Stephen Covey’s Mayo Clinic Lecture

The Donald C. Ozmun and Donald B. Ozmun and Family Lecture brings prominent academic and business leaders to Mayo Clinic to discuss management issues of interest to employees. This afternoon, Stephen Covey, Ph.D., presented “The Eighth Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness.”

Dr. Covey (here is his blog) gave the address live from our Arizona campus, with videoconferencing to Jacksonville, Fla. and Rochester, Minn. Here are some of the highlights:

Covey says empowering shared mission statements are produced when:

  • There are enough people
  • who are fully informed
  • and are interacting freely and synergistically
  • in an environment of high trust

Covey says this Principle-Centered DNA is gradually overlaid by Cultural DNA (that is individualistic and comparison-based) in most people and organizations. He says the strength of Mayo Clinic is that it is peeling back the Cultural DNA to get at the underlying Principle-Centered roots.

He did an interesting experiment with the group, showing half of the group one “conditioning” drawing for one second, and the other half a different “conditioning” graphic. When he showed a third drawing to the whole group, it was amazing to see how just one second of conditioning created such differences in perceptions: 90 percent of one side saw a saxophonist in the third picture, while 90 percent of the other saw a woman. “If we do that based on one second of conditioning, what do you think happens with a lifetime of conditioning?”

Trends Covey sees that are revolutionizing society:

  • Globalization of markets and technology
  • Democratization of information/expectations
  • Universal connectivity
  • Exponential increase in competition
  • Wealth Creation Movement from money to people
  • Free Agency “Knowledge Worker” Markets
  • Permanent Whitewater

He outlined the Four Economic Ages of Civilization:

  • Hunter-gatherer
  • Farmer
  • Industrial Age
  • Knowledge Worker Age

Each Age has outproduced the previous one by 50x. He says the Knowledge Worker Age will continue this when we adapt our organizations away from the Industrial Age model to take advantage of the full potential of each person.

The paradox is most people say their current job doesn’t fully utilize their talents, and yet we’re being asked to produce more with less. To get that increased output, we need to make several transitions. He says the problem is our organizations are using Industrial Age approaches in the Knowledge Worker era.

  • Culture should go from Boss Centered (Industrial Age) to Complementary Team, with Servant Leadership (Knowledge Worker Age).
  • People in the Industrial Age are seen as expenses; in the Knowledge Worker Age they need to be given voice. People who have Voice don’t need supervision. They may need coordination and resources, but the don’t need supervision.
  • Motivation in the Industrial Age is external (“the great Jackass theory”), but in the Knowledge Worker Age it is Internal (Inspiration)
  • Management – Boss owns responsibility for results in the Industrial Age, so therefore manages and controls; in the Knowledge Worker Age the Culture owns responsiblity, so people self-manage.

The mindsets of these two ages are diametrically opposed. We manage things, but we lead people. Things don’t have the power to choose, but people do. People decide how much of themselves they will give to their work. Neglect any part of human nature, and you turn a person into a “thing.”

Leadership is not about control: It’s about unleashing the whole person toward compelling, inspiring, worthwhile goals. The leader’s job should be unleashing talent, not exerting control.

You cannot be independent in an interdependent world.

He says the four unique human endowments are:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Imagination
  3. Conscience
  4. Independent Will

Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it for themselves.

I was paged out of this lecture a couple of times. One of the things I like about live-blogging conferences is I don’t get interrupted as I do with these on-site lectures. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t get to hear any of Stephen Covey live if I worked somewhere else.

So while I was blogging, I decided to go get the Audible version of his “8th Habit” book. The lecture was thought-provoking, and I look forward to interacting with the book when I won’t be interrupted.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

2 thoughts on “Stephen Covey’s Mayo Clinic Lecture”

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