principle to any seriously broken or strained relationship, I emphasize six points.

We may honestly admit to ourselves that we are at least partly to blame for the problem. Upon reflection, we can see how we embarrassed, insulted, or belittled another, or how we failed to understand, or how we were inconsistent in discipline or conditional in love.

Often what happens when leaders fail to pay the uttermost farthing is that they lose their moral authority. Moral authority makes up much of the power we have as where there are many knowledge-workers. In an information world, you can’t throw your weight around. Your moral authority is the most powerful thing you’ve got.

When one is deeply hurt or embarrassed, he draws back and closes up. He expects nothing to avoid being disappointed. He simply refuses to believe us, to open up, to “release” us from the mental prison he has us in. To avoid future hurt, he judges us as unkind, unfair, or not understanding, and puts us behind prison bars.

Improving our behavior alone won’t release us from this prison, simply because he can’t afford to trust us again. It’s too risky. He’s suspicious of this new behavior, this new face, this “insincere” entreaty. “I trusted him before, and look what happened.” Although inside he is crying out for direction and emotional support, he will still keep us in his mental prison for an indeterminate sentence.

Often the only way out is to go to him and admit our mistakes, apologize, and ask forgiveness. In this reconciliation we must be specific in describing what we did that was wrong. We make no excuses, apologies, explanations, or defenses. We simply acknowledge that we know we did wrong, we understand what put us in prison, and we want to pay the price of release. If we only make a stab at this process but inwardly hold back by saying, “He should be sorry also. I can only go so far but no further until he acknowledges his part,” then our peace-making is superficial, insincere, and manipulative. Under the surface, the suspicion and turbulence still rage as the next stress on the relationship will reveal.

This approach must be utterly sincere and not used as a manipulative technique to bring the other around. If this approach is used only because it works, it will boomerang. Unless sincere change takes place deep within us sooner or later we’ll trespass again on tender feelings, and the new mental prison will have thicker walls than ever. Others simply will not believe us when we say again how sorry we are. Repeated token repentance wins no confidence or forgiveness.

In most situations, paying the uttermost farthing works not only to obtain a release from “prison” with its new opportunity to communicate and to influence, but also to inspire, not force, others to make some hard admissions and resolves also. Pride often keeps us from paying the uttermost farthing, but eventually we must swallow our pride, express our sorrow, apologize, and seek forgiveness.

Character First
Interview with Stephen R. Covey
May 1994

Even the very best structure, system, style, and skills can’t compensate completely for deficiencies in character. Why do you emphasize the importance of character in the lives of leaders?

Because I believe that character (what a person is) is ultimately more important than competence (what a person can do). Obviously both are important, but character is foundational. All else builds on this cornerstone. Also, I believe that courage and consideration are the key building blocks of emotional maturity, and that emotional maturity is foundational to all decisions and all relationships. It relates to all the great management themes of the past. That’s why I place my Seven Habits along a maturity continuum to suggest that the aim of all these habits is to help us achieve character and competence, courage and consideration. We can then be highly effective with tasks and with people.

Why is the emotionally mature person also highly effective?

Mature people may have a lot of ego strength, but they also have high respect for other people. They balance their courage with consideration. So they communicate in the spirit of “I and thou,” the expression philosopher Martin Buber used in his book, I and Thou. Immature people communicate in terms of “I and it” where they treat people like objects or things, or “it and it” where they manipulate and treat themselves in the same way. Or they may think in term of “it and thou,” having respect for others, but not for themselves.

When did you first arrive at this notion of maturity being a balance between courage and consideration?

I first learned this concept from one of my professors at the Harvard Business School, Rhand Saxenian. At the time, Rhand was working on his own doctoral thesis on the subject. This is how he taught it: emotional maturity is the ability to express your feelings and convictions with courage, balanced with consideration for the feelings and convictions of others.

And that hit you like a lightning bolt?

