Reading Travels with Charley (2007-05-02/07)

Montana has a spell on me. It is grandeur and warmth. If Montana had a seacoast, or if I could live away from the sea, I would instantly move there and petition for admission. Of all the states it is my favorite and my love.
--John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America

"In... 1960, John Steinbeck and his poodle, Charley, embarked on a journey across America." Starting in New York he drove counter-clockwise around the United States in a three-quarter-ton pickup-truck with a camper top. Avoiding main thoroughfares he visited nearly forty states, with a stop in Seattle. Among other places, he visited the Badlands, Montana, California, Texas, New Orleans (witnessing an event in the history of desegregation), and then drove quickly through Virginia and back home to New York.

In 1962, my father, after reading Travels with Charley, went to graduate school in Montana. His future wife had refused to marry him until she finished her undergraduate degree, so he decided to study pharmacy in the meantime. In the middle of winter, he found the deep dark nights, white-out blizzard days, and forty below temperatures depressing. So he took a bus to Portland, Oregon, arriving with $50. He bought a newspaper and called a telephone number he saw in a classified advertisement. "Is that room for rent still available? If you pick me up at the bus station I'll rent it."

In 1995 I embarked on a journey across America. Starting in Portland, Oregon I drove clockwise around the United States in an orange 1976 Volkswagen Westfalia. Avoiding main thoroughfares I visited thirty-eight states, with a stop in New York. Among other places, I visited Montana, the Badlands, New Orleans (requiring repair for the Westfalia while leaving town), Texas, California, then drove quickly up the coast to my new home in Seattle.

In 2007, after reading Travels with Charley, I called my father to see if I remembered his story correctly. He was surprised at my memory of the detail. Both Travels with Charley and my father's own story were told to me in a memorable, conversational way.


Reading The 8th Habit (2007-03-26/04-26)

Hopefully you're beginning to see how the 8th Habit--Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs--is another way of saying, "Use the empowering knowledge worker, whole-person model. Apply the 7 Habits (personal greatness), the 4 Roles of Leadership (leadership greatness) and the 6 principles or drivers to execution (organizational greatness) to that model."
--Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

"Why is the eighth habit longer than the first seven combined?" is a question I heard more than once while reading The 8th Habit. As the quote shows, The 8th Habit applies the seven habits to personal and interpersonal life in "Knowledge Worker Age," and then extends their paradigms into leadership and organizational greatness. Along the way Covey's writing references a confusing number of lists and research.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People proceeds from "private victory" to "public victory." Private victory is essentially making and keeping promises, implemented in the first three habits. Public victory is essentially involving others in the problem and working out the solution together, implemented in the next three habits. Habit 7 (Sharpen the Saw) "embodies all the other habits. It is the habit of continuous improvement...."

To elaborate on the habit of self-improvement for a healthy balanced life (an aim I mentioned in a previous book review), Covey identifies four dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual. He identifies example activities for each dimension that build a person's productive capacity: exercise, nutrition, and stress management (for body); reading, visualizing, planning, and writing (for mind); service, empathy, synergy, and developing intrinsic security (for heart); and value clarification and commitment, and study and meditation (for spirit).

In Covey's First Things First these dimensions find expression in the subtitle: "To Live, To Love, To Learn, To Leave a Legacy." In The 8th Habit these four dimensions are the "whole person paradigm". The process of "finding your voice" involves answering questions along these dimensions: What drives your economic engine? What can you be the best in the world at? What are you deeply passionate about? What does your conscience counsel?

The entire eighth habit is "find your voice and inspire others to find theirs." Consequently the book proceeds from personal greatness to leadership greatness. From mental vision, physical (or economic) discipline, emotional passion, and spiritual conscience arise Covey's "4 Roles of Leadership": pathfinding, aligning, empowering, and modeling. These roles lead to these leadership activities:
  • Jointly determine the course.
  • Set up and manage systems to stay on course.
  • Focus talents on results, not methods, then get out of people's way and give help as requested.
  • Set a good example.
To the discussion of personal and leadership effectiveness, The 8th Habit adds survey results on organizational effectiveness. Covey's survey results suggest that organizations fail in "focus and execution," particularly these areas of execution: clarity, commitment, translation, enabling, synergy, and accountability. Organizational greatness comes from closing these execution gaps.

As its length suggests, there is more material in The 8th Habit than can be easily evaluated and applied after one reading. In fact, Covey suggests it as a yearlong personal growth and development program. Time will tell whether the eighth habit is as memorable as the seven habits were.