When Was The Last Time You Sharpened Your Saw?


One of my long-time gurus died suddenly this summer.

Dr Steven Covey has been an inspiration to me with his writings, his speeches and his ideas for many, many years. He has affected and inspired many millions and his passing was a great shock for all.

If you haven’t heard of Dr Covey, you should have. His seminal book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, has laid a deep foundation for managers and others alike.

The seventh of his habits acts as a pivotal driver of the other six. He calls it ‘Sharpening Your Saw’.

It comes from a great story where two men are having a race to see how many trees each can cut down in a short period of time. Person one keeps cutting as much as he can, swinging and chopping consistently and with vigour.

Person two decides to stop every now and again and rest up.

At the end of the competition, they look to see who has accomplished most. Person two has cut down many more tress than Person one. How come, when he had taken rests and not been as consistent as Person one?

Well, during the rest periods he was, of course, sharpening his axe.

How does this metaphor apply to us today in business?

Well, if we continue working without stopping, without reviewing, without establishing if we are on the right road, then we seldom take the time to look to the horizon, to see if we are still going in the right direction and improving our consistency.

By stopping to sharpen the saw, we review where we are, where we are going, why we are doing things, what is working, what is not working, and we take time to justify our efforts and learn from our mistakes.

We should take stock and analyse our position and see how it can be improved. Researching and reviewing ideas in our field will help us establish a clear path for our future. The sharpened saw enables us to slice through problems quickly, efficiently and effectively. The new ideas we pick up incentivises us to perform at a higher level. The motivation we show helps others to drive their own performance forward. And the lessons we learn ensures we grow with every situation and hit higher levels of performance.

Remember Dr Covey’s seventh habit. It supports the first six and provides completeness in the truest sense of the word.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Boaz Yiftach of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Originally published: 22 October, 2012

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