Huntsman Post

Fatherly Lessons: Son of the Late Stephen R. Covey Talks Dad, Business at USU

Editor's note: This is a story that ran on Oct. 26, 2012, in The Herald Journal about Stephen M.R. Covey's visit to the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business where he spoke at a Special Commemorative Dean’s Convocation honoring his father Stephen R. Covey. We wanted to share it with our Huntsman Post readers in this special edition. It is used with permission from The Herald Journal.

Fatherly Lessons: Son of the Late Stephen R. Covey talks Dad, Business at USU

By Kevin Opsahl

The late Stephen R. Covey, a former full professor at Utah State University and worldwide best-selling author, always thought his 80th birthday would be an important occasion.

His son, Stephen M.R. Covey, told students, faculty and members of the public in a lecture on campus Wednesday that his father — who would have turned 80 that day — used to tell people at business seminars to imagine their own 80th birthday.

“He would say, ‘You’re there; your family, your work associates, community associates and friends are there, and they’re all paying tribute to you,’” M.R. Covey said during a “Special Commemorative Dean’s Convocation” in a packed lecture hall at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. “’What is it you would like them to say? Write it down, put it in the form of a mission statement.’ It’s not just something he did once; it lives on.”

M.R. Covey, one of the business guru’s nine children and a businessman himself, said having people write and think about their own “mission statements” — as any higher education institution or corporation would — was part of an individual’s recipe for success.

The younger Covey was invited to USU to speak only a few months after his father died from complications due to a bicycling accident. His speech was a “can-do” oration that touched on the “principles” Covey espoused — particularly in his 1989 best-selling “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” — as well as anecdotes of his father from years ago.

M.R. Covey has found success with his own book, which offers advice for entrepreneurs on how to actively manage trust in order to accelerate growth. It was a No. 1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times best-seller.

Stephen M.R. Covey speaks with students at a Special Commemorative Dean’s Convocation honoring his father the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey., the Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership (2010-2012). -  Photo by Eli Lucero of The Herald Journal.

He is the former CEO of the Covey Leadership Center; under his stewardship it became the largest leadership development company in the world. M.R. Covey left FranklinCovey to co-found CoveyLink Worldwide but has since merged CoveyLink with FranklinCovey, where he now serves as a global practice leader for the Global Speed of Trust Practice.

From the time his father gave him a plan to keep the family yard “green and clean,” to becoming a successful businessman, M.R. Covey said he still adheres to his father’s principles.

“I realized my dad trusted me, and I didn’t want to let go of that,” he said. “My dad helped me find my voice. He would say, ‘Son, take responsibility; use your own initiative; make it happen; be persistent.’ If you can’t get into a class (at school) tell the professor, ‘I’m going to show up every day, and I’m going to bring my own chair because I care about this class more than anybody else,’”

The elder Covey called this “the inside-out approach,” said his son, adding that “the ‘Seven Habits’ (book) is all about that ... We can’t expect to succeed working with other people if we don’t have a sense of working with ourselves, who we’re about, and what we are.”

M.R. Covey alluded to his father’s deep LDS roots, which in some ways guided his business thinking, he said.

“He said it time and time again, that he didn’t invent these principles ... they came from God,” M.R. Covey said. “‘Seven Habits’ — he didn’t think they were his — he just thought he organized them to make them accessible to people.”

His son said Covey had a very specific definition of “leadership.”

“It’s communicating people’s value and work so clearly that others are inspired to see it in themselves and then rise up from that,” M.R. Covey said. “(My father said), ‘I know what I want to do, and I want to unleash human potential.’”

Several Huntsman School students, who sat in on classes with Covey after he became the Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership in 2009 — a position made possible by philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman — were present at Wednesday’s lecture. Covey made several appearances at USU to teach and even attended a Huntsman School faculty retreat one year, officials at the school say.

The late Covey’s last book, “The 3rd Alternative,” is required reading of all Huntsman School students this year.


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