Sharpen the Saw – Take Time to Keep Your Skills Top Notch

Improve your greatest asset

You may have heard this tale bsharpen_sawefore:

Once a woodcutter strained to saw down a tree.  A young man who was watching asked “Whatcha doing?”

 “Are you blind?” the woodcutter replied. “I’m cutting down this tree.”

 The young man was unabashed. “You look exhausted! Take a break. Sharpen your saw…”

The woodcutter explained to the man that he had been sawing for hours, still had far to go before he felled the tree, and did not have time to take a break.

The youngster pushed back… “If you sharpen the saw, you might just cut down that tree much faster.”

To which the woodcutter replied, “Fool, don’t you see I’m busy? I don’t have time to sharpen the saw”

How sharp is your saw?

I encourage you to run a thought experiment from time to time:

Imagine a documentary about what you (and your teams) are accomplishing six months to a year from now….

  • What specific results do you see?
  • How are things similar or different from what you are doing today?
  • What are the skills needed to make the scenes in your movie become reality?

Now, think about yourself (and the teams you are part of) as things exist today.

  • Where are you now?
  • How well do things match your vision?

Consider how the plot line gets from “here” to “there”:

  • Where do you need to be next?
  • What obstacles are preventing you from getting there?
  • What saws do you need to sharpen?

Invite feedback

To get a really clear image of how things are today, invite feedback from those you work with. And if they appear uncomfortable about giving you suggestions (good, bad or indifferent) tell ’em they needn’t worry: Giving honest feedback is a gift you’ll happily receive. (Harvard Business Review reveals that even though no one likes to give negative feedback, everyone wants to hear it.)

Assure them you want to sharpen the tools you have in your ol’ kit bag – as well hear about some new ones that you might think about picking up.

Then make a plan and take the time to improve the greatest asset you have – yourself. To become better, keener and more effective. You owe it to yourself and your colleagues to be the sharpest you can be.

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