Invest in creating focus for yourself and your organization. Let go of the rest.

My mind constantly looks forward – something that can drive people around me a bit crazy. Imagine that you’ve just finished sharing the results of that high priority project you worked on for weeks. You are excited to move onto the next item on your list of important deliverables. And you are feeling pretty good about the results you’ve just shared. In steps my forward looking mind.

As you are explaining how the enhanced process will deliver the results we’ve all been looking for..I am already thinking about the “next evolution” of the process or ways in which we can apply it to other parts of the business. All of which means more work for you. Which also means that instead of the satisfaction of checking something off your list…you are experiencing the frustration of feeling that you just fell further behind.

Now, I’m not saying that looking ahead is a bad thing. It’s quite possible that the “next evolution” is more valuable to the organization than the next thing on your list. I am saying that it is important to stay focused on what is truly most important in the moment.

In the example above, I’ve learned to focus on the work that’s just been completed. Team members deserve feedback (positive and constructive) on what they were asked to do – absent any (immediate) ideation about where it goes next. I’ve had more than a few people tell me how much better their team members felt when I reserved my “ideation” for a subsequent discussion – because team members were able to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Assuming for the moment that I’ve managed to show restraint in the moment by capturing but not sharing my ideas – the next step is to determine if, when or how the ideas are shared. This requires a different kind of focus – Organizational Focus.

Organizational Focus exists when all members of the team have clarity and alignment regarding the organizations vision, mission, strategies, priorities and goals – and their role in making them a reality.

For me, the trick is less about getting the team aligned than it is about keeping myself aligned. When your mind is always thinking ahead and coming up with new ideas…it takes discipline to step back and objectively evaluate the impact of these new ideas.

  • how will the new idea impact other priorities?
  • will it have a greater or lesser impact on desired results than existing priorities?
  • is it aligned with strategic direction?
  • If not aligned, is it important enough to challenge the existing strategic direction?

I have yet to work in an environment in which people aren’t struggling to keep up with what is expected of them.  While you can always challenge the team to do more…it is more likely that you will need find a deliverable that will come off the list.  I believe there is value in putting your idea to the test by thinking through what you would have to displace to make room for your new idea.

Remembering that this is a work in progress for me, here is how I am trying to maintain Focus these days.

Keep Your Focus on the Big Picture – Keep the vision, mission, strategies, organizational priorities and KPIs (key performance indicators) in front of you…not put away on a shelf or buried in digital folders. This comes in handy when you need to quickly evaluate the alignment of your new idea with established plans and priorities.

Maintain Focus with Direct Reports – Maintain a list of the top priorities (and high level status) for each direct report team member. This helps you (and them) stay aligned as new ideas, unexpected challenges or unique opportunities present themselves. I use this as the frame of reference for regular 1-1 meetings.

Focus the Team – Bring the team together regularly to talk about the strategies, priorities and results. In addition to “all hands” gatherings, I like to invite team leaders to share how they have moved the business forward in the last 90 days and how they will move it forward in the next 90 days. You might be surprised at the difference between someone sharing what they’ve worked on vs sharing how they’ve moved the business forward.

Focus on Progress – Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate small successes along the way. Use these opportunities to reinforce vision, mission, values, strategies, priorities and KPIs by recognizing the impact of this initiative on the bigger picture. And, if you’re like me, hold onto those ideas….if only for a day or two.

Want more?  Here are two interesting articles by Daniel Goleman: