With sadness we learn of the passing of Stephen Covey today, aged. 79.
Stephen had a tremendous impact not only on my life, but through me, on the lives of those I had the privilege to lead. It started indirectly, when, after a period of reflection and tough going I discovered the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The overall approach of private victory then public victory, describing our growth as proceeding from dependence through independence to interdependence struck me as incredibly simple yet powerful. I applied what I learned to my life immediately.
Later, when assigned to command the USS Santa Fe, I applied his 7 Habits approach at the organizational level. I gave every officer and chief who reported a copy of his book. We would have seminars discussing the various habits and the application of those habits made Santa Fe a more effective submarine.
It turned out that Stephen was doing some work for the navy and learned about what we were doing on Santa Fe. He expressed an interest in riding the ship and the navy set it up. We were scheduled to conduct a one-day transit from the port of Lahaina on the neighboring island of Maui back to Pearl Harbor. This would be a perfect time for him to ride. It was also when we had set up a family member cruise and were expecting about 80 family members to ride as well.
I was apprehensive about having both events at the same time. I thought the presence of the family members would present a distorted picture of how Santa Fe operated. Further, I wasn’t sure how I’d appropriately apportion my time between running Santa Fe, Stephen, and the family members.
It worked out perfectly! Stephen was working on a book for families and held a special talk just for the family members. His message was that they played a critically important role in the success of the ship and placed high value on family. It was a win-win.
Stephen spent the entire day onboard, talking with crew members, looking through the periscope and driving the ship. He was tremendously interested in the people, and how they worked together. Everyone he talked to felt better about themselves afterward, especially me.
He remained interested in how Santa Fe did and was happy to hear of the subsequent successes the ship had, including the selection of 9 of the officers for submarine command. I was honored that he included USS Santa Fe in his book, The Eight Habit, and agreed to write the foreword to Turn the Ship Around!
Stephen, thank you for your influence, clear thinking, and enthusiasm for life. We will miss you.