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COACHING LIFE: The eight habits

Cheryl Gittens

COACHING LIFE: The eight habits

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Last week the personal development world lost one of its most influential voices, Dr Stephen Covey.
Famous for his seminal work, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Dr Covey’s lasting legacy to organizations the world over will among others be a principle-based practical framework for the practice of personal and professional effectiveness that will endure for centuries to come.
It would seem that he lived what he preached. I was fortunate enough not only to have met Dr Covey but to have shared the stage with him. It was quite an honour as a young inspirational speaker at the beginning of my speaking career.
I remember the greeting. You know how they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul? Well, in the few minutes it took to exchange pleasantries, Dr Covey looked directly into my eyes with such presence that it made him very transparent to me.
It was a remarkable couple of minutes. I cannot honestly say that I have ever experienced such authenticity in another person’s eyes. I felt as if I could see his entire being, who he was and what he exemplified. It was a privilege to sense that brand of humanity in another human being.
After our meet-and-greet, it was time for me to take the stage. I spoke on my signature topic, Passion. When Dr Covey took the stage, he took us on a journey of interwoven stories filled with characters and colours that illustrated the Seven Habits.
Then he came to the eighth habit – not a tack-on, he was careful to add, but a whole new level of human capability he referred to as greatness. And just how do we find and experience greatness? Through our voice; our authentic voice, of which passion is a part.  
I must admit that I had made an obligatory scan of the eighth habit only a few hours before the speech, having purchased the book to get the Seven Habits CD. Yes, I am one of those people. So I was just beside myself to discover in my perusal that the guru of the personal development industry believed, like I did, that adopting and expressing your authentic expression is not only a capstone to excellence but is the key to truly expressing our greatness on this planet and that passion was a key ingredient.
We experienced his grace and generosity as he kept  alluding in agreement to statements I had made in my little talk on how to find your passion. As we listened to him, we watched how he worked many of the habits from his own framework into his delivery. He gave examples from his own life that demonstrated his personal practice of all the habits.  
As he spoke on finding our authentic voice, he said that finding our passion was critical to expressing ourselves authentically and that it had lots of validity in the workplace, especially among leaders seeking to influence. It is difficult to influence others to identify their gifts and greatness and bring their authentic voice to the world if you have not yet found your own.
This is the essence of the eighth habit. It is the movement towards what is truly inside each of us: greatness. It calls us beyond excellence. Honing our talents, passion, conscience, and paying attention to what the world (team members, peers, children, communities) needs from us are the elements that create authentic voice in our leaders. Imbued with this quality and driven by passion, leaders can begin to take their organizations from good to great.  
Knowing and expressing your true voice should not be underestimated as a tool of influence towards a more engaged, enthusiastic and passion-driven employee completely at ease with his or her gifts and willing to share them with the world.
Dr Covey moved such concepts through his practical frameworks into the realm of possibility and best practice. Therefore these ideas are not idealistic notions of his but rather practices that can be applied by leaders anywhere.
Companies like Accenture and the Ken Blanchard group have done extensive research on passion and voice in the workplace. This is a bottom-line issue. If Stephen Covey began with this end in mind, that our authentic voice is the key to personal and organizational greatness, then what a legacy he has left. Rest in peace.