Seven Habits that Will Change Your Life

Our latest article in PoliyMic addresses how changing your habits is necessary if you want to change your situation, either at work or in life.   I used this book with great success with my undergraduates when I was a management professor at Penn State, and Karen and I both to continue to recommend it to our students and our coaching clients.  Here is an accept of our article:

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the highly acclaimed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People died earlier this summer. My wife and I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Covey in action at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan when we were in graduate school. We were there to study business (MBA and Ph.D.), but had no idea that a chance encounter with Dr. Covey would also be so instructive and would influence not just us, but so many future students as well. We have learned so much from his book that we often give it as a graduation present to our students. If you have received this gift yourself and it is still sitting on your shelf, take it out and read it, as tribute to Dr. Covey.

To read more about each habit is critical to your effectiveness, our article continues here.


Farewell, Stephen Covey

If you have not read Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, run out and get a copy today.  We were sad to learn that Dr. Covey died Monday from complications following a bike accident at 79.

Since we read this book in graduate school, we have continually assigned it to our students and have given it to them as a graduation present.  Scores of Aneil’s undergraduate student at Penn State loved the book, saying that it helped them to better organize themselves and prepare for life after college.

We also had the privilege of hearing Dr. Covey in person twice at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He was a down-to-earth yet dynamic speaker who kept us on the edge of our seats.  He was a tremendous story-teller who had an ability to help you “seek first to understand.”  The one story from the book that he brought to life was the one about seeing things from another’s perspective.  He took a pair of glasses and put them on an audience member and asked him why he couldn’t “see”.  It helped us all to realize that we can’t force people to understand our perspective just by making them see things our way.

There are so many of his sayings and stories from that book that we still use at home and in our teaching.  What a wonderful legacy to create something so enduring.


Photo from

Personal Leadership and Trust

We just finished a great interview with Ricky Young of WHCR 90.3 FM, on his show, “What in your hand?”  We were scheduled to talk with Ricky for 30 minutes and ended up spending an entirely delightful hour with him.

In addition to talking about our research on leaders and trust, Ricky asked us some interesting questions.  One questions he asked was “how can young people learn how to trust people when they don’t have any trustworthy adults in their life?”  What a great question and one that we adults don’t often think about.  We wonder why young people act suspicious or closed off or selfish.  It could be because their trust has been violated early in life and they have not had positive role models who have acted in a trustworthy way to them.  We have to ask ourselves what we can do as adults to teach them not only that there are trustworthy people in this world, but how to act in trustworthy ways with others.

One of the other themes we discussed was accountability, as an aspect of being trustworthy with another person.  We mentioned that we are accountable to each other (and have been for 27 years of marriage!).  Ricky asked how we continue to be accountable to each other, and I mentioned my quest to express my thanks this year and Aneil shared his new effort to be more reliable about exercise!

Ricky reminded us that everyone is a leader: at home, at work, in our communities.  He is demonstrating his own personal leadership by hosting a Cash Mob on the Sunday the 8th at Grandma’s Place a book store and toy store in Harlem.  His goal is for every person who comes to spend $20 to boost the economic development of that establishment.  If you live nearby, be sure to bring your $20!

Thanks, Ricky, for inviting us into your studio today to share our stories about trust.


Who Does More Childcare in Your Family, and Why is That?

A recent article by Tara Parker-Hope in the New York Times discussed why women do more childcare than their husbands.

On 16 out of 25 child-care tasks — like changing diapers, taking a child to the doctor or getting up in the middle of a night to attend to a child — women reported statistically significant higher levels of enjoyment than men. The only parenting issue that gave women less pleasure than it gave men was having to manage who does what for the child. Over all, women’s scores were 10 percent higher than men’s.

Is it really true that women end up shouldering more of the parenting burden simply because they like it more — or at least dislike it less? Steven Rhoads, a University of Virginia political-science professor and the study’s lead author, surmised that some women may have inflated their enjoyment scores because of feelings of guilt or cultural pressure. But he also said some research suggests that a woman’s parenting skills are deeply rooted in biology. Women with high levels of testosterone, for instance, often show less interest in babies, while a father’s testosterone levels are known to drop when a new baby arrives, ostensibly a biological mechanism to encourage bonding with the infant.

Here is what I commented:

I self-scored a 74, but of course I’d like to see what my wife scores for herself, as she probably does more childcare than I do. I rated all the tasks even though some of them we haven’t performed in years, as both kids are now teenagers. Also, I rated the tasks as much as for how often I did them as much as whether I liked them. Who really enjoys changing diapers? Nonetheless, I’ve changed thousands, and not only for my own children, but also for my younger siblings and when I did occasionally nursery duty at church.

