10th December 2015

Sharpen The Saw

You are probably familiar with the story of the man who encountered a woodcutter sweating profusely as he tried to saw through a tree trunk. When he was asked what he was working so hard at, the woodcutter snapped, “Can’t you see I am trying to saw through this tree trunk?”. “Well” said the man “it is taking you ages and looks like very hard work”. “Yes,” said the woodcutter “the saw is blunt”. “Well, why don’t you stop and sharpen the saw?”, the man asked with every justification to which the woodcutter retorted angrily, “I don’t have the time. Can’t you see I have to saw through this tree trunk?”.

An old story, definitely, but relevant, absolutely. So often we get stuck because we fail to sharpen the saw. We are so busy doing, doing, doing that we don’t take the time to stop and sharpen the saw and make life easier and more effective.

The concept of sharpening the saw was popularised by the late Stephen Covey when he listed it as the seventh habit of highly effective people and as with many concepts the deep wisdom of the concept has become somewhat watered down as its use has expanded.

How often do we struggle with things when a little bit of knowledge or instruction would save us time, effort and stress?  We get stuck because we have never really learned to use the tools we have, or those tools have become old, blunt or out of date.

The tools that we used to motivate and manage our co-workers when we began the business no longer seem to work now we are trying to lead highly educated professional managers who in turn are managing teams of their own.The tools that we used to manage a business of £100, 000 no longer work with a business of £10,000,000.

Unless we know to sharpen the saw, to upgrade our tools, our attitude, skills, knowledge, thinking and behaviour we will end up in a pool of sweat and stress, just like the woodcutter in the story. We will end up stuck.