Most executives, high level managers and employees start their day with a to-do list of some kind and the best of intentions of accomplishing something meaningful that day. Unfortunately many people complete simpler tasks first and make little progress towards important issues.
Very few people look back on their day to see if they stayed focused on the “most important issue” on their action list. It is very easy to become distracted and spend the day dealing with customer issues, working on emails and attending meetings.
Focus starts from the top in more ways than one. As the leader of the organization, you chart the course for your company. Lead by directly linking daily efforts to critical success factors that support corporate goals.
Avoid the Small Stuff
One way to avoid spending too much time on the “small stuff” is to create an “A List” and then select the one most important item from that list as your focus item of the day (or week if that makes more sense).
Directly align your most important item with a critical success factor that supports a strategic initiative. “Critical Success Factors” create a common point of reference to direct and measure the success of a business or project.
For example, communicate to your direct report to focus on the Strategic
Initiative to “Differentiate Ourselves in a New Market.” This generates a Critical Success Factor for the marketing department to Complete the Research Component of a competitive Research Document and the research department’s Most Important Issue for the day is to collect all the data about the company’s top two competitors. Everyone in this chain of command is clearly focused on a strategic initiative. Content Preview
The Triad of Focus
In a recent Harvard Business Review Article, Daniel Coleman stated that “leaders must focus their own attention and in so doing, focus those they lead.” Neuroscience research shows that focus draws on many neural pathways, grouped into focusing on one’s self, focusing on others and focusing on the wider world.
Focusing inward, focusing on those you lead and relating everything to the mission at hand can clarify everyone’s daily efforts. This “triad of focus” helps leaders improve their ability to devise strategy, innovate and manage.
David concludes that “a failure to focus inward leaves your rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless and a failure to focus outwards leaves you blindsided”
Clarity in Communication
Clearly communicate the most important issue of the day or week to your direct reports and have them pass it down the line. Ask them to focus an agreed upon percentage of their time on that issue and report results.
Do not allow other issues, people, phone calls or emails distract you or your teams from completing that singular goal.
Summary: Focus on What Matters
Focus everyone in the company on the most important issue of the day that support critical success factors, aligned with the key initiatives in your strategic plan. Make sure everything you add to your “A List” and your employees add to their A List are in support of corporate initiatives. When you look back on your day today and see that you or your staff spent too much time fighting fires and working on the small stuff, Reset and Focus on What Matters for Tomorrow.
Gary Keller sums it up so well in his great book “The One Thing” when he exhorts us to focus on identifying the one thing such by doing it everything else will be easier or irrelevant”