As much as biology, I’d have to say it’s upbringing and environment that influences who does what in terms of household chores and child-rearing. My wife and I are both first-borns, and we did tons of both BEFORE we married each other. My mom taught me how to clean, and as she passed away when I was 12, I had to learn how to do laundry and cook at a young age, too.

I’m the fastidious one in the family, and so I do the vast majority of housecleaning; our teenagers do their own laundry most of the time. My wife does most of the cooking, and the kids and I do the dishes. My son helps me the most with the cleaning, and my daughter helps in other ways.

Here’s what I recommend:  have both spouses take the quiz at the New York Times site, and then have a discussion about the results, preferably away from your kids, and perhaps over a quiet dinner.  Then let us know what you learned about each other, and whether you need to take some steps to balance out the childcare responsibilities.


Lent is a time to be thankful–What are you thankful for?

With the interest in thank-you notes, I thought I’d share how I got started on making them an important part of my life.

One year for Lent, I decided that rather than giving up something, I would find a way to improve my life (and the lives of others) during those 40 days and 40 nights.  It started with my grandparents.  All of my grandparents lived in Ohio, so they lived about four hours away from our family.  They were all very important to me (Lola, John (who my son is named after), Edna (or Nanny as she preferred to be called) and Trav) and I realized that even with the distance, I could build a stronger relationship to them during Lent by starting a letter writing campaign.  I decided to write to all of them every week during Lent and it felt good to connect with them in a note beyond the typical thank-you note:  I was writing something deeper about how they impacted my life and why they were important to me.

Once Lent was over, I thought I was done with my “Lenten sacrifice.”  But, I found out that my grandparents came to look forward to my notes and that I had just started a life-long journey, not just a Lenten one.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my grandmother, Lola, lived to be 102 years old.  We were so lucky that she lived in a nursing home close to us for the last 12 years of her life, so that we could see her often–even when she began to forget our names.  When she came to live in the nursing home and when she died, my parents found my letters to her–she had saved them.  That meant so much to me that she enjoyed our conversation from a distance.

When my Nanny got re-married to Bill, I kept up the tradition with him, even after Nanny died.  He had been important to her and so he was important to me.

I think that is the gist of thank-you notes, or notes of any kind.  While they may be old-fashioned and time-consuming to write, these notes are a very personal way to show and tell someone how important they are to us.  As Lent has just started, I’ve decided that our family will do the same thing:  we will remember each day what or who we are thankful for, and then we will choose one person to write to each week.  This tradition that I started during Lent will become a family tradition, as well.

What or who are you thankful for?  Have you told them lately?  Lent is the perfect time to share your appreciation.


-p.s.  I found this great image for Lent from

A Mama’s Boy Will Grow Up to Be a Mature Man

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an essay by Kate Stone Lombardi about the benefits of strong mother-son relationships.  I couldn’t agree more with her.

In fact, research shows that boys suffer when they separate prematurely from their mothers and benefit from closeness in myriad ways throughout their lives

A study published in Child Development involving almost 6,000 children, age 12 and younger, found that boys who were insecurely attached to their mothers acted more aggressive and hostile later in childhood—kicking and hitting others, yelling, disobeying adults and being generally destructive.

A study of more than 400 middle school boys revealed that sons who were close to their mothers were less likely to define masculinity as being physically tough, stoic and self-reliant. They not only remained more emotionally open, forming stronger friendships, but they also were less depressed and anxious than their more macho classmates. And they were getting better grades.

There is evidence that a strong mother-son bond prevents delinquency in adolescence. And though it has been long established that teenagers who have good communication with their parents are more likely to resist negative peer pressure, new research shows that it is a boy’s mother who is the most influential when it comes to risky behavior, not only with alcohol and drugs but also in preventing both early and unprotected sex.

Finally, there are no reputable scientific studies suggesting that a boy’s sexual orientation can be altered by his mother, no matter how much she loves him.

My mom and I were extremely close, and in many ways she was my best friend growing up, until she died far too early when I was 12 years old. From her I learned how to clean (not cooking, which I learned on my own after she died), how to take care of my two younger brothers including changing the youngest brother’s diapers, how to be kind and compassionate, and how to think for myself. My dad taught me many wonderful skills, but without my mother there is no way my wife (of 27 years) would have married me. I had to do a lot of growing up before she would even date me, and my mother as a role model of a mature, self-controlled, intellectual, and loving person showed me the way.

I am very glad that my 14 year-old son is very close to my wife, as is my 17 year-old daughter. We are all affectionate with one another, as our parents taught us to be, and my wife’s qualities are helping to take the edge off our kids’ tempers and everything associated with puberty.  Kids need their moms, and boys are no different than girls in needing to be close to their moms throughout their lives.


The role of B-Schools in preparing women for leadership roles (and others)

An article in Forbes is critical of business schools, claiming that they don’t do a good job preparing women for the multiple roles that they will play when they graduate. The author claims that b-schools focus exclusively on the roles at work and fail to help women (and men) plan ahead for how their work will eventually affect their lives, as well.

