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The tape opens to the silky-smooth, overtrained voice of the female narrator, who's responsible for tying together audio clips from actual Covey seminars. Leaving aside the occasional attempts at promoting Covey and his institute, her script does a first-rate job of making sense of Covey's own intense, analogy-rich style of explaining his habits. There's nothing simple about his approach to becoming an effective person. The first three habits alone--which have to do with personal responsibility, leadership, and self-management--could take years to master. Yet the last four are unattainable, the narrator insists, if you can't acquire the personal security--the "inner core," says Covey--that presumably comes from a mastery of the foundation.
Throughout our lessons, Covey's presence is both learned and thoroughly appealing. He drops references to the likes of Socrates, T.S. Eliot, and Robert Frost with the aplomb of an English professor. And his knack for mixing everyday stories with abstract concepts manages to clarify difficult issues while respecting our intelligence. You could argue that the cassette is nothing more than a clever marketing tool for selling another few million copies of the book. But, even at that, it's worth the investment in time and concentration: in the end, we're moved to learn more about integrating all seven habits in our struggle to become better and, yes, more effective people. (Running time: 1.5 hours, one cassette) --Ann Senechal