Provision #662: Focus Matters

Laser Provision

Are you the kind of person who has a hard time getting started? Are you the kind of person who has a hard time staying on track once you get started? Either way, this Provision was written for you. Focus matters. A clearly focused vision helps us to get started. A clear focus on our vision, as we move forward, helps us to keep going. There are many variables when it comes to leadership, but focus is one of the most important. Leaders take the time to cultivate clear visions and keep them in mind. Read on to learn more about how that might work for you.

LifeTrek Provision

Before we get started on a primary attribute of excellent leadership, focus, I want to call your attention to our debut on YouTube. This past week, Megan and I had the opportunity to give an overview presentation regarding our new book, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, to the Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. We had a wonderful time and have now posted three videos on YouTube, view now, that summarize the highpoints of our book.

In its own way, our creation of those YouTube videos represents an illustration of what leadership entails: getting things done through people. We are preparing a proposal for presenting around our work at the 15th Annual International Coach Federation Conference in October. One of the submission requirements is a video from another presentation. Since we didn’t have one available from a recent presentation, we had to make one. To get that accomplished required all the components of leadership:

  • Vision. How could we organize and video record a presentation on fairly short notice?
  • Recruitment. Who might be interested and willing to participate in such a presentation?
  • Planning. Where could it happen and how could we get it scheduled?
  • Resources. How could we get the presentation recorded and edited for publication on YouTube?
  • Execution. Showing up and handling the presentation itself, including coordination between the two of us.
  • Valuation. What did we learn from the experience and how could we make it better the next time?

The idea that we might not be able to pull that off in a few weeks’ time never crossed my mind. That’s how leadership works. Leadership imagines possibilities and then navigates the journey to turn those possibilities into realities. Such confidence is infectious. Not only does it bring other people into alignment with the vision, life itself seems to conspire on its behalf. W. H. Murray, of the 1950 Scottish Himalayan Expedition, famously addressed this dynamic when he wrote:

“Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would come his or her way.”

“I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.'”

Leaders trust life to work in this way, even though we know it’s filled with exceptions. No leader assumes that every vision will be realized and that every journey will go according to plan. But that doesn’t deter leaders from having visions, making plans, and moving forward. We know the odds are in our favor if we but set our minds to the task and our hands to the plough.

The ingredient to successful leadership, at this point, is not just having a vision and setting out on the journey. It’s staying focused on the vision and the task at hand as the journey progresses. That is a key difference between great leaders and mediocre leaders, between leaders who get things done and leaders who get things started. Great leaders stay focused on their vision.

Such persistence and determination works well only when they are accompanied with flexibility and understanding. Leaders don’t stay focused on their vision in a narrow sense but in the broadest of senses. By tracking what’s happening in light of their overarching purpose and reason for being, leaders can hang in there when the going gets tough even as they adapt to changing conditions and roll with the inevitable setbacks.

In other words, leaders stay focused on their vision with a capital “V.” It’s the big vision, of not only what we are trying to accomplish but also why we are trying to accomplish it, in terms of a life-giving contribution, that keeps leaders on track and gives leaders dexterity. We don’t want leaders who stay focused in the sense of hammering things through. We want leaders who stay focused in the sense of remembering what’s important.

That’s why so many great leaders regularly take the time to stop, look, and listen. Tim Gallwey works with an acronym for STOP that reflects this approach to leadership: Step back, Think,Organize your thoughts, Proceed. Great leaders go slower to get things done sooner. We look around to see what the opportunities are, to consider our options, and to build enthusiasm for moving forward.

When it came to my project of setting up and recording a presentation, all this was pretty easy. The vision, the external requirement of posting a video to YouTube, was set for me by the RFP. Of course, I had to decide whether or not I thought it was possible and whether or not I wanted to do the work to get it done in the time available. That was a STOP moment for me, and in that moment it became clear that if I could set up a presentation I could handle the video recording.

Contacting the Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at the College of William and Mary was a natural first step. Six members of the Center are enrolled in the Pilot Training program for Evocative Coaching come April 2010. If anyone would be interested in and willing to attend a live, overview presentation, they would be. A quick email confirmed my suspicions: we were on, as long as we could find a date, a room, and a videographer.

The universe quickly conspired for each of those. The biggest challenge was the videographer. That was another STOP moment for me. How could that happen? I called the only person I knew who had been making YouTube videos, but neither he nor his camera was available. So I went with a hunch. What about my friend Katerina? Perhaps she had a camera and perhaps she would be willing and able to record the presentation.

That got me half way there: although Katerina hadn’t really done this before, she was willing and able to record the presentation • as long as I could provide the camera. A little money and a trip to Best Buy took care of that. All Megan and I had to do, then, was prepare and execute our presentation. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until after I came home with two hours’ worth of video footage that discovered a new challenge to making dreams come true: YouTube videos can be no longer than 10 minutes.

Fortunately, I have some skill when it comes to video editing, so as long as I could find the time, I had that one covered. I just didn’t realize when I originally scoped out this project that it would entail so much work to get things ready for distribution. It took four days of focused effort, in and around my other projects, and we ended up very happy with both the process and the results.

The workshop was great, Katerina turned out to be a wonderful videographer, and the YouTube clips will help us to spread the word about Evocative Coaching. Even though it was a bit of stretch, we’re really glad that we did this.

That’s the power of focus. It helps us to get things done. My work on the video editing was not a matter of leadership, since there were no other people involved. I just had to do it. My work in setting up and executing the experience was a matter of leadership, since I could not have done any of this alone. Between Megan, Katerina, and T/TAC, a lot of players had to circle round and a lot of pieces had to fall into place.

None of this would have happened without focus. Focus matters. Had I failed to focus my vision in the first place, had I started down the road and then stopped communicating with people, had I taken people and their willingness to cooperate for granted, had I taken my friend’s “No” and a few other little bumps in the road as reasons to give up, then we would not be able to submit our proposal to the International Coach Federation and you would not be able to watch us in action.

When it comes to the things for which you are responsible, regardless of scale, focus is critically important. If you get distracted, pulled off task, discouraged, or otherwise derailed, then you will not be much of a leader. You will struggle to get things done and people will struggle put their trust in you. If, on the other hand, you stay firm in your purpose, planning, and execution • changing your approach and finding workarounds when circumstances warrant but never letting go of the big-picture reason for doing whatever it is you’re doing • then you will attract the kind of energy that leadership contributes to life.

Coaching Inquiries: What visions do you have for your life and work? What helps you stay focused on those visions? How could you stay more focused on the things that matter? How could you make more of contribution in your different areas of responsibility? How could you act more like a leader today?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. 

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

I own a restaurant and manage about 20 people. My hardest workers with the most influence on the others need to be developed more, however one of them does not have the best people skills. She is my choice because she is dedicated to the restaurant and the guests love her, but not all of the employees like her a lot. She has a small circle of friends and generally goes for the hard working types. My husband is the same type of leader. Do your job. It seems impossible to staff an all perfect staff but we do try to use personality charts to place employees in successful positions. What you have said in your newsletters appeals to me more than hard core managing or do I need to be stronger? (Ed. Note: Leadership is a dance between tasks and relationships. Let’s talk.) 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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