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Valuable Synthesis Presented Abstractly and Ponderously
am 21. April 2007
If you haven't read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I suggest you read that one before this book.
Dr. Covey obviously pulled out all of the stops in trying to make this book as helpful as possible to his readers. The book contains summaries of the material in his other books, repeats many stories from those books, reconciles the material with most of the business book best sellers in recent years, contains a DVD full of inspiring videos, provides references to many free materials on his web site, has extensive appendices and contains many thoughtful sections on questions and answers. As a result, the book comes across like an encyclopedia of his teachings . . . rather than as the simple communication that is so delightful in his other books. I suspect that Dr. Covey changed ghostwriters for this one (at least I assume that the other books were ghostwritten because they avoid the ponderous communications style that Dr. Covey uses in person).
So what is the 8th habit? Allow me to paraphrase. It'll be quicker that way. You act with integrity as an individual and help others to do the same.
In Covey-speak, it's the overlap of personal greatness (applying the 7 habits in the forms of vision, discipline, passion and conscience), leadership greatness (applying the 4 roles of leadership (modeling the 7 habits, path finding, aligning and Empowering), and organizational greatness (turned into a vision, mission and values that bring clarity, commitment, translation, synergy, enabling and accountability). See Figure 14.3 on page 280 for the simplest expression of the 8th habit in Covey-speak.
Can you make a book out of that point? Well, if you put in lots of examples, you can . . . which Dr. Covey did. But the basic point is about a magazine article's worth. Most people will come to that realization when they see the entire book's concepts summarized in chapters 14 and 15. If you want to check this book out, read those two chapters and see if you need more at that point.
Why do millions of people read his books? Well, the earlier ones were beautifully written. This one isn't. All of his books show unadulterated respect for the reader and a belief in the reader's unlimited potential to improve. So it's inspiring to read someone's high opinion of you. Dr. Covey obviously cares that we live moral and positive lives. He's a sort of secular priest expressing moral values that most will agree with. Would we all like to work for Dr. Covey? Sure!
How well will this book translate in the workplace? It'll be a tough row. You can have a company that's good at the 8th habit, but doesn't build the necessary skills to succeed with using the 8th habit. That's because this book is heavy on concepts . . . and light on the practical details. Dr. Covey starts up at about 100,000 feet in the air with his abstract thinking and discussions, and rarely gets any closer. So think of the 8th habit book as helpful . . . but not sufficient in and of itself . . . for creating superior performance. Perhaps it will work better if you employ Dr. Covey's firm to help you (which is abundantly pitched in the book).
Dr. Covey humbly points out that his conclusions are aimed at dealing with the problems of poor communication, lousy alignment, misunderstandings about what to do next, lacks of tools and training, and dumbed-down workplaces . . . but is not supported by research (other than anecdotes from his clients) to support that this actually works better. But you'll agree, I'm sure, that even failure would feel a lot better in such an organization. So it's very humanistic, which is a good thing.
Few will disagree with the point of this book, and most wonder what this adds to Dr. Covey's work on Principle-Centered Leadership. "Not very much" is my impression.
I suspect that this book would have worked a lot better if the material had been simplified and added to the 7 habits book . . . and renamed as "The 8 Habits of Highly Effective People."
May God bless you, Dr. Covey! Keep inspiring us to be our best!