“Sharpening the Saw:” New Perspective of Busy or Just Distracted
Peggy and I recently returned from our beach week. When we lived in the Midwest, we found that our vacations were “a week at the lake” and now that we live in Virginia, our vacations have become beach week.
We love beach week(I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t), because we do what we enjoy most: reading, sitting on the beach doing nothing, getting in and out of the water when we want, and, of course, golfing.
We usually share our beach week with our kids and grandkids, but this year, it turned out that it is was just the two of us. We really did what Stephen Covey calls his seventh habit in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People– Sharpen the Saw. We did renew our resources and energy.
In the midst of sharpening my saw, I thought about the fact that we all have differing definitions of what it means to sharpen the saw and how each of us sharpens the saw. For example, while time away from the office is my best way of sharpening my saw, I do not completely disconnect from the office. We had access to wireless Wi-Fi at our beach house, and Peggy and I took advantage of this a couple of times a day to simply check in. For some reason, staying connected helps me to disconnect.
I have friends and colleagues who, to sharpen the saw, need to completely disconnect. While this is foreign to me, I can certainly appreciate how important it is for them to say goodbye for seven days and then re-emerge rearing and ready to go.
There are others, for whom I have a great of respect, who disconnect by throwing themselves into an extensive service activity such as going to Haiti to assist with building homes. And then, of course, there is the hybrid- those who sharpen their saw through a combination of the above.
So, while sharpening my own saw, I was reminded that it is important for those of us in leadership positions to recognize that those we work with will have differing ways of sharpening their saws, and we need to encourage and respect how our colleagues sharpen their saw. This is the classic example: just because I don’t completely disconnect while sharpening my saw, I make it clear to the staff that this is not my expectation of them. As a matter of fact, I want them to be as disconnected as they need to be, so that they when they return, they are fully renewed.
I don’t know about others, but one of the very positive outcomes from sharpening my saw is that I come back renewed and more focused on my mission to create greater access to the promise of education. This became crystal clear this week when I asked a friend and colleague- “how is it going?” He said he was really busy. We both concluded that it seems that everyone is busy, but when he asked me, “Are we really busy or just distracted?” I asked what he meant by that. He indicated that it seems that things turn up that require our attention and are, at best, tangential to our accomplishing our mission. In a phrase, these things “distract” us from focusing on the right things as compared to doing things right. Collins would call this concept the hedgehog as compared to the fox.
This led to a discussion about defining and staying focused on our mission. It was a great discussion. It reminded me how lucky I am and reinforced the reason why I believe many of us have found ourselves in our profession as professional continuing educators. We believe in the power of education, and, for many of us, we’ve become evangelical about the power of education.
I couldn’t be luckier, because it is so clear to me and to other professional continuing educators concerning why we do what we do.