Business Consultancy Blog

If you want to get ahead in business, "Sharpen the Saw"

Sharpen-an-axe---c-d-x-uHSiDTptzV4-unsplash Sharpening your axe - tools, saw.

Anyone who knows me, will know that I like a business model and particularly a visual. One such model is "The Maturity Continuum" which simply summarises Stephen R. Covey (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People multi-million selling book. I have a copy of the model posted on a notice board above my desk.

There are 7 Habits referring to seven key principles where you and your team could and should focus on to adapt effectively to change, i.e., to take advantage during a change period, which seem to be a constant these days, to maximise opportunities. However, it is the last Habit 7. "Sharpen the Saw" which I believe most people, business owners and leaders often either dismiss or miss completely due to them, their business, riding high on their current success or paddling like mad to get to their destination. i.e., not having or making the time to secure sustainable business growth activities.

However, "Sharpening the Saw" is the most important habit to ensure any personal success or business growth is not just for a fleeting moment. It is about taking the time to stop, take a breath, take in the view and reflecting on oneself and the team, and setting out a clear plan, roadmap to drive and achieve continued growth.

In simple terms, when it comes to sharpening the saw, Stephen R Covey refers to four dimensions and philosophies to obtain a true balance in life/work and business.

Social; which is about connectiveness and belonging. So, from a business perspective it is about establishing synergy, service, security and personally, having a good network of friends and associates.

Spiritual; is about perspective, value clarification, commitment, study and meditation.

Mental; is about being becoming the best you can be, a master craftsman, developed through reading, visualising, planning, and writing.

Physical; is about getting the tone right, through exercise, nutrition and ensuring there is stress management tools and support and guidance available too.

Therefore, as a business owner, leader,

How much time do you spend, allocate on a weekly basis on sharpening your own saw?

And more importantly,

Do you create the space and an environment in the workplace to ensure every member of the team has the opportunity to become the best version of themselves?

We are in control, can influence these outputs, outcomes and results, and at the same time we have the ability to support each other too. To achieve personal harmony and the right balance we need to do two things,

Be proactive and act!

Whilst team communication and get togethers can give you some traction and be a bit of fun too, it is only when you embed regular 1-2-1s' / evolution or personal development sessions that you will bring out the best in your people and then you can collectively move forward resulting in a high performing team.

I am not going to suggest specifically what you do here and do take the time to find what works for you, however, I share some further thoughts below. But whatever you do, make sure you create the appropriate environment to allow everyone, including yourself to flourish.

Such as, securing and holding regular 1-2-1's with your direct reports. During 1-2-1 sessions, take the appropriate time, not the allocated 30 minutes or an hour a month to tick the box as being "done". Take the time to actively listen, ask open questions and get to really understand how to support and get the best from each individual that reports into you.

Also key for effective 1-2-1's is ensuring there is structure to these sessions and picking a place/venue where there will be no distractions or interruptions.

Establish for each individual employee, team member;

  • Where they were in the past,
  • What the current state is,
  • And help them determine and agree a future state.

Support each individual on setting and agreeing personal goals on an achievable timeframe. Not forgetting to celebrate and rewards success as they move through a continual development path.

For example, you could explore further understanding of each employees' areas of development around self-actualisation by referring to the Stephen Covey's Habit 7.  and the 4 core principles I referred to above.

Social; encourage activities which create inclusion within the team, particularly if as a business your staff are now working remotely or within a hybrid set up. Foster relationships at work and improve communication across the team too.

Spiritual; this is about your core, creating commitment to your own value system. Whilst employees will most probably wish to keep most of this private, you should encourage them to read more books, blogs, articles and watch vlogs, and write more to reflect and ponder on life, finding their calm and equilibrium helping them understand how to get in the flow / zone more often.

Mental; for most people, our formal education comes from school, college, university then it stops. However, in a workplace and during your career, only 10% of learning comes from training, 70% comes from "learning on the job" and the remaining 20% through mentoring, coaching, buddying up with colleagues. As a leader you need to ensure that the objectives agreed in any team members 1-2-1s are not just registering and going on another training course. Ensure each individual is encouraged and exposed to step out of their comfort zone by engaging in new and inspiring environments. Ideally whereby they can build their analytical skills, understand, and scope out their own personal improvement plan, through getting involved in projects, volunteering, even going on secondments and through other means and disciplines at work. Also, it is good to encourage each person to write a diary, log and reflect and share these experiences with you at each 1-2-1 session.

Physical. This is about effectively caring for our bodies. So, encourage your staff to take the appropriate rest, not to work too many hours, take their full holiday entitlement and find the time to relax and exercise. Give positive feedback and reinforce these behaviour by congratulating them on taking a walk around the block at lunch time, cycling to work, or just popping into a nearby park to take in the fresh air and the wonders of nature during a break from the screen.

Ultimately "it starts with you" as your behaviours will create the environment which then inspires and sparks your teams' behaviours to adapt and change for the better. 

So, why not start by parking the time to sharpen your own saw. Personally, you might find out a lot about yourself, your personal drivers, values and beliefs along with discovering areas for personal development by reading Stephen Covey's book. Or explore other avenues on how you can develop yourself personally, professionally and expand your business knowledge too, to become a more rounded individual and stronger leader.

The ultimate aim is developing your team to be the best they can be therefore, remember, in business often,

"It's only through your people, that you will achieve your goals and aspirations"

Should you wish to explore further your own personal development journey and plans linked to achieving sustainable business growth, I am more than happy to meet and chat through the above subject, (virtually or face to face) over a coffee.

Peter Fleming

Peter Fleming Business Consultancy

Email; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mobile 07966 686112

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Thursday, 07 July 2022
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