How Sharp Is Your Saw?

I’ve been using Steven Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in a couple of my management classes. As of late, the seventh habit Sharpen the Saw, has been in mind. In the last month my father has passed, my oldest daughter has gone off to college in her first apartment, probably not to move back home, and a personal milestone. Add to this trying to  start-up a consulting business moving (we’ve just had our first contract this year!).   In other words, I’ve head a certain amount of stress and life changes in the past year; and in particular in the past month.

ICMA used to have (or at least I’ve not seen it in a while) a logo that said, “I can manage anything.” A clear setup for failure if I’ve ever seen one. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years is that no city manager can manage/handle anything (or everything). It really does come down to the community: department heads, council members, volunteer board members, community services organizations, churches, downtown coffee shops….you get the idea — it takes a community to manage a communty. The only thing we can manage is ourselves and how we react to the pressure and stressors.  And to do it effectively, as Covey put it: sharpen the saw.

Mr. Covey refers to sharpening the saw as taking “time to out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions.” Many of try to make sure that the new health insurance carrier provides health programs to help our employees make better choices (smoking cessation, loose weight, etc.). How’s your waistline? Still smoking or chewing? We want to add physical fitness requirements in police and fire labor contracts (a very good idea), but what kind of shape are we in? We may even add EAP programs for our employees (another very good idea). But what about our mental health? How sharp is your saw blade?  And I can say that during this past year, I ache focused less on the saw issues that  have before over the pst 4 years.

I once heard a story about Mahatma Ghandi. It went something like this:

One day a mother came to see Ghandi with her young son. She said, “Ghandiji, please tell me son to quit eating sugar. It is bad for him, it will rot his teeth and makes him hyper.”
Ghandi replied, “Come back in two weeks and I’ll talk with him.”
Two weeks pass and the mother returns, beseeching Ghandi to tell her son to stop eating sugar. He again responds, “Come back in two weeks and I’ll speak with him.
Tow weeks again pass and the woman and her son visit Ghandi as directed. She says, “Ghandiji, please tell my son to stop eating sugar. He won’t listen to me, but he’ll listen to you. Please, tell him that eating sugar is bad for him. It’ll rot his teeth. It makes him very hyper and he always wants more.”
Ghandi looked at the boy and said, “You must stop eating sugar. Your mother is correct. Sugar will rot your teeth. It makes you crave more and it effects your behavior and makes you hyper.”
The mother is looking somewhat stressed and asks, “Ghandiji, why didn’t you say these things a month ago?”
Ghandi turned to her saying, “Madam, I was still eating sugar a month ago.”

As managers, leaders in our organizations, we are required to lead the way in so many ways. Yes, this is another. It is a way to lead that first takes care of us. Take some time every day to exercise, not just wait for golf season. Learn to meditate. I was told once that prayer it talking to God and medication is listening after that period of prayer.  A quiet mind is effective restored mind. Attend a church, synagogue, mosque or temple or attend to some spiritual practice. Watch your meals. Attend to your heart and waistline. It’s hard to add yet another hour, another discipline to our already busy day…but if we learn effective time management, we can do this. And like Ghandiji, a month ago, I was not doing anything.  Today, I alternate going to the gym, cycling, taping yoga on FitTV.  I pray more during the day. and take time to listen.  And I pray that you may join me.


Charley Bowman


About Economic Development Data Services, Inc.

EDDS is a company focused on providing effective, efficient solutions for local governments in the areas of community and economic development and strategic planning. We offer the BARC - Business Assistance Recruitment Calculator - tool and website solutions in developing economic development websites. Our new website is
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