LONDON — It is sad to hear that anyone has died. Stephen Covey supported and inspired many people.
I will admit, though, that I struggled with his advice.
I also admit that it may be cultural. As a skeptic about most things, when someone’s own website says “[he] dedicated his life to demonstrating how every person can truly control their destiny with profound, yet straightforward guidance,” I get nervous.
I recently saw the bio of a guy who was the year behind me in high school and it claimed he was a ‘strategic visionary’. Really? A visionary is someone who has “the ability to see visions in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition.” Is that what you want to have heading your business?
The first line of Dr Covey’s bio, quoted above says that with his help you “truly control your destiny”. Truly? You can truly control “the hidden power believed to control future events”?
That’s something, isn’t it? You would have to be a visionary, I would have thought.
Call it sour grapes if you like. Stephen R Covey has sold 20 million books. That’s a lot. That’s almost everyone in Australia… or more than all of Holland.
But there is some really interesting data behind Covey’s empire that is not well enough known:
- Covey co-founded FranklinCovey, an organisation that says it had 19,000 licensed client facilitators teaching its curriculum to over 750,000 participants annually.
- Included in their clients are 82 of the US-based Fortune 100 companies.
- Covey lived his whole life as a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or The Mormons. He was a bishop in that religion. He had 9 children.
- He has also written books that are viewed as ‘primers’ in that religion.
- Covey talks a lot about visualization and meditation/self hypnosis techniques. He wants people to relax their minds through deep breathing and muscle relaxation so as to reprogramme or rescript themselves.
I don’t know.
It doesn’t get any more comfortable for me from there. It doesn’t take long in reading Covey’s books to find the religion in them.
One critique refers to how they “yoke spiritual sentiments with appeals to commercial enterprise”, and then goes on to say, essentially that they are quite good.
There is a great deal that can be read about Covey. And I would urge you to do that.
I am not a fan of the “self-help” world. That may just be my British sensibilities. But I think most people would agree that to fully understand something you need to know where it comes from. It’s easy to find Covey quotes saying you had to hide the religion to make it successful.
And mysticism seems to sell well.
I am not convinced that 82 of the Fortune 100 would agree with everything they saw if they read up on this.
P.S. Ideally for me this article would be read and critiqued by many Covey supporters. That would encourage an open debate. Open debates are always a good thing.