We were all saddened by the news that Dr. Stephen R. Covey had passed away on July 16, 2012. We were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Covey several years ago when he was the keynote speaker at the luncheon after The Vancouver Board of Trade Annual General Meeting. He gave an amazing speech where he talked about always operating at a very high purpose, ethical level. Dr. Covey was not one of those bombastic, slick speakers; he was more of a teacher. He even commented that he’d never seen an AGM run so smoothly and efficiently. Most speakers of his caliber would wait in the green room but Dr. Covey had watched the AGM with interest. As Darcy, who was then Managing Director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, had afternoon meetings he asked Judy and me, his Work the Pond! co-authors, to drive Dr. Covey to the airport.
As soon as Dr. Covey got in the car, he received a phone call from his office informing him that his daughter had been at a baseball game and had been hit by a ball. He apologized to us for having to take that call and we nodded that we understood. While it would have been great to have ‘quizzed’ Dr. Covey about his work, we learned more about him from listening to how he interacted with his staff who related what had happened to his daughter and then wanted to talk business with him. They peppered him with all kinds of queries, minor hassles, and scheduling issues. We were ‘flies on the wall’.
When the call was over Judy and I chatted to Dr. Covey briefly and then we dropped him off at the airport. As we drove away, Judy and I looked at one and other and smiled. “We just had Stephen Covey in our car!” OK, maybe it wasn’t George Clooney, but as students of management, engagement and ethics, Stephen Covey in your car is kinda cool.
I asked Judy what she thought, and she said, “He did not disappoint. He acted exactly as the person he seemed to be in his books.” I agreed, “You can tell a lot about someone by how they treat their office staff. You know sometimes people treat their employees differently than the ideas they preach.”
There is a famous line in Flaubert’s book, Madame Bovary, about how the people we put on pedestals often disappoint. Flaubert warns of not touching your idols, because “the gilt comes off in your hands”. Dr. Stephen R. Covey was the real deal. Judy and I are honoured that we were able to spend that time with him.