In my dealings with leaders over the past 25 years, focus is always at the top of their list of challenges. Today, after 25 years of unprecedented globalization, hyper-competition and technology advancement, the same primary challenge exists for leaders - keeping teams focused amidst the whirlwind of constant change.
I e recently saw a cynical but true poster that read, "When the winds of change blow hard enough, even the most trivial of objects can become deadly projectiles." Can you relate? In the midst of change, even the smallest issue can become a serious distraction.
Consider two sources of energy: the sun and a laser.
The sun is a powerful source of energy. It showers the Earth with billions of kilowatts of energy every hour. The sun is 12 million degrees at the core and 3 million at the surface. Yet, with a hat and sunscreen, you can minimize most of the negative effects of exposure to this mega-source of energy.
On the other hand, a laser is a relatively weak source of energy. A laser takes just a few watts of energy and focuses them in a concentrated stream of light. But with a laser, you can drill a hole in a diamond or remove certain forms of cancer cells. That's the power of focus. A laser gives off less energy yet produces very efficient results.
The same principle applies to your team's performance. If you are doing a little bit of everything, your team will look like the sun - lots of activity (energy) but diffused impact. However, when you concentrate your team's focus on your plan, you become laser-like, achieving more impact with less effort.
So if a clear focus is so powerful, why do leaders struggle with diffused efforts toward their goals? Focus is one of those concepts that is easy to talk about yet difficult to apply, especially in today's competitive, change-intensive, opportunity-rich, information-loaded business world. With so many distractions, it is hard to stay focused on your plan.
The real-time nature of communication and information makes everything feel urgent even though it might not be important. While distractions themselves might not hinder your success, the energy they steal from you and your team can quickly diffuse your efforts.
The good news is that you have more control over your team's focus than you might think. Focus serves as a filter for allocating resources - time, attention, people, capital - toward your goals. Focus helps you make the crucial decisions about what you will commit your resources to, and just as importantly, what you will not commit them to.
Focus also answers the "what" question - what do you need to do to execute your plan? When you clearly and simply answer that question, your team will be honed in on your plan with laser-like precision.