As a leader, how do you sharpen your focus?
The most effective leaders work on their self-development: they enhance their mindset, value and purpose. They make the most progress by cutting through the clutter, looking at the big picture and making basic, yet profound adjustments. As I wrote in a previous post, the first step is to find a clear theme.
The next step is to sharpen your focus. In a fast-paced environment, it’s difficult to think about the future and where you want to go. Understanding what your future looks like and how to reach your full potential requires dedicated, undistracted thought. It requires a sharper focus on the things that matter down the road.
When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we discuss how preparing for the future should be a thoughtful and optimistic matter. Time must be dedicated to evaluating the possibilities and potential. This means that you’ll need to split your time between current tasks and potential or future tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean an equal split, but some kind of proportionate division, dependent on the circumstances. It comes down to deciding what to let go of in order to focus on the future.
In Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work (Wiley, 2018), author Peter Bregman is keen to point out that this is difficult for many executives, not because of time constraints as much as the common paradigm that non-essential tasks are not productive and have no apparent return. The culture has us convinced that only the tasks that provide a quantifiable return (and quickly) are worth pursuing. Leaders who’ve become all they can be know this to be untrue.
Future goals are gradually achieved by working in ways that, on the surface, have no short-term rewards, but in principle have great long-term payback. This includes networking and building relationships, daily writing or journaling, learning new personal skills and reading. The key is to continuously improve yourself and your prospects while understanding that these activities may not support your immediate role. It requires a renewed focus and dedication.