Habit #7 Sharpen the Saw

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller, 1986

According to Stephen Covey, “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal…”

Sharpen The Saw for many stressed out managers means simply taking time away from work to rest and recharge their batteries.

But this is not the intent of Stephen Covey’s seventh habit, because each of his habits build upon each other to create a transformational and permanent change in how we function.

Step one is creating Independence by implementing the habits: Be Proactive, Begin With The End In Mind, and First Things First.

Next comes Interdependence by implementing the second three habits: Think Win-Win, Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood, and Synergize.

With this foundation built, we need to strive for continuous improvement or what Covey calls the Upward Spiral – by Sharpening The Saw. Relaxing or taking time away from the office doesn’t sharpen anything.

Imagine a lumberjack who is sawing away for hours on a massive redwood tree. Laying down the saw overnight doesn’t make that saw more effective when the lumberjack picks it up in the morning. Sharpening The Saw means improving in ways that make the other six habits even more effective.

Covey suggests we Sharpen Our Saw in four primary areas, Physically, Socially/Emotionally, Mentally, and Spiritually. How can Highly Effective IT Managers use these principles to continually perform at a high level?

Close Your Open Door Policieshabit #7 sharpen the saw

When I consider the idea of Physical Renewal I am reminded of the flawed management style called the “open door policy.” An “Open Door” manager says to his or her employees, “Feel free to come by any time, my door is always open.”

I find this to be one of the laziest management strategies imaginable. Essentially, we are telling our people, “If you need something, you have to seek me out, come into my territory, and start the conversation. If you are willing to make 100% of the effort, I am willing to listen and then dispense my Solomon-like wisdom to bless your work and personal life.”

An “Open Door” management style is completely disingenuous and extremely condescending. In case you hadn’t gathered by now, I hate the open door policy.

The best way to manage is management by walking around. First of all, it is good for a manager to get off his duff and get some exercise, even if it is just a quick walk around the office. Secondly, when we go around to see the people we manage, we learn more about them, what they are working on, how they interact with each other, and how we can better serve them.

My current sales team is spread all over the country. I have made a point to try to visit each of them in their homes, learn about where they live, meet their family, and know something about their town. Now when I talk to them, I have a frame of reference.

I can’t imagine managing people without getting up out of my chair and going to where my people are doing their work. Even if your team is in one location, get up and go see them. Talk to them. Find out their interests. How can we manage people by sitting in our office, oblivious to who they really are, and then expect loyalty to us and to the company?

Get Up and Move!

I had a boss once that just sat in his office all day staring at financial spreadsheets. It was quickly obvious that he was socially awkward and that the numbers were the most important thing in his world. We even got the sense that he hated sales people. A little walking around would have done him and his team a world of good. We have to get up and move.

Workplace cultures where physical activity is celebrated are better for everybody.

Our VP of Operations walks around the building a couple of times a day to clear his head. Our President spends most of the spring preparing to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim (25 miles)—in a single day!

Our controller enjoys yoga, and walking with her boyfriend. One of our VPs did a triathlon this year. Another gets up every morning at 4:30 am to do a boot camp workout.

We have a channel manager who loves CrossFit and recently started a boxing class.

A work culture that celebrates exercise sends a subtle but important message to employees that the company cares about them, and wants them to be the healthiest people they can be.

You’re as Cold as Ice

habit #7 sharpen the sawIn getting up and moving around, we are also likely to find that we get some Social/Emotional renewal as well.

I am working with a company President right now who is so guarded he doesn’t discuss any aspects of his personal life at the office.

His closest employees do not know anything about his kids, what he does for fun, what he reads, how he relaxes, or what he does outside of work. While some division between work and non-work life is important, this level of sterility is completely misguided.

When employees and co-workers are not allowed to know anything about who we are and what makes us tick, we become an impenetrable piece of granite; cold, unfeeling, and unapproachable. If that sterile feeling is driven from the top, the company will eventually take on the persona of its leadership.

Therefore, the danger of the cold unapproachable executive is a cold unapproachable company. Social and Emotional Sharpening can be as easy as saying thank you, smiling, having fun, laughing, sharing feelings, complimenting people, and serving others.

If we are becoming cold, jaded, or unapproachable, we need to find a way to reach outside of ourselves and meet the social and/or emotional needs of someone else – the trick is that in doing that for someone else, we replenish our social and emotional reservoir at the same time.

Come back tomorrow for part two of Habit #7, where we look at mental recharging, spiritual renewal, and why focusing on physical, mental, and spiritual health is so Orange Register Now boximportant for a healthy business.


Join us for a 20-minute webinar on Habit #7 Sharpen the Saw, Wednesday, December 3rd at 8 AM Pacific.  Register here.

Doug Tolley (15 Blog Posts)

Doug Tolley is the Business Development Director for LVM, Inc. He has 20 years of experience in Business Development, Sales and Consulting, and Project Management in a wide variety of businesses with a primary emphasis on IT.