Finding Focus: 12 Leadership Focal Points
Ever end the day worn out but wondering what you accomplished. Coach Wooden warned, “Never confuse activity with achievement.”
Life without focus is wasted.
Worse yet, wrong focus guarantees wrong results.
Don’t focus on:
- Distant dreams.
- What you don’t want.
- Obstacles. “I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” Venus Williams
Achievement requires focus.
Focal points for leaders:
- Developing talent, both yours and theirs. The number one priority of all leaders is self-development. That’s wise not selfish.
- Emotional environments. How do people feel at work? How do you make them feel?
- Creating clarity and simplicity.
- What you do for them, not what they do for you.
- Focusing the strengths of others.
- “Relationship before opportunity.” Jeremie Kubicec
- High impact behaviors and activities.
- Activities that enhance energy.
- What you want. “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” Brian Tracy
- Next steps.
- Solutions. “Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” Denis Waitley
Bonus: Giving and receiving feedback.
4 ways to create focus:
- Deadlines end dabbling. Set a timer for 12 minutes and focus on one thing.
- Use interruptions to clarify priorities and create next steps. (Thanks Doug Conant)
- Eliminate low priority activities.
- Complete a few easy tasks and use the energy to tackle something hard. Warning, too many easy tasks drain energy.
There are nearly 70 comments related to focus on my Facebook page as of 11/28/12.
Which of the 12 focal point should leaders focus on?
How do you find focus?
I always have a monthly plan to go by, and every morning I write on the board with a red marker 3-5 tasks on my board that I HAVE to do that day no matter what. And wiping the completed tasks off the board feels good 🙂
Fantastic… Thank you!
Simple and effective, I like this…
Brief… one of my favorite things. Thanks
Thanks 🙂 I found (after quite a lot of trial and error) that simple works best. When I tried complex ways of staying focused, I’d either spend hours setting them up every morning, or lose interest in keeping them updated with my real progress. Simple, on the other hand, works, and quickly becomes a habit, rather than a chore.
If a 5th grader can’t do it…most people won’t…
Picked up a similar kanban approach from Tim McMahon’s A Lean Journey http://www.aleanjourney.com/2010/08/personal-kanban-kaizen.html
and use post its because some tasks have legs…four columns.
A first column of the ‘Queue’ items (the queue can be large),
5 for a ‘ Today’ column and one of the five is ‘Now’, Right now, it is respond to LF! 😉
The ‘Pen’ for those tasks that have more legs or shelf life than anticipated and will cycle back to ‘Today’ when someone else does something with them or a specific date occurs.
Finally I have a ‘Done’ column.
Each of the post its has a general tracking of how much time spent on them by tic marks–once the ‘Done’ column gets loaded, I enter that into a database for future reference when a similar task gets requested I can quickly inform those seeking the service approximately how much time it takes.
All great points on staying focused, Dan.
I think the two that I look most to are focusing on and displaying the talents of others, especially when they cannot see these things within themselves.
The second is deadlines. I have much more often been using a timer, especially for those tasks that aren’t necessarily related to forward progress toward my goals. Like surfing the internet when I am supposed to be writing.
The other place that I have found deadlines valuable is in meetings. I try never to leave a meeting, whether I am chair or not, without specific assignments and specific times when the tasks are due. This helps get everyone to buy into the need to get started on their projects early.
Thank you Doc. I’ll chime in on deadlines.. One of leaderships most powerful tools. Cheers!
Not sure where he might of picked it up from, but I learned a great focus/productivity tip from Dave Ramsey.
The A-1 list.
The first thing I do when I get to my desk at work is open process email quickly. All email that needs attention and get be accomplished in less than 2 minutes goes onto my calendar as a task. I empty my email inbox completely.
I then use my calendar and a running list of projects in Evernote to create a list of tasks ahead of me.
I then assign each task A, B or C. A is for task that have to be completed that day. B should be done that day but could wait until tomorrow if I don’t get to them. C task’s are if I get everything else done. I then assign 1, 2, 3 etc to each lettered task. I finish by rewriting the task in order A-1, A-2, A-3, B-1, B-2, C-1, etc. I start my work day by attacking the list. If a B or C level task is on my list for week…it get’s delegated, I obviously don’t have to be the one who handles it.
Thanks Eric, I particularly like the idea of deleting tasks that are constantly carried forward… beautiful.
I love this as well. I think Dave picked it up from Steven Covey. It helps me focus on what is most important. It makes me decide ahead of time what I will work on, instead of whatever catches my interest in the moment.
Thanks Dan. I love the fact that developing talent is first. So often leaders feel guilty and selfish when they spend time on their own development. I also appreciate your list of what not to focus on – though I “teach” this approach I still find myself pulled by the negatives. I think a focal point that could be added is “how do I feel right now and what would make me feel lighter and better?” When we actively choose something that brings a lift to our heart and spirits, we find more inspiration and engagement to share with others, thereby igniting ourselves and them to move forward. Thanks again!
