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

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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.

5 Simple Moves to Become a More Successful Leader

So you’re struggling to lead a team. It’s okay, it happens.

After all, leading others in a professional setting is one of the most difficult skills to master. Instead of focusing on what you were doing to get you in this spot, it’s much more important to focus on what you can do to change the tides.

You might be tempted to read a leadership book, listen to a bunch of podcasts, follow some of the great leadership thinkers, or sign up for a leadership workshop. While these are definitely good ideas, they won’t help you improve things as fast as required.

A rapid change in leadership relies on two important things; self-awareness and practical application. This means if you want to improve your leadership skills as quickly as possible, you have to shine a light on yourself about how you’re currently doing and have specific implementable principles and techniques to fill those voids.

Bill George, a professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School and author of True North, says “Self-Awareness is the starting point of leadership.” This makes perfect sense because not only will self-awareness encourage you to find better ways to improve your weaknesses, it will have you striving to become the best leader you can be.

If you want to get started, give these five moves a try.

1. Send an email to your team.

My company LearnLoft’s research for over 40,000 leaders for our EO Assessment to which set out to identify what the bests and worst leaders do and don’t do, has shown the number one thing leaders do poorly is asking their people for feedback about how they are doing. While many leaders assume they are doing a good job, you shouldn’t.

Send a quick email to your team today with two simple questions in it:

  1. What’s one thing you want me to start doing?
  2. What’s one thing you want me to stop doing?

2. Take a 360° assessment.

You may assume you know your strengths and weaknesses from a leadership perspective, but the reality is most people struggle with self-awareness. The best way to get an accurate measurement of this is to ask your people. They are the ones who know best because they experience your leadership every day.

It’s also rare for you or anyone else to be in tune with the most important competencies required to be a great leader. These are things like empathy, coaching, setting standards, positivity, trust, vulnerability, and delivering feedback. There are many leadership assessments out there such as our EO 360°, but find the one that you like the most and go to work. Make sure you are getting insight from both your team and peers.

3. Schedule one-on-one meetings.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is believing leadeship is a group activity. The reality is leadership is a one-on-one game. The better the individual relationships, the better you will lead.

Don’t let your yearly performance review be the only one-on-one time you spend with members of your team. Even if you are the busiest person on the planet, you must carve out time for one-on-one meetings.

4. Review the fundamental principles of leadership, not management.

The best athletes in the world spend an uncomfortable amount of time rehearsing the fundamentals and principles of their sport that help them be successful. Leadership is the same way– the fundamentals and principles have remained the same and you must be constantly reviewing them and working them to get better.

  • Focus on relationships
  • Make sure your actions elevate others
  • Set clear standards
  • Hold yourself and others accountable to meeting and exceeding those standards
  • Coach people to improve performance

5. Set priorities for the team to focus on.

Most leaders do a good job of setting a clear goal but then lack the vision to set clear priorities to help their team go achieve it. 

Come up with a clear list of priorities. These should include things related to people, projects, products or job functions. List them out so the team can clearly see which priorities will accelerate the growth of the team which will allow their daily activities to be completed in alignment with the priorities. 

Take each one of these and focus on one of them each week. I promise at the end of five weeks you will be well on your way to becoming a better leader faster than you ever thought possible.  

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.

Leadership Workshop Want to improve the performance of your team or business? Want to elevate the way you lead? Join me on June 25th in Charlotte, NC, for a Building the Best workshop. There are just 3 spots remaining. 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.

How to Lead Your Team in the Right Direction

Front-Line Manager Samantha was frustrated. She believed she was doing a good job as a leader but just in the last year, forty percent of her direct reports had voluntarily left the company and she seemingly had less and less high performers. Samantha had exhausted all ideas and was at a loss as a leader.

The struggles Samantha faced are far too common. Most leaders inevitably feel that they’re steering their team in the right direction but when symptoms arise that prove the contrary they chalk it up to industry averages or extenuating circumstances outside of their control. While there are times when these could be the cause of the symptoms more often than not, the leader simply isn’t on the correct path.

If you’re missing the mark as a leader and are looking to set your team on the right path, reference the following lessons I teach from LearnLoft’s Ultimate Leadership Academy:

Set an attainable team goal.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is setting team and individual goals that aren’t attainable. Aspirational goals are great, but if the dynamic is only achievable in “a perfect world” then you’re drastically reducing your odds of success. While this is true, you also have to take into account the effects of a goal that is too easily attained.

With 2019 upon you, set a short-term goal for your team to achieve in the next calendar year that is difficult but attainable to achieve. Do your best to reject the notion that this week or even this quarter are the most important days of all time. Focus instead on where do you want your team to be at the end of the year. Put an emphasis on a goal the team will get excited about achieving not something that will solely benefit you.

Clarify your priorities.

Achieving your team, company or individual goals is the byproduct of the ability to intently focus and execute a process. The best leaders place just as much importance on every single step as they know this increases their chance of long-term success increases exponentially.

This is similar to setting a weight loss goal. As you determine a loss of 20 pounds, you must focus on areas of priority to achieve it. Exercise, nutrition, education, and motivation are four priorities that accelerate growth towards your goal. They are the big buckets that your daily choices and behaviors fall into. Without these priorities, it becomes extremely difficult to align your behavior appropriately with the goal.

Take time to define anywhere between three and seven priorities that will be instrumental in focusing on in order to best achieve of your team goal. 

Ensure the right initiatives.

The process of creating a “To Do List” is commonplace. People all to often check items off the list, yet still feel like they accomplished nothing at the end of the day. This is because your “To Do List” wasn’t created in alignment with the priorities that are helping you reach a goal rather than the goal itself.

You and your team shouldn’t be discouraged by this feeling. Daily initiatives for the entire team must be in alignment with the key priorities you previously defined. Each day make sure your own to do list reflects this. Instead of making a to-do list for your team to communicate the key priorities each week and allow them to create their own to do lists to be in alignment with those priorities.

While it is easy to get off track as a leader, it’s equally as simple to reestablish your focus. Developing a goal along with the priorities and initiatives that will help you achieve it will keep your eye on the prize and move your team in the right direction.

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead others but your company doesn’t offer a leadership development academy? Don’t worry join LearnLoft’s Ultimate Leadership Academy designed specifically to shorten the time it takes for you to be an effective leader. This special 3-month online academy includes coaching calls, EO 360° Assessment, virtual instructor led training and a learning library. Learn more here.

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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 host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author the upcoming book “Elevate Others: The New Model to Successfully Lead Today.” You follow him on instagram @johngeades.