Why the Best Leaders Refuse to Lose Focus

When you lack focus, you’re going to grow resentful. You will be frustrated with failing to meet unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. You eventually start to question whether you are good enough or even have the talent to achieve positive outcomes. 

Unfortunately, this is the situation many leaders find themselves in today. Aggressive revenue and growth plans have caused most leaders to try and accomplish too much at once. If you take nothing else away from this column, take this: 

Talented teams will achieve ordinary results with unfocused leadership.

Common sense tells us that being open to more will provide more. But that rarely is the case. Bill Gates backed this up by saying, “Only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are.” There isn’t an in-person or virtual leadership workshop that goes by that I don’t reinforce his wise words by telling participants, “leaders often don’t lack talent; they lack focus.” What I have learned from observing and coaching leaders is there are three levels of focus:

Three Levels of Focus

No alt text provided for this image

Level 1 Wide Focus: Wide Focus, the lowest form of focus. Leaders and professionals with level 1 focus have difficulty prioritizing what’s most important. They aren’t sure which direction to go, so they often go in whatever direction looks most accessible and most appealing at a particular time. Usually, the wide focus creates a “shiny penny” view of their business or team. Unfortunately, due to their lack of focus, everything looks appealing or worth exploring. There are times when “diamonds in the rough” are found, but it’s few and far between. 

Level 2 Moderate Focus: Moderate Focus is good, not great. Leaders and professionals with level 2 moderate focus have a good sense of direction and find it easier to say no to things or opportunities that would have them lose focus. They typically have a solid list of priorities, but sticking to them and working on the right things daily can be challenging. 

Level 3 Narrow Focus: Narrow focus is the highest form of focus, and it’s precise. Leaders and professionals with level 3 narrow focus have priorities and perspective. They know precisely where they or their team are trying to go. They are on a mission, and it’s challenging to get them off of it. They have a daily and weekly system they rely on. They communicate that plan to ensure everyone stays on the same page and executes at the highest possible level.  

Regardless of what level of focus you find yourself or your organization in today, there is no judgment because staying focused is hard work. The reason why is because it’s harder to keep focused than to explore distractions.  

It’s harder to stay focused than explore distractions.

It takes discipline, accountability, systematic thinking, and vision to reject opportunities to explore distractions. If that wasn’t enough, according to research, our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. Now, 15 years later, it’s shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. In fact, scientists believe we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, who can focus on a task or object for 9 seconds.

However, just because it’s hard to stay focused doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for it. Here are a few ways to help you, including Leadership Focus Tool. Download it for free here.

1. Know the Mission 

Alone is a documentary show produced by The History Channel and streamed on Netflix. The premise is that ten people are sent into the wild independently at the same, and the one who survives being alone the longest wins $500,000. It’s a fascinating show about human resolve, problem-solving, and overcoming broken beliefs.  

Beyond these, it’s all about the mission. Each participant agrees to take on the challenge because the mission is clear, “last the longest in the wild and win $500,000.” Because they know the mission, they create priorities to improve the odds of winning.

2. Define the Priorities

It isn’t easy to achieve any mission without knowing the priorities required to get you there. In the case of “Alone,” each participant immediately focuses their priorities on safety, food, and shelter. It doesn’t matter what you do, what size organization you work in, or what size team you lead; if there are more than five priorities, that’s too many to execute well. 

If leaders have more than five priorities, that’s too many for a team to execute well. 

What priorities allow you to do is “keep the main things the main things.” Personal priorities might look something like this:

  1. Faith
  2. Fitness
  3. Family
  4. Work

An example of Work Priorities that I wrote about in Building the Best look something like this:

  1. Excellent Employee Experience
  2. Exceptional Customer Experience
  3. New Revenue Generation
  4. Innovation and Development 

3. Execute Key Initiatives 

In the end, it’s not intentions that matter its execution. It’s not the plan, it’s the execution of the plan. Many excellent books like Eat the Frog, The 5 AM Club, or Atomic Habits highlight habits, actions, and execution as keys to success. One of my favorite lines on the subject is from author Austin Kleon, “Lots of people want the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work.”

Lots of people want the noun without doing the verb. – Austin Kleon

The best leaders and elite teams execute key initiatives against the priorities. They aren’t afraid of doing the verb because they know it’s what’s required for them to be successful.  

Closing

The most exciting part of focus is it’s entirely within your control. Dwayne Johnson said, “Success at anything will always come down to this: focus and effort. And we control both.” 

Regardless of how focused you have been in the past, what I want you to be concerned with is how focused you will be starting today by knowing the mission, defining the priorities, and executing key initiatives.  

Keep leading your best.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

Free Leadership Focus Tool There is nothing easy about staying focused. So we put together a quick tool to see how focused you are. Download it for free here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why the Best Leaders Always Stay on Mission

Mission, Vision and Core Value blocks

There are many things that leaders must have wisdom in to create a meaningful impact in the workplace.  Authenticity has proven to be a precious commodity, coaching unlocks others’ potential, and communication allows meaningful connection with team members. 