As a 1988 MBA graduate of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I am happy to be able to disagree.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but a panel discussion I attended one weekend during b-school completely changed my perspective on life and how I made decisions regarding work and family.

Many of my female colleagues (who at the time made up approximately 30% of the MBA class; I think that number is similar today even though my school is missing from this list!) were not married (like me) and did not have children, but were still interested in hearing about life after b-school.  These women spoke honestly and candidly about the fact that women, more so than men, would have multiple lives and roles after b-school.  They presented us with the stark facts that by virtue of getting married and having children, we would make career decisions that would take us off the path we had in mind today which would ultimately lead us to have several different career paths.  “What?!  I was going to be a CEO by 30!”

As I veered off this path for the first time as we moved to State College, Pennsylvania.   I was filled with dread after I left my job, but I was not surprised.  I had been prepared for this by the panel of alums who alerted us to the fact that we might have to choose between our marriage and a promotion one day, which I had done.  As a result, I discovered a new passion and career path, college teaching.  As a result of that new road taken, I am now a b-school professor myself.  Now, it is my turn to prepare a new generation of women for the speed bumps ahead in life and work.


Words With Friends Hooks People Together in More Ways Than One

Karen is a lifelong Scrabble fanatic, and so when our kids introduced her to Words with Friends on her iPhone, she was of course immediately hooked.   So are a lot of other people, 20 million in fact according to today’s Wall Street Journal:

Last summer, Kyla Smith spelled S-E-X-Y in Words With Friends, an online Scrabble-like app on her phone. It won her more than just 13 points—it won her love.


Donna Neveux
Stephen Monahan met Britney Hilbun by clicking ‘random opponent’ last year.

Eventually her opponent, Charles Briggs, became her boyfriend. Up to that point, the two hadn’t met in person. She lived in Texas, he lived in Arkansas. They met through the “random opponent” feature of Words With Friends, which matches up anonymous players.

The game is played by nearly 20 million people a month on Facebook, and countless more on smartphones. Players take turns moving letter tiles on a virtual board, trying to rack up points by spelling out words.

I’ve recently started playing, too.  My favorite Words with Friends partner is of course my wife. of 27 years.  H-A-P-P-Y   V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E-S   D-A-Y,   Karen!

Gisele Bündchen Really Loves Tom Brady, and That’s Great

There’s a great essay in today’s Wall Street Journal Jason Gay about Gisele’s defense of her husband Tom Brady after the New England Patriots’ loss in this year’s Super Bowl.

The last thing I thought was this: Wow, Gisele Bündchen really loves Tom Brady. She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other. She loves him blind.

This is a comforting, uncynical thing. Maybe you’re married, maybe not—maybe you were married once—but one of the things you want in a union is that kind of unconditional, unrestrained, forget-everyone-else support. Everybody should be lucky to have a fierce advocate in their corner, and you should be a fierce advocate in their corner too. Leave the measured consideration and the caveats to the friends and the shrinks. You want your spouse to tell you it’s going to be OK. To defend you when nobody else will.

Even when it’s wrong. Even when it sounds like lashing out. Even when it’s the absolute incorrect thing to say. Because they’ve got your back. Because you’ve got theirs. Because that’s love.

I’m not saying she was right, I’m not saying she shouldn’t regret it. But the supermodel loves the quarterback.

The fairy tale is actually a fairy tale. It’s so unfair, but it’s also pretty sweet.

Right on!  My wife Karen is exactly the same as Gisele:  she’s always got my back, defends me against my critics, and is beyond beautiful.  I. Am. Blessed.


Connecting with Others by Using Your Talents

This article popped up on my linkedin list today, “Forget networking.  How to be a Connector.”  If you have not read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, you need to read this to really understand what the author is saying, but this article is a good start.

Connectors are people who seem to know everyone and enjoy connecting people with other people.  They genuinely want to help you and find ways to do it, even if they cannot do it themselves.

This is Aneil.  This also coincides with his “”Winning Others Over” or “WOO” talent that emerges from his StrengthsFinder talent.  This is another great book to read that helps you identify your strengths.

Aneil is always amazed when someone does not have the ability to connect him with others, but I have to remind him that not all of us have his WOO talent or his passion for connecting.  As you will read in our forthcoming book, he has helped others find jobs or new career paths, but this ability has also helped him beat his thyroid cancer ten years ago.  He is a rare breed, indeed.

WOO is not the only way to connect with others, however.  There are also “relating” talents that people have that make it easier to connect with others.  If relating to others is not “your thing,” then the challenge is build the ROCC of Trust with others who are great at connecting so that your an benefit from their talents.  Just remember, you’ll have to help them using your own talents if you want their help in connecting.