Sharpening the Saw

According to Stephen R. Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Sharpen 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.”

This summer I had the opportunity to sharpen my saw at the Clifton Strengths Summit, the premier gathering of Strengths coaches from around the world.  We spent two days diving into the latest research about Strengths based development and learning new best practices.  Leaders from various industries shared their successes including; Atlanta Public Schools (Education), Department of Defense (Federal Government), Charles Schwab (Financial Services), and Leadership Rhode Island (State Government).  Keynote speakers Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup Corporation, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Founder of the Chopra Foundation, and Paul Allen & Jim Collison of Gallup Corporation enlightened the group with findings on how Strengths based development is making a difference in all areas of the world, from children to adults in communities, government, and business.

My favorite speaker was Tom Rath, the grandson of Don Clifton, the founder of Gallup and Strengths-based development. Tom is an incredible leader and bestselling author, researcher, and advisor at Gallup Corporation.  After being told by a teacher (who didn’t seem to know Tom’s Strengths) that he should stick to math and avoid writing, he’s gone on to author 6 New York Times Bestsellers, including Strength Finder 2.0—which has been on Amazon’s top books sold since 2007.  A researcher at heart, Tom shared some great insights from his learnings.  Due to our lifestyle choices and the way we currently prioritize our time, Tom's research has led him to the belief that:

"most people are operating at 20% capacity"

He then challenged us with this statement:

“We need to make decisions to be at our best for those that we love”

In terms of business, I would add and for those we lead to this powerful statement. When leaders lead by personal example, it gives their constituents permission to value all important areas of their life, such as health. 

I remember a friend and coworker of mine used to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Careful what you wish for!  We might just be moving the end closer by not taking care of our bodies and burning the candle at both ends continuously.  What example are we as leaders setting for our teams when we are always on for business and don’t prioritize other areas of our life?  It makes our coworkers and teams feel like they need to be always on for business too—and that’s a heavy strain and toll over time.  Businesses can make a positive contribution in their employees lives and it begins with making decisions that value all aspects of our lives and helping others be their best by supporting their well-being.  Life is about what you put back into the world, but before you can give it your all you must be at your best.

When asked what the Single BEST Strength is, Tom replied, “Uncovering talent in others that they weren’t aware of.  Listening to them.” 

He then shared a challenge out to the room filled with coaches:

“Let’s make time and attention the new status symbol” 

If time and attention is your status does that change the way you prioritize your time?  What will you give "status" to in your life?  What will you invest in?  You get to decide.  What will it be?

Here is your call to action, Leaders

  • Create your list of priorities--list what matters MOST to you

  • Invest in yourself

  • Invest in your relationships

  • Invest in your team and fellow co-workers

  • Help others bring their talents to the world.

Be the spark!