In a world that's filled with more distraction than ever, how can you achieve greater focus?

That's a question Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touched on in a recent interview in New York. At a private event for The Wings Club, a global society of aviation professionals, Bezos spoke primarily about his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, and its plans for the future.

Towards the end, the moderator asked Bezos how he manages to stay focused on such a tremendous, long-term vision, to which he replied with the following:

"Vision is absolutely important, but it doesn't deserve your day-to-day attention. You need a vision, then, that's a touchstone: It's something you can always come back to if you ever get confused. But mostly, your time should be spent on things that are happening today, this year, maybe in the next 2 or 3 years."

Bezos then concluded with these two powerful sentences:

"So I would always encourage people to hold, powerfully, [to] a vision and be so stubborn of it. Don't let anybody move you off of your vision."

Whether you're running a company, working for yourself, or leading a team, there's a lot to be learned from this simple advice.

Here are three highlights:

Articulate a clear vision.

Your vision should be the overarching goal, the established purpose and objective of an organization (or an individual).

While vision could include a company's mission, it goes further. Mission generally describes what you are currently doing; vision goes into the future and describes what you hope to accomplish.

Likely, it will take years of work to truly discover and refine your vision. But since a clear vision encompasses your principles and values, defining and then communicating it effectively will help everyone to stay on the same page.

Focus on 2 to 3 years out.

When running a business, it's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the day-to-day. But Bezos goes on to describe that while most observers and analysts are focused on the present, great companies are actually living in the future:

"We'll announce our Amazon quarterly results, and [people will say], 'Great quarter, congratulations!' And then I say, 'Thank you!' 

But what I really think about is [how] that quarter was kind of baked and done 2 or 3 years ago, and right now the senior executives at Amazon are working on a quarter that's going to happen in 2021, 2022."

It takes time to sit down and develop plans two to three years out--and that's why many organizations (especially smaller ones) don't bother. But doing so is the key to staying relevant in a business environment that is changing more rapidly than ever.

Use vision and planning to make better decisions today.

The best part about establishing your vision and plan is you can then use these to guide day-to-day decision making--both yours, and that of your team(s).

For example, when deciding whether or not to try something new, how to address a specific problem, or even what meetings you should take, encourage your whole team to ask themselves:

  • Is this in line with the organization's vision?
  • Will it support or hinder our stated plan for the next few years?

Then, use the answers to those questions to move forward. Doing so not only saves time and runaround, it will train your people to avoid making short-term decisions that jeopardize the future of your organization.

It can take years of experience, and many mistakes, to refine your vision and develop effective plans. But once established, these will provide the focus and clarity you and your team need to do your best work for years to come.

Published on: Feb 26, 2019
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