Leaders Are Focused

Have you ever been distracted? If you’re reading this, chances are you have been – this post may even be what’s distracting you. Being distracted – I think we can all agree – is frustrating, especially being easily distracted. It seems to only happen when we’re determined to do something or remember something or write something down or commit to something; we never seem to be distracted from daydreaming, only when we need to focus.

This topic of an inability to focus for the individual is frustrating to the individual, no doubt. However, when a leader is unable to focus, it is frustrating for the organization. Now, I’m not talking about an occasional bout of self-diagnosed ADD. I’m talking about when a leader has a list of 6 or more things they want to do and no vision to do any of it. To express the severity of this problem in the context of leadership, I need to modify the above quote: If you pursue too many things, you will fail them all.

I’ve read that it is recommended that an organization (or individual) should not have more than five (preferably three) big and important goals (I’ve also read this figure for metrics). Anything beyond five will most likely be forgotten or treated as less important. To further drive the point home, consider this story. It’s fabled that when Steve Jobs returned to Apple after a brief hiatus, he sat down with all his staff and drew a large square with two lines through it to form four quadrants. On the axes he wrote “Consumer” and “Professional” on one axis, and “Desktop” and “Portable” on the the other. While Apple has several other products on the market, the main push will always be with these four products. Apple is a focused company.

I’ve been a part of organizations that want to measure everything and put in place measures to ensure that the metrics are met. However, if every metric is important, then no metric is important. If everything is important, then nothing is important. This is why we need to take time to differentiate what’s important to us and what’s not. We need to set goals, values, and metrics that matter in and to our organizations.

As the old Proverb says: where there is no [focus, vision], the people perish.

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