As a photographer, I pay more attention to images than your average person. I often wonder how the photographer created the image?
Something I’ve noticed over time, rarely do I find an out of focus image compelling. I think the same can be said for an out of focus leader.
As leaders, when you and I are focused, we add more value to our organizations. When we are out of focus, our impact is greatly diminished. Obviously, no leader sets out to be un-focused. So, how does it happen? The culprit masquerades in many forms.
Sometimes we lack focus because…
We are unclear on our priorities. If everything is a priority, nothing is. As Peter Drucker once noted, only in modern times did the word priority become plural. Its original denotation was singular. Even if you have more than one, is it a short list? Do you order your world as if these are truly your priorities?
We don’t have clear goals or strategies. In the absence of a strategy, every tactic is of equal value. People often ask me what I think about a specific tactic. I always ask them two questions: What are your goals and what are your strategies? Only then can I offer a valid critique of the tactic.
We simply try to do too much. Leaders are generally optimistic. This serves us well in many aspects of our role. However, it can be a real liability when it comes to focus. We falsely believe we can do more than we can do. We also underestimate the time and energy required to accomplish tasks. The cumulative effect is hazardous to our focus.
We allow others to steal our attention. A leader’s time is never truly their own. We must be willing and able to respond to the people we serve. However, this serving spirit is a two-edged sword that must be handled with great care. At the same time, we must be available, we must also protect enough of our time to do OUR job. There are many things we are asked to do we should say no to. When we say yes to secondary issues, we are culpable for our own mediocre performance.
We lack the discipline to say no. This is closely related to the two items above but it seems to warrant its own mention. Perhaps because we are optimistic and maybe because we have a serving spirit, we don’t say “no” enough. Or, if we’re honest, many of us love saving the day, like the white knight saving the princess in distress. Regardless, for most leaders, a few more “no’s” would have a positive effect on our focus and our impact.
We are unwilling to seek help. Leadership is about leveraging the talents and skills of others to accomplish work. If we don’t seek help through delegation, empowerment, peers, and even from the women and men who lead us, we can become victims of our own competency. We can become trapped by work we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. As a result, we become bogged down and lose focus on what matters most.
Although this list is not a complete inventory, it should suffice to stimulate your thinking. How’s your focus?
Here’s my closing challenge for all of us:
Do whatever you need to do to maintain your focus as a leader.
If you sense you’ve lost it, fight to get it back. You, your team and your organization will be glad you did.
By Mark Miller
Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.