I’m often asked by many of my clients about how they can strengthen their focus. Some of the questions I get include the following. How do I spend my time more productively? How can I delegate more responsibility to my direct reports? What it the best use of my time? How do I prioritize better? How can I best manage all the projects that I have going on at the same time? Although there is no quick fix to effectively navigating all the duties and responsibilities that leaders have, there is a formula for honing and refining focus.
For years, I-O psychologists have studied goal-setting and self-regulation to help leaders set goals and prioritize tasks effectively. Most of the research has found that specific goals tend to lead to better outcomes. Measurable and attainable goals elicit the greatest amount of focus and effort. Realistic and time-bound goals allow us to best track progress towards their attainment. Research on self-awareness and self-regulation suggests that through deeper understanding of our strengths and development opportunities, we can begin to focus on what we do best, and delegate other work to the people around us. Both lines of research have enabled leaders to have a greater impact on their business.
Through the process of helping a leader put together a development plan, consultants and coaches are able to help them become more focused. However, this is only one dimension in becoming more focused. Leaders have to engage in several critical behaviors to maximize their focus.
- Define Your Desired Outcome: Focus begins when we get clear about our desired outcome. Do you need to grow sales by a certain number over a given time frame? Do you need to grow the business by X percentage in a year? Do you need greater team alignment and agreement? Do you need to recruit and on-board X many people in the next six months? Get clear about the goal. Once you have a clear understanding of what it is that you’re working towards, you can mobilize the resources needed to get you to your desired outcome.
- Outline What It Takes to Attain Your Desired Outcome: Next, it is important to map out the steps needed to get you to your result. For example, if you want to grow the business by X percentage over a year, what will you have to do each month to make that happen? What products, ideas, and innovations will be needed to make your goal a reality? Who will you need to work with to get the job done? What milestones will you set to make sure your making progress towards the end goal? Mapping out the process and potential timeline enables us to set-up a system to track behaviors.
- Identify What You Do Best: You can’t do everything on your own. You will need the support and expertise of others to get there. Focused leaders figure out what they do best and stick to their strengths. You can start to identify your strengths by working with a coach or having a 360 conducted to elicit input from others. Usually the two pieces (doing a 360 and then working with a coach) are the best way to hone in on your strengths.
- Identity Your Gaps: Figuring out what you do best is only half the equation. It is equally important to outline your developmental opportunities. This will help you to stick to what it is that you do well, and find others to complement your gaps. I often advise my clients to recruit and select people that have strengths in their areas of weakness. This can help to build a high-performing team.
- Develop a Deep Understanding of the Talents of Your People: The recruitment and selection process should give you lots of data about your people. Many leaders stop there though. Good leaders invest in their people over the long-term. The growth and development of their people becomes an on-going process. It also helps them to stretch team members and strengthen their capabilities over time. I often advise my clients to have consistent one-on-one’s with their direct reports. This gives them a regular inside look into their capabilities, and builds deeper interpersonal relationships.
- Deploy Resources to Best Fit the Required Objectives: So you have your desired outcome. The chess pieces have been set to get you to where you need to go. You know what you do well, and have the right people on the bus to complement your skills. Now it’s critical to deploy people against what they do best. Let your creative innovators generate ideas. Let your execution-oriented folks drive process and procedures. Let your strategic people focus on problem-solving and critical thinking. Put people in positions where they will succeed. Focused deployment leads to more consistent results over time.
- Delegate to Others: Deployment of talent is half the equation. The other half is delegation. With any goal or objective, there are inherent changes and bumps along the road. You have to be willing to delegate the things that are less important. Taking it all upon yourself to handle the daily or weekly fire-fights will drain your personal resources. Always ask yourself these questions: Is this the best use of my time? Can someone else handle this so I can be available for more mission critical matters? Who on my team can handle this problem better than me?
- Refine Processes and Procedures as You Move Towards Your Objective: The final component of focus is making changes along the way. There is always potential for temporary setbacks to occur. For example, key talent may leave the organization, the market may shift, or you might lose a key customer or client. Revisiting important objectives on a regular basis, and being willing to make the necessary changes required, leads to the attainment of our desired outcomes.
Leaders need focus. It is a skill that takes practice to master. Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey today, practice the areas above and the power of focus will be at your disposal.
For more information on the power of focus, look for Dr. Bandelli’s book, What Every Leader Needs, available in bookstores, and on iBooks and Amazon this Fall 2016.
Contact Bandelli & Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org to pre-order your very own copy today.
Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.