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A family isn't a corporation or a football team
on January 12, 2014
I understand what Covey is trying to do, I just don't think his paradigm applies. A family, however one defines it, is not a business nor an athletic team. Covey's insights, derived from his successful career as a businessman (or his son Sean's career as a successful quarterback at Brigham Young University back in the day), might apply when one is trying to manage a disparate group of individuals comprising either of those two entities. But I question the applicability of Covey's tools or habits--whatever one chooses to call them--when we are dealing with the infinitely more complex and important entity that is the 21st-century family.
It's no accident aggregations of business types, lawyers or accountants, football or baseball teams, or similar associations, often refer to themselves as a "family." There is a certain closeness, tolerance, easy familiarity, and deep love existing in happy families. These can be the same feelings and values that artificial associations thrown together either to make a pile of money or prevail on the field of competition often seek to foster. Not only that, teams and businesses attempt to project the "happy family" image to the world at large. All of this is a good thing.
The difficulty comes when one attempts to reverse the process and inculcate the values of successful athletic franchises or big businesses in the family. My own experience is as a lawyer in a large firm. I'm not sure any family could survive the cutthroat politics of the big law or accounting firm, the intense competition between junior employees for a limited number of partnership or ownership interests, or the constant pressure to "bring dollars in the door" often at the expense of such basic values as kindness, generosity, and humane decency. Likewise, the intense competition on athletic teams for a roster spot and then for becoming a "starter" is completely antithetical to what one would like to find in his or her own family.
The biggest problem I have, however, is that I do not view my own family as being "in competition" with other families for any particular goal. There can only be one winner in litigation; there can only be one NFL champion at a time, one holder of the UEFA Cup in soccer, one Most Valuable Player in the NBA. But every family can and should be #1. I do not seek the greatest wealth, the biggest home, the sexiest car, for my own family. I seek harmony, understanding, soft shoulders to cry on, and love unfeigned. So, I gather, do most folks. Those things don't come from following a business model, nor from defeating another family on the playing field.
As an antidote to Covey's business- and athletic-derived "habits of highly effective" individuals and entities, let me offer the following, coming as it does from a religious tradition Covey and I share: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained [except] by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile--reproving when needed with sharpness, but then showing forth afterwards an increase of love towards the person whom you have reproved, lest he or she believe you to be an enemy. Let this one know your faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death, and let your soul be full of pure love." Despite all of the business and athletic talk about being a "family," I can't imagine successful teams or franchises even attempting to follow this mantra. Likewise, I cannot imagine any successful loving family ignoring it.