Express Employment Professionals | 3515 W. Two Mile House Rd Columbus, IN 47201

Owners Blog

Keep Chopping Wood!

Keep Chopping Wood!

Recently, our Operations Manager, Phill Powell, used a video of Chuck Pagano in our annual planning meeting. The video was a highlight reel of Pagano and his “sayings.” He showed this two minute clip of Pagano that was both entertaining and insightful. If there is one thing I agree with that Pagano does, it’s to repeat the things that need to be heard over and over. Everyone should know the goal and your philosophies and be able to repeat them.

For Pagano, it’s things like, “Keep working, keep chopping wood. Keep swinging the axe, the tree will fall.” He also likes to say “Keep the main thing, the main thing” as well as “60 minutes, don’t judge, all you got.”  My all time favorite is “We’re gonna stick to the process.”

The things Pagano says are things that his players probably repeat in their sleep. They hear it at practice, before games, during and after games. The video showed interview after interview with other players repeating Pagano’s sayings. I sat and listened to the video and just smiled to myself. My team says I have lots of sayings as well.

The importance of the video in this meeting was to reinforce what was laid out as part of our annual plan. The plan includes a bit of retooling, learning some new skills and a focus on 2 or 3 things. This means we are going to need to “keep the main thing, the main thing” and “keep chopping wood.” Those have now become some buzz words in the office since that time and they are added to my other sayings like “control the controllables,” “stupid is as stupid does” and “put the big rocks in first.”

You may not think Pagano is a good coach but I believe that he does the things a good leader should. A good leader has the team focused on executing the fundamentals. He must be willing to stand for what he believes are the lead measures that foretell the future result.

Sean Covey, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, says that a leader must keep his team focused on the “predictive and influenceable things.” The “magic” to success is in the “cadence of accountability.” Covey says “Team members must be able to hold each other accountable regularly and rhythmically.” This means you must “keep chopping and swinging the axe” because the things you have decided will get you to the goal are the most important things you can do. The leader’s job is to create an environment where the team holds each other accountable and they stay focused on the few things that really matter.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO says, “We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of. We keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.” In most cases, business gets overly complicated because we allow all the noise to move us away from what needs done. So, as Chuck Pagano says, “keep grinding, keep chopping, eliminate some mistakes here and there and do your job.”

This article is written by Mike Heffner, the owner of the local Greenwood Express Employment Professionals franchise.  Contact Mike at, @IndySouthMike on Twitter or visit