Thank you Lisa. I’m adding, What could I do that would make me feel great/lighter.
I like the word lighter because things I put off make me feel heavy. Getting them done makes me lighter… Bingo!
Love this: “The number one priority of all leaders is self-development.” So true! Like the Brian Tracy quote too – he graciously agreed to feature in my book so I might be biased. 😉
Thanks Stuart … love your approach of one day at a time… cheers
How do I focus? I make a list of what has to be accomplished this day. I do my least favorite first. Everything seems easier for the rest of the day. No dread.
Good one Dauna. Reminds me of Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
Personally I find that focusing on ONE objective or one theme each month works best for me. It allows me to really dig in and not succumb to shiny object syndrome whereby I move from theme to theme and end up with 11 “things I need to improve” that take me 9 years to accomplish.
One month it might be recognition of team members. The next it could be something as simple as being on time for every meeting.
The point to it is to take the time to develop a habit, rather than spread myself thing. Then at the end of a year, I have 12 new positive habits. In 10 years, I have 120. That is a LOT!
Great suggestion Matt.
Some may need to know a focus doesn’t replace the day to day responsibilities… it’s just keeping something top of mind.
I really like the “Deadlines end dabbling” comment – so true! I’ve found that sometimes a seemingly arbitrary deadline is just what a task needs to ensure it actually gets done!
I’m totally on board with that… A few years ago I got a stagnant process moving again by saying to the leadership team, “Lets create an artificial crisis by setting a deadline.”
What you want is the most appealing for me. It creates lot of clarity and focus and perhaps helps in making direction. I also believe that between activity and focus, there is generally disconnect. We tend to focus but do different activities resulting in fear because of not getting things in time. And this also result into excuses. We also fail to understand high priority and low priority task, and spend more energy on low priority goals. I agree with you that too many easy tasks drain energy. This is a kind of trap. I think there are lot of impact and influence of surrounding on us. And the great challenge is to balance those forces. Inability to channelize those forces distract us from our activity. So, only focus without alignment with activity is focus activity shift.
I find focus by doing unrelated activities that I desire and like for time being. And generally spend more time but that help me to shift my focus to my area of interest. Conceptually, it looks sound to align activity and focus but in reality it is a challenge. And the one who makes it, wins.
Your last two sentences are a real kick in the pants. We shouldn’t assume focus naturally results in aligned activity… You would hope it does but distractions happen. Thank you!
Shift happens! 😉 Paradigms and focus!!
A state of constant learning….humbling, brilliant, fabulous example to others. Bravo Dan!
Thank you indie… CHEERS!
Don’t focus on what other people want for you, which ties in very nicely to your comment “don’t focus on what you don’t want”. It’s exhausting, defeating and the feeling of accomplishment is less than satisfying.
So true Laurie… it’s amazing how many people believe they know whats best for others… Personally, it’s incredibly easy for me to know what YOU should do! 😉
Emotional environment – I think this one is often overlooked. Happy employees do great work.
Thanks Chrystal. I think it’s overlooked because we don’t appreciate it’s power.
Would suggest a 13th (of course)—convert or refocus energy/activity.
How many swirling meetings have you sat in with everyone describing in graphic, repeated detail the problems encountered…”he said and then I said and then he said”….like describing how much it hurts that the gators that are biting them rather than attempt to drain the swamp. Am also reminded of the Jack Nicholson quote in As Good As it Gets…”I’m drowning here and you are describing the water.”
Convert that energy, however misdirected and find a way to apply an undercurrent of Kotter’s sense of urgency and move the waters in a more productive direction. How to do it, depends on the group. It may be to refocus on who ultimately benefits from whatever it is you do. Share a personal story about the bigger picture. It may be pointing out that the gators will continue to bite unless we try something, anything. Don’t leave without a commitment of who will try what by when and when they will report back to the group. Kind of tasky, but sometimes…
Thanks for lucky 13 Doc. I twitted the Nicholson quote. Love it.
“Don’t leave w/o a commitment …” KaPOW! Thats enough to transform every meeting.
tanx so so much @leadershipfreak
Some more ideas for focus.
1) Write your own ideal epitaph as a life goal, then write down what you’re doing to make that life goal happen and take steps to refocus and even back up if required.
2) If your life goal is self-centered, then change it and refocus.
3) Look at your bank statement and your usage of time, then decide if they contribute enough to your life goal. If not, make a plan to change your behaviors. Time is the most important of non-renewable resources, and usage of money is a reflection of what we value.
4) In day-to-day leadership of yourself and others, assign somewhat less than adequate resources to get all the things you want to to done, then get them done anyway. This will naturally force you to concentrate on more important things, set deadlines, persevere where necessary.
Dan, I’ve copied the 12 focal points onto a card and put it near my desk at work. Just wanted you to know you are helping this leader become better. Blessings!