Yes, the truth of that idea struck me powerfully. But even more powerful was the way he modeled it. For instance, when we entered the statistics portion of the course, he told the class that he didn’t know much about statistics, and that he would be learning along with us. He also acknowledged what our feelings might be, as we were in competition with other students and sections and had to take a school-wide exam. In self-defense, we sent a delegation to the dean’s office to ask for a new teacher of statistics. We told the dean that we liked Mr. Saxenian as a teacher but that his ignorance of statistics would put us at a disadvantage when we took the tests. To our amazement, the dean simply said, “Well, just do the best you can.” So with the teacher’s help, we got some technical notes and passed them around. In a sense, we taught each other statistics. And our section, out of eight, came out second in the exams. I’m convinced we did well because Rhand had the courage to confess his ignorance of the subject and the consideration to help us come up with a solution.

Did your professor show you that “courage balanced with consideration” was common to great leaders?

Yes, in fact, Rhand went back through history to show how the truly great leaders who built strong cultures behind a common shared vision were those who had these two characteristics of emotional maturity, who beautifully balanced courage and consideration.

In a different way, haven’t you also tested this idea?

Yes, in many ways. First, I have gone back into the history of management thought, interpersonal relationships theory, and human psychology theory, and I have found the same two concepts. For instance, the transactional analysis area that Thomas Harris made popular in his book, I’m Okay, You’re Okay, really had its theoretical roots in both Eric Berne’s, Games People Play, and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. Well, what is “I’m okay, you’re okay” but courage balanced with consideration? “I’m okay, you’re not okay” means I have courage, but little respect or consideration for you. “I’m not okay, you’re okay” suggests no ego strength, no courage. And “I’m not okay, you’re not okay” suggests a very negative outlook of life. These are the four dimensions of maturity.

Then I looked at Blake and Mouton, who developed the managerial grid, which basically deals with two dimensions: are you task-oriented or are you people-oriented? Those who are high task-oriented and low people-oriented are called nine-ones. Those who are high people-oriented and low task-oriented are one-nines. Those who are in the middle are five-fives. The ideal, of course, is nine-nine high people and high task. In other words, high courage to drive what you want to get the task done, plus high respect and consideration for others. Again, the spirit of “I-thou.”

And then I noted that the concept of “win-win” is essentially the same thing: you have high respect for self to ensure that you win, but you work in a way that enables other people to win as well. If you’re synergistic and have the “I-thou” spirit, you create far better solutions, as manifest in mission statements, decisions, strategic partnerships, or customer and employee relations. The win-lose approach is symptomatic of high respect for self and low regard for others and their situation. The lose-win approach suggests low respect for self, and high regard for other people. I examined other psychological theories and found that they all look at the two sides. Sometimes courage is called respect, confidence, tough-mindedness, or ego strength; and consideration may be called empathy or kind-heartedness. I found that same balance in the great philosophical and religious literature. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is an expression of the spirit of “I-thou.”

Finally, I’ve interviewed a lot of Malcolm Baldrige award winners, and asked them the question, “What is the most difficult challenge you faced?” And they always say, “Giving up control.” In effect, they are saying, “We had to create ‘I-thou’ relationships with all stakeholders. We had to reach the point where we really believed in other people, in a bone-deep way, not in some public relaions manner. We also had to learn to be strong in expressing how we see it.” Essentially, the Baldrige winners learned to think win-win, seek first to understand then to be understood, and synergize (Habits 4, 5 and 6 of the Seven Habits). By practicing these habits, they gained new insights and learnings, opened new options, engaged in high-level partnering and bonding, and boosted creativity. But it has to come out of this deep spirit of win-win, I and thou, courage balanced with consideration.

Is “courage balanced with consideration” a good way to achieve both improved results and relationships?

Exactly. Better in both ways. You get more results, and you get better relationships. Without this balance, you tend to get one at the expense of the other. For instance, I once worked with the president of a large organization who was a nine-one, meaning he was a result-oriented person. But, if he needed to build relationships to get results, he could charm the socks off anybody. But it was always with regard to a task. His task became the relationship. In other words, once he built the strategic relationship, he would then get on with the task. I have known other people who were the opposite. They are so needful of relationships that they work relationships through tasks.

Is it possible to get a profile of ourselves as leaders to assess the balance of courage and consideration or determine our orientation toward results and relationships?