But among these many attributes, the value of being on mission and staying on the mission seems to be consistently overlooked.  

The value of being on and staying on the mission is constantly overlooked by bad leaders.

Part of it is due to the common misconceptions about what being a mission-driven leader means. In reality, however, being mission-driven is one quality that no leader should overlook.  

Unfortunately, many leaders aren’t interested in being mission-driven because it feels “soft” or even “dumb.” The most common response I get from these leaders is, “This mission stuff is fluffy. We are here to make money.” Others flat out say, “we don’t need it.” So while I can understand why people would say these things, they could not be more wrong.  

What’s Being and Staying on Mission?

The word mission is traditionally defined in leadership as an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation. While the definition makes sense and would be hard to argue that it’s not essential in the world of leadership, some great leaders take it further. 

On a recent episode of the 3 Things podcast, Host and CEO of Red Ventures, Ric Elias, asked CEO of Movement Mortgage, Casey Crawful, “What advice would you give to someone to have a purposeful and joyful life?” Crawford’s answer spoke to me.

“Go on a mission in life, and run hard after doing something meaningful and impactful that you can look back on be proud about.” He continued, “If you do meaningful work with people you love, it’s been a formula that has brought a lot of joy to my life.”  

“Go on a mission in life and run hard after doing things meaningful and impactful” – Casey Crawford

If you look beyond Crawford’s wise words, no military operation is set in motion without a clear mission. For example, Seal Team Six, which killed Osama Bin Laden, was put in harm’s way to carry out a specific mission: take out the world’s most dangerous man. 

You can look at both of these examples in many ways, but what I want you to remember is this:

Mission Makes Meaning

In other words, when you are on mission, you have meaning in your work. The best leaders know having meaning behind your work is a key ingredient to success and purposeful achievement. 

How to Be Mission Driven

I come from the school of thought that we can have a personal mission, a team mission, and a company mission. While all three are independently essential, I get fired up most about a team on a mission. 

Take Sarah, a team manager in a mortgage company, as an example. Her group was responsible for preparing final loan documents for closing appointments for all parties to sign before the transfer of the deed. It’s tedious and stressful work without a lot of genuine excitement. 

Sarah saw an opportunity to create a deeper connection to the purpose of her team’s work every day. She asked the companies loan officers who received her team’s final documents to send pictures of clients executing the final paperwork at closing. 

Soon after, a photograph of a single mother with her young daughter arrived. Both beamed with pride as the mother signed the paperwork solidifying the purchase of their very first home. Photographs like this one continued to roll in. Sarah’s team better understood their mission of helping families become homeowners as they did. 

If you lead a team, do not go another year without being clear on why your does what it does and its mission. It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

Creating or reinforcing a team mission statement immediately raises the ceiling of what’s possible and improves your odds of having highly engaged employees. If you need help, try this formula from Building the Best:

We do X in order to achieve Y for Z. 

For the mortgage team responsible for preparing final loan documents, the mission could be something like this: “We rapidly compile and complete closing documents for families so they can be “home” as soon as possible.”

Closing

Whether you have previously considered yourself mission-driven or not, now is the time to remember never to stray far from the mission. Leaders who are mission-driven will not only be more successful long-term versus those who aren’t, but it’s a requirement in today’s leadership landscape. 

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The One Sound Bad Leaders Don’t Mind Hearing (But Great Leaders Hate)

You may think the sound of silence means heads are down and work is getting done, but it’s time to reconsider. What you should be hearing is the phone ringing, collaborative conversations, or even laughter, just to name a few. Sure, at times, when you’re trying to concentrate, these sounds can be distracting– but they are part of a team’s journey towards success.

Bottom line: silence is a dangerous sound for leaders

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Basketball’s Hall of Fame coach knows silence is scary because the key to teamwork is communication. “Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

Instead of going over all the ways for you to communicate better as a leader, I want you to lean into the silence you are hearing because it’s telling you something. If your office or team is silent, it could be a symptom of something greater, like one of these consequences.

The team doesn’t work together well.

Everyone on a team doesn’t have to be best friends, but they do have to work well together. Henry Ford famously said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” It’s impossible to work together without sound. When teams work together, you’ll hear collaborative conversations or even the sounds of keys hitting the keyboard within a Slack channel. 

On a recent episode of the Disrupt Yourself Podcast with Whitney Johnson, author Marcus Buckingham said every team leader needs to be able to answer three basic questions:

  1. What are my people like (strengths and weaknesses)?
  2. What are they doing right now and how can I help them?
  3. How are they feeling right now and how I can help them?

The team doesn’t care about achieving your mission or goal.

Great leaders inspire and empower their team to achieve things. According to Gallup’s 2018 “State of the American Workplace,” a mere 33 percent of workers are engaged at work. It’s sad to think 1 in 3 professionals can’t wait until the clock strikes 5 PM instead of 8:30 AM. If a team isn’t engaged, they aren’t going to achieve things that matter.

