Sharpening the Saw

Stephen Covey listed Sharpening the Saw in his best-seller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – this principle was taught for many years as part of our Leadership Training and was contextualized by using challenging circumstances in our lives to enable us to speak using evidence-based learning experiences.

The most valuable lessons in life, come from personal experience and I would like to share my journey and divine timing of “sharpening the saw”.  As an Executive Coach, I have learned that only through continuous improvement and renewing can I be the best Coach I am able to be – both personally and professionally; this comment below confirmed that for me:

 “We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw” – Dr Stephen R. Covey.

During 2020 we were confronted with unparalleled changes, including dealing with a new working environment while being distant from people. We needed to shift towards using technology like Zoom or MS Teams to have online Coaching and Connection sessions with our clients.  It was critical at the time to assist people with going through the process of change while, at the same time challenging our own comfort zones by embracing the changing methods, systems and tools as an alternative to our more normal face-to-face sessions.  Being a coach for 17 years while building and running our own company took a lot of energy but I could feel around May 2020 that it was time to renew and refresh.

As a coach I have learned you cannot give which you do not have. The most important asset I have is my wellbeing and investment in Self, in order to be fully present for each client in front of me.  If I cannot use and implement the principles of growth and change in my own life, I cannot expect my clients to achieve it either.  So, I was fortunate to be invited to join a group of peers who, like me, have been for many years Accredited Meta Coaches with The International Society of Neuro-Semantics.   In June 2020, this group set out to learn, grow and step up in preparation for the ICF (International Coaching Federation) accreditation.  For the past 25 years, the ICF has been a leader in the global advancement of the Coaching Profession.

According to the ICF, Coaching is:

“Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership. We all have goals we want to reach; challenges we’re striving to overcome and times when we feel stuck. Partnering with a coach can change your life, setting you on a path to greater personal and professional fulfilment.”


When the invitation arrived to go through the accreditation process with a group of my peers, I grabbed the opportunity knowing that it was time to sharpen the saw.  I knew that my involvement would stretch me and provide me with new, extremely uncomfortable and very intense experiences. I had to reassess, refine and even discard some old techniques and behaviours and learn new approaches to get my Coaching style in line with the ICF Competencies.  While doing that I was part of our peer coaching sessions and received valuable, in- the-moment feedback (with evidence) to take me to the next level.


Many times, while preparing for the next session or implementing the new learning, I felt like probably many of the clients that I have coached over the years: “Why am I doing this to myself at this particularly challenging phase of my life?” I too went through self-reflection and meeting with Self and I realised how important this will be for me, my loved ones, my business and my clients and how it would prepare me for the next phase of my life and business.  I have pushed through and eventually was able to submit my application to the ICF in early December 2020.  Then a long wait started.


Waiting for feedback resulted in a roller-coaster of emotions – first the excitement of having completed and submitted my application according to the requirements of the ICF, but then, as time went by, the unexpected emotions and nagging questions crept in like:

  • Concern, anxiety and then frustration.
  • “Did I prepare enough?
  • “Was my coaching level good enough?”
  • “Will I pass?”
  • ”Should I not have done some more?”
  • “Why is the wait so long… what if…I should have…?”


Around and around, I went…. and then in mid-March 2021, the good news came that my Coaching experience as well as the assessment of my actual Coaching process was deemed to be of a suitable level for me to progress to the next step.  I can now proceed with the last step of writing an exam to complete the process.  Naturally, I was relieved that my Coaching process had been validated but I was also excited, relieved and proud of myself for having put myself through what was, at times, a demanding self-examination.  Now the process starts to prepare for the exam and to get it done.  This time I am not rushing it, I am taking time to complete open projects, have some downtime and then prepare.  I will get into the correct mind space to make this worth the time, effort, money and emotional resources I have invested to date into this process.


The result will be a PCC (Professional Certified Coach) Accreditation – the goal I was seeking to achieve. It will also be a personal accomplishment and provide some comfort that my saw is sharp again and that I can apply this for the benefit of my clients.  During this process, I have learned so much about myself as a person, family member and friend. Outside of my coaching focus, I know that I should look at my eating, exercising, and resting routines, make social and meaningful connections with others and continue learning, reading, writing and mentoring others.  I have incorporated all of this into the process.


Spending time with my Father God has been my saving grace during this period of Covid-19, personal change, business change, health, financial and social challenges.  Time in prayer and scripture reading, meditating, and then helping and being helped by others, is what pulled me through. Having a loving Spouse and family added a very essential layer to my support.


What we can learn in the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 10:10 (Amplified version):

If the axe is dull and he doesn’t sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength; but wisdom (to sharpen the axe) helps him succeed (with less effort)


All of us are leading busy lives.  Some may feel like we are slaving away, day by day, week by week, year by year. Sometimes we have to face the fact that if we are working harder and faster, it will not make any difference. But, if we take the time to sharpen the saw we can accomplish more, with less effort in less time – because we are ready and on top of our game.


Six Steps before Sharpening the Saw:

  • Self-reflection on where you are in your personal and professional development.
  • Where are you in your life in years – celebrate what you have achieved.
  • What are your dreams and goals for today and tomorrow?
  • What brings you joy and purpose; are you spending time doing that and just BEING fully in the moment?
  • What has to change to step-up to the next level based on your answers above?
  • Look at the list and make the decisions on what areas you have to focus on by sharpening the saw.

Even if it is uncomfortable, find the best solution to do it for you and give yourself permission to work through the process of unlearning old behaviours that no longer serve you, and learning new behaviours which will.

Find safety in this process with people you trust and go for it!!


3 thoughts on “Sharpening the Saw

  1. Baie dankie vir die inspirerende en motiverende boodskap. Dit het ongelooflike waarde en laat ‘n mens net weer besef dat jy moet gereeld tot stilstand kom en jou fokus bepaal. Baie geluk met ‘n skitterende boodskap en veral met die Christelike inslag – dit is voorwaar prysenswaardig.
    Mag ons liewe Vader jou en jou werk ryklik seen. Ek sien met groot verwagting uit na jou volgende boodskap.

  2. Well done and said Annatjie. It is imperative that we first fill our own tank, in order to dispense to others that which we through learning and mutual understanding, know they will benefit from.

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