Yes, in fact, David McClelland, one of the great research psychologists at Harvard, developed what he called his need achievement inventory. He would give people different pictures and then have them talk about a story that was portrayed in that picture. By using a number of these pictures, McClelland would profile the candidate, and then give his recommendations to employers who are looking to match the profile of the person with the needs of the job. He tended to classify people according to their need for power, affiliation, or achievement. In a sense, McClelland was looking at this concept of inward motivation. He identified character as the critical factor of long-term success.

Do you feel that the hundreds of contributing writers to Executive Excellence over the last 10 years have verified the preeminence of character?

What I have seen over and over again, in the pages of Executive Excellence and elsewhere, is how character eventually becomes more important than competency. So, even though people may go through management training and improve their skills, if they don’t grow in emotional maturity, eventually their skills may even be their undoing. For instance, I witnessed this task-oriented president exhaust his social capital with the Board to the point he no longer had power or influence with them. The Board would not sustain the president, and eventually they had to make a change. Board members felt that they were being manipulated by one superlative presentation after another, one big charm after another. Eventually the hens came home to roost.

And yet, isn’t the training and education of most people designed to build competence and courage for the sake of getting results?

Absolutely. Almost all training is focused on competency. That’s the courage aspect of maturity – have your way, be nice to people, use the human relations approach, but not the human resource approach. The human resource approach asks, “What’s your opinion?” The human relations approach says, “How’s your family?” And the malevolent authoritarian approach says, “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

So, how can we meet this need for ongoing character development?

We need to stop managing people by performance appraisals where some supervisor is judging someone else’s character and competence. We need to look for balance between production (P) and what I call “production capability” (PC), which includes developing people and building teams. Because, as we learn from Aesop, if we go for all the golden eggs (P) without regard for the wellness of the goose (PC), we’ll soon be out of business. This is why Peter Drucker says, “Don’t judge people’s characters.” I totally agree with him. I tell executives to do away with traditional performance appraisals and instead look at how well that individual balances P and PC, results and relationships, competence and character, courage and consideration. I also encourage them to set up a 360-degree stakeholder information system which gives people solid, scientific, systematic feedback on their performance in both dimensions. Then the person will say, “Gosh, I have low marks for team building and interdependency, even though I’m producing the numbers. What can I do? Now they recognize the need for ongoing character development, which they themselves have to take charge of. They can then organize resources to draw on their families, their friends, their church, their professional association, their support groups. They seek character development in order to produce those desired results. Why do you say that humility is the mother of virtues? Because humility helps us center our lives around principles. Humility helps us see the need for ongoing character development. Humility helps us be considerate of others. I then say that courage is the father of all virtues. Together courage and consideration create the internal integration inside the human personality.

This is why Karl Jung says that we never achieve what he calls individuation, the total integration of the human personality, until our later years in life. He says that people must go through different phases to learn some things. His belief was that it takes a great deal of experience, going around the block many times in many ways, before we gradually come to see the full consequences of erring on one side or the other and gradually achieve an integration of our internal character. When we create a culture based on interdependence or synergy, then we have an advanced civilization. In your books, you suggest that emotional immaturity manifests itself in the cultures of organizations in win-lose systems, processes, and structures.

Can one person, working within his or her circle of influence, really make a difference?

Without question. I see it continuously. The people who start small and start to build on true principles in the ways we’ve been talking about, expand their circles of influence until they truly become models, and eventually mentors and teachers of other people. They become change catalysts and transition persons

Why do these change catalysts also need what you call an abundance mentality?

The abundance mentality is courage and consideration. Scarcity is courage without consideration. Interdependence is courage and consideration. Independence is me-centered: I want what I want. For example, I once had an experience with the top partners of an international firm who after three days reached this conclusion: the experts in quality Juran, Crosby, Deming, and others basically say that people aren’t so bad; what’s bad are the systems they work in. But suppose you have an executive who has courage but no consideration. He’ll think win-lose, and he’ll design win-lose systems. Now, if he attends a quality seminar, he may start designing win-win systems but he’ll implement them in a win-lose way. Why? Because character eventually comes out on top. So, all the top partners concluded: “We now know our problem is scarcity thinking. It shows in the way we admit people, the way we make them partners, the way we reward them. No wonder we have a screwed-up culture. No wonder we’re losing some of our best minds. No wonder we have such a political atmosphere where everyone is reading the tea leaves. We have moved so far away from our founding principles.” In the last analysis, it’s the character in the culture that counts. And yet we let many character-destroying forces have their way with us until we lose the original character of the founding group, or until we become programs ourselves, not programmers. And so, we must begin the process not only of reengineering business processes but also of self-directed rescripting of business executives.

