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No Regrets: Guestblogger Chris Guldner Reflects on the Lessons of Stephen R. Covey


Stephen R. Covey may be one of the most settled souls in the universe. He died on July 16 at the age of 79. Ironically this was one year short of a key milestone he taught others to look forward to. Although his ship might not have reached that major port in his life’s timeline, I believe he was sailing with a settled conscience with regard to his life’s accomplishments and his intentions.

Through his writings, speeches, and training programs he challenged us to consider what legacy we each will leave by imagining the testimonial statements we would want to hear others make at our own 80th birthday party. Unfortunately, while out exercising (“Sharpening the Saw” in the physical dimension), he was involved in a tragic bicycling accident and died from complications from his injuries a few months later.

An indication of the strength of Stephen Covey’s legacy may be how many people now share with him a similar internal reflection of “no regrets.” They know that their ship is sailing in the right direction and they know they are giving their best based on their alignment to this charted course.

The basis for this reflection stems from his philosophy that true success is achieved by behaving with integrity to principles, character, rather than by just measuring one’s output, productivity. By teaching us how to discover our core values and identify a mission that fulfills our soul, we learned what “right” truly is for each of us as individuals. The alignment of our actions to these values through goal setting and routine planning can give us the peace of mind that our daily steps are leading in the right direction. This same philosophy that applies to individuals also applies to organizations, measuring success based on performance to stated goals that are in alignment with a valid mission and core values.

Here’s a personal example
Early in my career, after reading Stephen’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I changed my time management approach to one that is roles-based. Reflecting on what my roles are and how they are aligned to my values, I realized that I was in a job that was not “right” for me. At the time, my role as a training professional at a large manufacturing organization seemed to be that of a “box-checker,” ensuring regulatory compliance training was getting “done.” There seemed to be little interest from upper management to invest what resources were necessary in order to provide meaningful learning experiences. After “Being Proactive” (Habit 1) by attempting to influence management’s short-sighted thinking, I realized my desire to perform my role as a true training professional would not be fulfilled within that organization. “Beginning with the end in mind” (Habit 2), I decided to fulfill that desire by interviewing other employers to determine to which I would provide my services. After securing the right position, I “put first things first” (Habit 3) and executed my exit strategy, with no regrets.

Here’s an organizational example
While facilitating a strategic planning session for a newly merged company, I helped them define their core organizational values in terms of observable behaviors of the staff. As the staff digested what their people values truly meant, they recognized that to behave in accordance with them, they ought to select a strategy to revise some of their policies and practices. It became evident that current policies and practices were not “right;” they did not align with their newly stated values.

So, as individuals or organizations, Stephen Covey taught us that the essence of effectiveness, doing the right things, requires that we align our efforts with our core values. As long as we keep sailing using a compass and a current, accurate map, we can always be moving toward our chosen destiny, with no regrets.


Christopher Guldner:  In various industries throughout North America, Chris is seen as a thought leader and experienced instructor, training manager, maintenance manager and workplace performance improvement consultant. 

Chris’ industry experience includes that with chemical manufacturing, investment banking, health insurance, federal government agencies, automotive, food and beverage, aerospace, electronics, construction, and national defense.  Not only does he apply his technical expertise to instruct shop floor personnel in manufacturing technologies and methods, but he also develops staff in management, leadership skills and business strategies. Chris serves on the board of the American Society of Training & Development, Hudson-Mohawk chapter as Vice President and continues to provide services to other organizations as a trainer and consultant, with a particular passion for developing US manufacturing capability in order to bring jobs back to local communities.

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