Remembering Stephen Covey and Zig Ziglar

Two great men who were mentors and friends to me passed away this year—Stephen R. Covey in July and Zig Ziglar just this past week. I’d like to share a few thoughts about these wonderful guys.

Stephen Covey was a devoted husband to his wife, Sandra, and dedicated father of nine, grandfather of fifty-two, and great-grandfather of six. He was also a great friend and colleague to many, including me.

A great memory I have of Steve was when we did a session together in Salt Lake City. During my presentation, I talkedstephen_covey about how the most popular management philosophy was “Seagull Management,” where managers don’t come around until something goes wrong—and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out.  That line normally got a good laugh from audiences, but not this time. Then Steve whispered to me, “Ken, the seagull is the state bird of Utah.” Oops!  He later told me about the role the seagull played in Mormon history.  When the early Mormons were settling in Utah and planting their fields, they were plagued by swarms of locusts that began eating all of their crops. The people thought they were going to starve to death. At one point they looked up and saw a huge cloud of seagulls flying toward them. They thought the seagulls were coming to finish off what the locusts hadn’t eaten.  Instead, the seagulls ended up eating all of the locusts, saving the settlers’ harvest and their very lives. Steve even took me to the place in downtown Salt Lake City where they have a statue of a seagull.

Steve was such an inspiration and a teacher to so many.  He was a giant in our field and a very special human being.  His legacy here on earth will go on for years to come.

Zig Ziglar had a big impact on me. During the times we were on the platform together, he modeled for me that it was okay to share my faith as long as I wasn’t trying to convert folks. He told me, “Your faith is part of who you are, and people want to know what makes you tick and what is important in your life.”

Zig ZWhen I was 65, I called Zig because Margie and I had been invited to the 59th Anniversary of his 21st birthday. I asked him, “Zig, are you going to retire?” I will never forget his reply: “There’s no mention of retirement in the Bible!  Except for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and David, nobody in the Bible under 80 years of age made much of an impact. I’m not retiring—I’m re-firing!”  What a difference his phrase of “re-firing” has made in my life the last eight years.  I quote him all the time. In fact, I’m working on a book on “re-firement” and my coauthor and I are going to dedicate the book to Zig.

One last thing I learned from Zig.  He once told me, “I never met a golf game I didn’t like.”  Ever since, I play a lot of N.A.T.O. golf—Not Attached To Outcome—and I enjoy the game so much more. He was an inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to meet him.

It’s always tough to lose important people in our lives. I think the best way to honor them is to make sure you reach out—today—to the people you love, and tell them how important they are. As Margie says: “Keep your I-love-yous up to date.” You’ll never regret it.

Great Leaders Open Their World

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I’m highlighting the four major areas where great leaders need to grow continuously, taken from my new book with Mark Miller called Great Leaders Grow.  I’ve already covered the first two parts of our GROW model—Gain Knowledge and Reach Out to Others. Continue reading

Great Leaders Gain Knowledge

In our just-released book Great Leaders Grow, Mark Miller and I explore how great leaders make the conscious choice of continuous personal growth. As we say in the book’s introduction:  Growing for a leader is like oxygen to a deep-sea diver: without it, you die. Not a physical death, of course—but if you stop growing, your influence will surely erode and, ultimately, you may lose the opportunity to lead at all.  Continue reading

Transferring Training to the Workplace

I’m constantly amazed at how employees and managers seem to consider training for themselves and their people not as an important opportunity but as a fringe benefit, reward, or social occasion, with little if any plan or expectation on the part of attendees or their managers to maximize the investment.  This is a shame.

I find that with a minimal amount of forethought, the effectiveness, retention and practical application of almost any training opportunity can be greatly enhanced.  This is true whether it is a presentation, classroom lecture, experiential learning situation, or even an internship.  Here are three steps to follow to make sure training has a real impact on your organization.

Step 1:  Set learning goals prior to training.

Before any learning experience, set goals for yourself and with your manager of what you hope to learn during the training.  Just as we read faster and with better comprehension when we read with questions in mind, learning goals help us focus our attention and retention of concepts discussed in training.

For example, after you read the description of a training session, make a list of specific questions you would like to have answered while you are in the training. Ask how the session applies to your current or future job responsibilities.  Then talk about your expectations with your manager and others in your immediate work group.  Their comments might prompt you to form additional questions or learning goals for the training.  The clearer your expectations for what you want to get out of the training, the greater the chances you will achieve those expectations.

Step 2:  Use real-life applications in the training.

Once you are in the training, consistently try to apply what is being discussed back to your job and work group.  For example, if the course is about communication skills, consider how to apply this learning with your employees, manager, and colleagues.  If there is a chance to role-play, use someone you are having difficulty communicating with in your work group as a case study for your activity.  If the course is on leadership, make it an opportunity to actively define your philosophy of leadership with examples to illustrate your beliefs.  If the course is about problem solving, select one or more problems from your work environment to address during the seminar.

With other attendees and with the instructor, during a break or at the end of the day, discuss the application of the concepts to your focus area.  Also, before the session ends, check your list of questions to be sure all items have been addressed.

The more you can view training as a chance to pause and examine problems and situations in your work setting, the more apt you are to get lasting value from the program. Even if the training doesn’t call for it, make an action plan so that when you’re back on the job you will be able to implement learnings and insights you gained in the program.

Step 3:  Follow up on learnings once you are back at work.

As soon as you are back on the job, get out your original learning goals and see how many you achieved.  Share what you have learned with others—your manager, your peers, or your employees.  Having to explain things you learned will help you integrate those concepts into your own behavior.

Identify at least one change you can make right away to gain momentum for making other changes and to keep from slipping back, unchecked, into the status quo.  With others in your work group, share your action plan for doing things differently as a result of the seminar and seek support for the changes you plan to make.  Even the most determined person can benefit from the support and encouragement of others when trying to change his or her behavior.

Set a time in the not-so-distant future to review your plan and your progress.  Hold yourself accountable by sharing your plan with your manager or others in your department.  The extent and frequency of your follow-up is crucial to maximize the practical application of your learnings.

These three rules are not difficult to apply—in fact, you can have fun doing so.  The time invested in getting the most out of training will help to increase your learning and its application and retention so that the initial investment in the learning activity will be paid back time and time again.