How can executives rescript themselves?

Well, often we must first be humbled, either by circumstances, not getting desired results and preserving the assets, or by crisis not getting the meaning or fulfillment that we desire, or failing to maintain good relationships with our spouses and kids. We are then more willing to accept the fact that universal principles ultimately govern. We are then more willing to accept responsibility for who and what we are. And we are then more willing to develop and live by mission statements, which does much to produce integrity. Ultimately what we are is the most critical component of success. In fact, I’ve concluded the only way that I can grow toward the ideal balance between character and consideration is by living true to my conscience, to the principles I know are right. If I begin in any way to falter in either courage or consideration, I can usually trace my failures within a few hours, if not days, to some flaw in the integrity of my life. We read of actors who feel that they were exploited in certain roles and parts early in their careers. But as they gain more respect, they turn down scripts and roles that aren’t supportive of their new vision of themselves. They may even write their own scripts, or determine what parts they play.

Can executives also do that in their careers?

I’m convinced that we can write and live our own scripts more than most people will acknowledge. I also know the price that must be paid. It’s a real struggle to do it. It requires visualization and affirmation. It involves living a life of integrity, starting with making and keeping promises, until the whole human personality the senses, the thinking, the feeling, and the intuition are ultimately integrated and harmonized.

Why do many people need to break with the physical and emotional addictions that hold them down and reduce their quality of life?

Until that happens, there can be little progress made, because your body is controlling your mind and spirit. Once the break is made, people then have a path to progress. If they can get some degree of control over their appetites, then they can have some degree of control over their passions and even begin to structure their motivations and desires. Their character development can then skyrocket. It’s almost like breaking away from the tremendous gravity pull of the earth and breaking out into space, where you have such flexibility and freedom.

But don’t we all struggle with these physical habits and appetites? How do you cope with the daily struggle?

Well, I know that I have to keep myself under the influence of wisdom, conscience, and correct principles, or else sooner or later I suffer the effects directly, or those around me start to suffer. For example, I find that if I gorge at dinner I will not be sensitive later to other people’s feelings. I have to live in control. Any time I start feeling angry, if I go into self-analysis, I can usually trace that anger back to some indiscretion or indulgence. I may justify and rationalize my behavior, but if I go counter to my conscience, I know it affects my spirit. And I know it affects the level of consideration I have for the needs and feelings of others.

Don’t you have much more to say about building character by following conscience in your new book, First Things First?

Exactly. In fact, I think that is the central message of the book that in the long run what we are, our basic character, will take precedence over our skills, our competencies, or even the structures and systems we set up. My co-authors, Roger and Rebecca Merrill, and I are trying to encourage the development of a character that has this balance, this integration, between what you want and need and what others want and need. We encourage planting the “I and thou” seeds deeply into our mind, body, soul, and spirit. We can then run with the skills that flow from this balance between courage and consideration. With the strong foundation of character in place, we can add all the colorful elements of personality. If you don’t have the character roots, you might pretend the part, but when push comes to shove, you’ll get uprooted. You won’t come through. You’ll turn your win-win systems into win-lose systems. Such uprootings are among our most difficult learning experiences, but are also among the most powerful and useful ones because we can get on top of our own growth by recommitting to live lives of integrity.

And will such personal commitments have profound implications on the organization?

Yes, because the institution is usually the length and shadow of its founders and leaders. That’s both good news and bad news; it works both ways. But if people are proactive and progress from dependence to independence and then develop the maturity to balance courage and consideration, character and competence, they can achieve high states of interdependency and set up win-win agreements and partnerships with all stakeholders. And their influence will expand, and their legacy will last.

Written by Bhushan Kulkarni

December 29, 2006 at 11:53 am

Posted in Stephen Covey

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