Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2010

Dr. Covey uses an “Indian talking stick” to teach the importance of listening

Stephen R. Covey

Photo by Sterling Morris

Stephen R. Covey has been given dozens of awards and gifts over the years. There’s only one gift, however, that often becomes a part of what he teaches.

When he spoke to faculty and staff at the Huntsman School of Business, he shared a recent experience he had when he met with leaders of Native American tribes from all over North America. It was during that experience that he was given “an Indian talking stick,” a carved stick about the length of a cane that has a new name the group gave him written on the back of it.

“They called me ‘Bald Eagle,’ even though I’d done extra blow-drying that morning for some more body,” Dr. Covey joked.

They taught Dr. Covey that their tradition states that the talking stick can be used to help people better understand each other. A person is handed a talking stick and that person is allowed to express themselves until he or she feels understood. Others are not allowed to make their own points, only ask questions that will help them better understand the person holding the talking stick.

Dr. Covey has said that he’d like to see Huntsman students master the fifth habit, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Perhaps in the future, graduates will be armed with the right skills, trained in principle-centered leadership and presented with their very own “Indian talking stick.”