Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” indicates the importance of “Sharpening the Saw” as the 7th Habit. Covey reasons that the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have…you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. He outlines the following examples of activities for each area:
|Physical:||Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting|
|Social/Emotional:||Making social and meaningful connections with others|
|Mental:||Learning, reading, writing, and teaching|
|Spiritual:||Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service|
When I looked at the above facets of sharpening the saw, I realized that I personally had some work to do and felt that I needed a coach to help me close the identified gaps.
As an Executive Coach I usually enjoy using the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL)’s time tested coaching model of Assessment, Challenge and Support (ACS). The Assessment phase provides clarity about what needs to change; the Challenge phase indicates the work required beyond one’s comfort zone; and the Support phase provides the encouragement during the change process. During the entire coaching process, the coachee and coach will collaborate and the entire relationship is built on trust which arises from ongoing rapport in the coaching process.
Confidentiality is a key prerequisite of a coaching engagement, however allow me to have an open coaching conversation with myself on the different areas of sharpening the saw.
I am 52 years old, 6 foot 2 inches tall, weighing 91 kg and generally in good health. I enjoy a regular game of squash, jog twice a week and watch what I eat. Three months ago I went for a routine medical checkup and was surprised to be admitted and scheduled for surgery later that week. During this process I had time to reflect on my life and did notice that I was a “busy bee”, with several obligations to different institutions and trying to cover so much in limited time. Whilst I had a good routine of physical exercise, I had to allow my body time to rest and not feel guilty about it. I decided to go through a process of assessing the different commitments I have, and carefully screen any new obligations. Changing in this area will not happen overnight and I have asked Lydia, my wife, to be my accountability partner as I transition.
Making meaningful social connections with others does not come naturally for me and I have to make a deliberate effort to this effect. I returned home after several years of working for Coca Cola in a regional role, and realized that I had lost part of my network of friends and professional colleagues. To redress this gap I participated in different social errands which entailed joining a Rotary Club (Rotary Club Kampala North, RCKN) which gives me the opportunity to work on a range of programs that give back to humanity; I play squash at Kampala Club where I could interact with other professional people; and also actively participate in my local church. I have been married to Lydia for 19 years and we endeavor to spend quality time with each other and the children. Each of these errands wants a piece of you and one has to learn to prioritize.
Learning, reading, writing, and teaching are what naturally comes to my mind when I think of sharpening the saw. I recently learnt that overcoming the “writers block” involves a writer going through the madness phase where they should freely write without being hemmed in by the rules of grammar, content flow or quality of their writing. However, I have realized that if you want to write well, you must read well, and you must read widely. The human brain is like a sponge. We soak up everything we observe and experience throughout our lives, and each thing we are exposed to become part of the very fibre of our beings. What we read is no exception, and this is usually expressed in how we write.
My personal experience is that this is a strong developmental area for me, and writing this very piece is part of my effort to sharpen my saw. I also realize that writing is like jogging; when you are out of practice it is usually uncomfortable when you start, but gets better with practice.
Spiritual awareness is expressed in different ways by different individuals and for me this comes through my faith in Christ which plays a big role in the different aspects of my life. I have learnt the importance of taking out time in the day, week or year to have quiet moments of prayer and reflection. I regularly go to a place of seclusion and I try to cut off from the outside world so that I connect with myself.
Self-renewal in the four areas of physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual vary from one individual to another. As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh and increases your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you. Covey argues that without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish; which is not a pretty picture.
I personally learnt that living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It’s all up to you and the choices that you make. I can choose to jog at 5am or stay in bed; read a book or watch CNN over and over again; spend quality time with my wife and children or be tied up in another committee meeting. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.
Imprint (U) Ltd provides superior capacity building consulting services by a team of experienced operators with vast exposure. The organization draws its name from a leadership attribute associated with exemplary leaders who leave an imprint (distinctive mark of leadership) on people's lives.