Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

December 11, 2017
Aug 11, 2022
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Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Sean Walsh, the Co-Founder of 1904labs, explains what it means to Sharpen the Saw, and why it's so critical to living and working at your best.


The funny thing about habit 7 is sharpen the saw and that comes from the thing where a guy walks along the road and he sees this guy trying to saw down this tree. And the guy's working really hard and it's clear that it's a really old saw and it hasn't been maintained, and the guy says hey if you just would take a moment, stop and sharpen that saw, it would go a lot faster to cut down that tree. And he goes I'm too busy I can't stop.

Well we have a lot of people that take the time to sharpen the saw and figure out what problem needs to be done before they just go headlong into solving it, and I think that comes a long way to you know making it true that you can do complex work, under tight deadlines, and under pressure, and at the same time have fun, because if you just drive drive drive, you know it's counterintuitive, we tell our clients we're not focused on the number of hours people work on your stuff. We're focused on the fact that they get the stuff done.

And that's really what the matter is and that's kind of permeates the entire culture, and that's really a basic principle of Covey.

You know you got to be in balance, you can't all work, no play, no family, no health, no keeping your body in the right way, if you will, in health, so it's a balanced approach to things. And it's counterintuitive, but you know if you try to drive too much in one dimension, eventually the wheels are going to come off.

And so I think that comes back to you know your question about how do you do high pressure complicated work at the same time you have a laid-back kind of fun culture? Well one supports the other if you didn't have the laid-back people centric, centered culture it's highly unlikely we could operate at the level of capability that we do, and get the work done that we're doing for our clients.

Because the people would not be in a position where they could do that kind of work. I don't know if that makes sense, but I mean it is a little counterintuitive. Because people are like look if 40 hours is good, 60 hours must be 50% better. It isn't. It's not even as good as 20 hours, because that human is not going to be able to get, you know they're going to be out of balance.

As I said, we tell our clients let's focus on getting the work done, sprint to sprint, or release to release, let's not focus on how many hours are spent. As long as we're getting the work done do you really care how long it takes us to get it done? I mean how much effort goes into getting it done?

Because an hour of really thoughtful effort, it trumps two or three hours of just, you know I'm just gonna go try to solve the problem.

We have people that take time to go on vacation, and you know there's never a good time really to go on vacation from a standpoint of, viewed from getting work done, but when somebody needs to go sharpen the saw and go recharge their batteries, reconnect with their family and friends, depending on who they're going with, we encourage that. And all we ask them is make sure that you give us notice and give your team notice so you can plan for your absence and then go have fun, and don't check in, and you know I've seen many examples of people, you know we're not a culture where even when you're on vacation we want you to check in all the time.

Telling on myself, I do that, so as I said I'm a lifelong learner of The 7 Habits, but we as a company we want people who go on vacation and we want them to check out and enjoy you know what they're doing, and I've seen many of our employees go off and do that.

The other thing we have a very supportive environment of developing your other habits because we think creativity, and we've had several of our employees join TechShop, which is down the street, the maker the new maker shop here in St. Louis, and they've gone and done things and then practically brought things back to the lab because they wanted to give something back. One guy made laser etched keychains on the eclipse day, because we had an eclipse party, that same gentleman put, basically did cut outs, so we could put numbers on all of our conference rooms.

And I just see people going off and sharpening the saw in a dimension then bringing that creativity, or that refreshness, back to the lab.

But it just reinforces how it's so important that a whole person is really balanced, because if you're not balanced you're not going to bring your best self to work when it's time to to work with your teammates and do work for our clients.

All excerpts are from: https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php and the book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®.