'Trim tab' your way to success

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 October, 2010, 12:00am

In his wide-ranging workshop on 'Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times', Stephen Covey uses a short film interlude to explain the principle of the 'trim tab'.

On a large ocean-going vessel, this is the small rudder operated by the steersman on the bridge that causes the main rudder to swing, slowly changing the direction of the ship and making it possible to manoeuvre.

The point of the example is that no matter who we are, what we do or how tough our situation is, all of us can be 'trim tabbers' if we choose to be. Positive, lasting change comes from small beginnings.

Illustrating that, Covey refers to how New York City drastically reduced crime. Rather than devising some elaborate and expensive scheme to right social wrongs, officials decided instead to tackle small felonies - fare dodging, spraying graffiti - on the city's subway system. Within a relatively short time, results surpassed all expectations because of a general change in attitudes. The direct knock-on effect was a spectacular drop in all types of crime.

'By focusing on what you can do and then making small adjustments along the way, your contribution will make a difference,' Covey says.

'That also applies to people in the day-to-day work environment who do not feel fulfilled or excited. Like a match, you have tremendous potential bundled up inside. If you find it and inspire others to find theirs, you can powerfully impact the entire culture.'

While he might have made his name in business, Covey has gone well beyond that in delivering a message to transform lives.

'I feel a very strong mission for this and focus mostly on universal, timeless, self-evident principles that transcend different generations,' he says. 'The more you deal with the question of what gives meaning to your life, the more you tap into your spiritual nature.'