My daughter taking a Strategic Pause

I chose this title for my final post about The Leader in Me, because this statement reflects what the students feel at these various schools where the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have been implemented (all over the world, I might add!). Regardless of how they went about it, the feedback seems to be same. The students recognize and appreciate that these principles, courses and events are about helping them have amazing lives; about identifying how spectacular and unique they are, and about dreaming and achieving.

I’ve referred mostly to A.B. Combs Elementary, the first school to take on The Leader in Me. Their success was so profound that in 2006 they were named the number one magnet school in the U.S. Amazing. However, they are not the only school to achieve success. The second half of the book details how middle and high schools implement the principles differently than do elementary schools, but have also found significant success. Covey highly suggests that each school doit “Their Own Way.” The important part of implementation is not necessarily how it is done, but how the children and teachers feel. Here is a list of a few other schools highlighted in the book with a snapshot of how they infused the Habits:

  • Singapore – Chua Chu Kang Primary School: Habits 1-3 are taught to the 10 year olds; Habits 4-7 are taught to 11 year olds, and all of the Habits are taught to the 12 year olds, who were preparing for their national exam.
  • Chicago – Noble Street Charter School in Chicago: The 7 Habits are taught as part of the year-long freshman literature class. Students read the 7 Habits for Teens as well as a series of “personal journey” books that promote taking charge of one’s life and overcoming opposition.
  • California – Mar Vista High School: The 7 Habits are taught as part of a stand-alone course called Crossroads. It entails a potpourri of life and career skills and uses the Habits as foundation for the course, which is taught to freshman. They also read the 7 Habits for Teens, and use the matching Student Activity Guide.
  • Singapore – Clementi Town Secondary School: Created a program called HEY (Highly Effective Youth) to help first-year students transition from lower level to upper secondary level. They focus on one Habit per week and infuse the Habit into all coursework and via events.
  • Guatemala – Across all High Schools: The Minister of Education wanted to address the “hopelessness” that most youth felt in the country. She wanted to teach the kids to dream of a better country and a better life. She created the Path of Dreams program to give youth the tools to learn how to dream again and help them create a Life Plan. Students also are required to develop action plans to help remedy a social problem (in teams), like AIDS, or child abuse.

One common thread across all schools listed in the book is that all teachers are taught the 7 Habits prior to implementation.

In beginning this journey my goal was not to set out to prepare my children to be CEOs, but to be able to lead their own lives; to give them timeless principles that can serve as road maps for them daily. As children, their issues may not seem as complex as ours, but certainly they seem BIG to them. Whether it is sharing a cherished toy (for my 5-year-old), or dealing with peer pressure (for my 11-year-old). I feel confident that 7 Habits will help them make the best choices for them in the moment. And, if they happen not to make the choice I would have liked for them to make, well, it will provide another opportunity for us all to reflect and learn.

The final chapter of the book guides parents, like me, to implement these principles at home. Covey recommends using  The Power of Modeling, which includes these important components:

  1. Inspire Trust: The best way for your children to learn the Habits is to see you modeling them.
  2. Clarify Purpose: Be clear on what you want your children to learn/accomplish. What is your family’s mission? If you don’t have one, create one. Identify milestones.
  3. Align Systems: How will you get buy-in? How will you teach the principles (books, activities, etc.). How will your children be held accountable and rewarded?
  4. Unleash Talent: How will you nurture your children’s gifts. How will your children be involved in planning and goal setting? Will they be empowered or micro-managed?

Finally, Covey suggests incorporating a tradition that A.B. Combs created, called the “strategic pause.” He calls it “recompassing.” I loved this idea and will be teaching it to my children for sure!

It involves having students/your children pause for a few minutes, take a drink of water, stretch their bodies, look toward the light, and think of something hopeful. It is a way of re-energizing and refocusing them.

In closing, I will share a beautiful quote found in the book by Helen Keller, whose own challenges led her to be a mentor to many children:

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore…and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without a compass…and had no way of knowing how near the harbour was. ‘Light! give me light!’ was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour. – Helen Keller

May all of our children be shown the way, with love, light, and leadership.

Have a great week!


My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.

by Jay Morrison

We can all thank Muriel Thomas Summers, the principal of A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina, for being the first person to take the timeless 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and develop a formal process for teaching them to the students and teachers at A.B. Combs, beginning with students, age 5.

She comments about a session with Stephen Covey she attended as a student of leadership:

“Everyone was hanging on to every word being said. I believe they were sensing the very same thing that I was sensing, that what Dr. Covey was sharing was a set of timeless, universal principles.” She continued, “I found myself listening with the head of an administrator and the heart of a parent. And the more I listened, and the more I looked into the eyes of the people around me, the more I kept thinking, ‘Muriel, if you could teach this to young children, they would not have to wait until they were adults to learn these principles. If they looked through that lens for the rest of their lives, how different not only their lives might be, but how different our world might be.’ “

I couldn’t agree more with Muriel. What’s interesting about what happened next is that the parents and community members surrounding the school, when surveyed, didn’t even mention improving the academics of the school (failing at the time!) as something that critically needed to change. What they wanted to experience was a group of students who were responsible, caring, creative, compassionate, and who respected diversity and knew how to do the right thing when faced with a difficult decision. Wow!

A.B. Combs, which was about to close its doors, was transformed into a Leadership Magnet Elementary School, and the results were astounding. In fact, what all schools that implemented The Leader in Me program (reported in near unison) experienced within the first year included:

  • Improved student achievement
  • Significantly enhanced self-confidence and esteem in students
  • Dramatic increases in teachers’ and administrators’ job satisfaction and commitment
  • Greatly improved school cultures
  • Parents who are delighted and engaged in the process, and
  • Business and community leaders who want to lend support.

In fact, A.B. Combs’ enrollment doubled and now has a waiting list!

In the book it is clear, and recommended, that parents implement these same principles in the home. As I mentioned in my last post, that’s what I’m now embarking on. Anyone joining me out there? 🙂

So, my first assignment is to ensure that the 7 Habits are visible in our home so we can easily refer to them. For those of you who have not had the awesome opportunity of reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or taken a course, here they are:

1. Habit 1: Be Proactive

2. Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

3. Habit 2: Put first things first

4. Habit 4: Think win-win

5. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Habit 6: Synergize

7. Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

I’m not going to go over them in great detail at this time, but I will as we move ahead in blogging about this book and our activities at home. This week coming up, my plans are to do the following:

  • Have the kids help me to create some visual representation of the Habits throughout our home
  • Discuss the very basic concepts of each Habit
  • Brainstorm about ways each of us can make small steps to improve upon the first two Habits
  • Read books (age appropriate) that express the proper use of the principles (as recommended in the Parent’s Guide)

In thinking how this may work for us, I’m going to ask the kids to journal (I will help Nia with hers, since she is only 5!) about how they feel they are doing and what positive changes they are experiencing through using the Habits. My intentions, truly, are to have simple discussions, short weekly activities, and refer back to the principles as needed during our daily doings to reinforce their positive use. After all, we are very busy professionals and parents, and I want to ensure my children are able to grasp these concepts and make them theirs. At the same time, this is an opportunity for my husband and I to also reinforce these principles for our own good. I’m looking forward to taking action.

I hope you will join me for a nice discussion next week, as I hope to have some juicy nuggets of what’s working and what needs to work better!

On the leadership trail…


My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.