Focus. Sounds good, right? It may sound easy enough, but I’ve seen over and over again that people, companies and teams with the best of intentions don’t get this right.
Let’s start with the individual benefits of focus. From a personal productivity perspective, if you are able to focus on one task at a time, you will make decisions faster, produce higher quality work with fewer errors, and feel more positive and less stressed. However, it is nearly impossible to block out constant distractions in our modern lives. To really focus, you need to block out email, text messages, social media, news alerts and more. This is hard.
Now let’s look at your business. Focus is key in achieving your goals for your company. In our Rhythm methodology, the best practice is to choose 3-5 Priorities for the company and 3-5 Priorities for each individual to focus on for the next 13 weeks. While it might seem arbitrary, limiting it to 3-5 really matters.
I was reminded of this the last time I met with a client to work on their annual plan. We were talking about the year that was ending, and this team had attempted seven Priorities. What’s a couple more, right? Is the difference between five and seven really a big deal? It was for this team. Out of the seven, only one was Green at the end of the year. The rest were Yellow or Red. Ouch! If they had a tighter focus for the year, they could have had a different outcome.
What are some things that stop companies from focusing on a few goals?
- Lack of planning time. If you aren’t taking the time to step back, look at all the balls in the air, and identify clear and focused Priorities for the company, you are giving up the ability to maximize your team’s performance. If you are just coming in everyday without a list of Priorities and putting out whatever fires are in front of you, you probably aren’t having much fun, and you probably won’t sustain what you’re doing for long.
- Fear of missing out. Yes, companies get FOMO, too! Have you ever had a brainstorming session and walked out with a pet idea that you are going to try no matter what decisions were made in the meeting? This unwillingness to say no to some ideas out of fear of missing out on opportunities can lead to hidden Priorities that eat up a lot of time and attention and take away from contributions you could be making to achieve the 3-5 goals your company has agreed to focus on for the quarter.
- Failure to prioritize. At any given point, there are going to be a lot of competing Priorities vying for those coveted top spots. If you aren’t sure how to prioritize your list, you will be stuck without a way to know what’s most important to tackle first, what to say no to and what can wait until next quarter.
- Overestimating your capabilities. This is one I hear all the time. “Sure, other companies can’t handle more than 5 Priorities, but this team is amazing! You won’t believe what we can do!” I’m sure your team is amazing, but I’m telling you, you’ll get better results if you focus this amazing team’s efforts on a few Priorities at a time.
Gordon Tredgold identified some potential long term benefits of increasing focus: it builds momentum, increases engagement, reduces stress, and even helps attract more customers. So, how can you become more focused as a company?
Here are a few tips to bring more focus to your organization:
- Work on your long-term strategy. If you have identified a Core Purpose and BHAG for your company, this will help you pick between all the competing Priorities to focus on. Pick the ones that support your strategy.
- Commit to a process. Get into a regular routine of planning, picking a few Priorities and executing them. Prioritizing goals is not something you will do once and be done; you have to build planning into your company’s operational rhythms.
- Be courageous. It takes guts to say no. Be brave and honest, have the courage to stop doing things that aren’t adding value, and say no to opportunities or customers that distract from your focus.
- Get help. Establishing better focus in your company can be hard work. Bringing in an expert facilitator to help you choose and narrow your list of priorities can be a great way to hold yourselves accountable to being more focused.
What are your best tips to stay focused and on track? I’d love to hear from you!
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