One of the reasons for this is the mission or goal isn’t compelling or worth it for them. Instead of rolling over and just excepting this fate from your team, dig in and connect your team to a deeper purpose.

In our Building the Best Leadership Workshops, I coach leaders to identify a team mission statement that answers the questions, “We do X in order to Achieve Y for Z.” Make sure your team knows the mission of the work they do every day. Hopefully, it goes beyond just making money.

Your products or services are just okay.

One of the most important roles a leader has in today’s complex work environment is to promote innovation. Employees get excited to work on products or implements services that make a difference for clients. When teams get silent during these phases, it means the work is either boring or the products have become commodities. 

A great way to get people talking again is to expand your offerings so current team members have to expand their skill set to align with them. My company LearnLoft expanded our offerings to provide one-on-one coaching to better live out our mission to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. It didn’t take more than a few coaching interactions with our clients for team members to talk about how they could provide better coaching and specific ways to improve their skills. 

The team is bored.

The scrolling epidemic is here. Not only has opening Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn when people are bored become a habit, it only continues to increase. The average time a person spends connected with social networks has increased every single year since 2012. In 2018, the average worldwide average of all generations was 2 hours and 12 minutes.

This means when someone gets bored at work the likelihood they begin scrolling aimlessly is high. Since you are as guilty of this as your people, it’s important to educate and help each other rather than condemn it. Share these statistics with your team and create a weekly challenge to have them speak with someone on your team instead of opening Instagram at work.

The team is waiting for you to tell them what to do next.

If you ask your team what they think or what they should do next, and they’re quiet, it’s because they are either afraid of how you’ll react or they know their ideas don’t matter because you’re going to tell them what to do anyway. The worst leaders dictate what to work on each day. This creates a team of zombies waiting for the next order to come down the line.

What you want are proactive people who make decisions and collaborate with each other whether you are around or not. Start by allowing them to work on their ideas instead of shooting them down or telling them what they should do instead.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead a team and want to elevate the way you lead? Apply to join the Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual leadership development program which includes the EO 360° Assessment and Report, 4 Live Instructor-Led Training Webinars and One-On-One Coaching. Learn more here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Unforgivables Most Leaders Get Wrong

In the year 1988, there was a small and struggling company that couldn’t quite find its way in the world. It was purchased for $3.6M by a man and group of investors that had big dreams and a great vision for the company. Fast forward to today. The little struggling company went on to expand to 10,000 stores in 75 countries and has one of the most recognizable brands. Can you guess the company?

If you guessed Starbucks, you’re correct. The man was Howard Schultz and Starbucks transformation can be attributed to Schultz’s leadership.

“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners.” – Howard Schultz

Starbucks is a perfect example of what is possible when a leader gets the formula right. They set themselves up with a foundation to be successful that gives their people a fighting chance — not only to be successful but to be fulfilled in the work that they do.

Here’s the formula Schultz attributes his success to:

  1. Start with a vision and core purpose of being
  2. Know success is best when it’s shared
  3. Create a culture and set of values where people feel they are a part of something larger than themselves
  4. Treat people with great respect
  5. Exceed the expectation of your people so they exceed the expectation of your customers.

After studying Schultz and interviewing other successful leaders on the Follow My Lead Podcast, we’ve identified our own list – a formula called the “Unforgivables”. These are a list of things, which under no circumstance can a leader be forgiven for lack of. They simply must get these things right. The list consists of 8 core elements and here is a brief description of each:

Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of the work they do, they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do.Purpose driven teams continually outperform companies that lack purpose. Purpose is knowing, WHY you do what you do.

Mission

Having a mission that the team is willing to buy into and agree on will ensure your team is fulfilled – which ultimately impacts their performance over time. It follows a simple formula. We do X in order to achieve Y for Z.

Vision

Vision is clearly important in leadership but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It boils down to, a clear goal and a completion date.

Strategy

There are many different strategies to getting results, but which will get you there the fastest, most efficient way with the best outcome? Answer: by having a well thought out strategy that’s nimble enough to change based on the current environment.

Values

Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what’s important in life. We all believe values are important to have as individuals, but they are just as important for the team.

Beliefs

Beliefs are judgments – things a team believes to be true or fact. Sometimes beliefs become very strongly entrenched or emotional. In this way, beliefs can influence our behaviors, even our thoughts, in very powerful ways.

Leaders will be forgiven for a lot of things because they are human just like everyone but getting the “unforgivables” wrong, is something I am just not sure they should be forgiven for.

Modern Leadership Online Course The Modern Leadership microlearning course is designed to help leaders in the 21st century get better performance out of their teams. Check it out risk-free today or host a Modern Leadership Workshop in your organization.

Free Leader Profile Assessment Through our work and research around what effective leaders do differently, we have identified four leader profiles (Ruler, Exploiter, Pleaser and Welder.) Join over 4k leaders and discover what profile you are for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on Inc.com, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.