Ours is the age of the sound bite and instant gratification. Spin is rapidly replacing substance in our rhetoric. In depth analysis on a television news means a 2-3 minute clip. On the medical side, our culture recognizes ADD and ADHD without definition. PowerPoint slideshows reduce public presentations to bullet points.
It is crucial therefore for leaders today to be able to cut through the clatter and chatter to achieve maximum impact. How is this accomplished? Focus is an underappreciated skill. Focus may be defined as “condition in which something can be clearly apprehended or perceived.” The ability to focus opens up the future for us. It allows one to navigate the often murky waters of the present by steering a course toward a desired future destination.
My daughter learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels when she was five years old. We took here to a local elementary school parking lot to practice. It was after hours so there were no cars or traffic. The parking lot was wide with few obstacles. There were however a couple of islands in the middle that were planted with trees. As my daughter would take off riding her bike, I was amazed at her ability to drive straight for the nearest tree. I repeatedly had to race to grab her handlebars to prevent her from crashing. I asked her, “Why do you keep steering toward the trees?” She replied, “Daddy, I am afraid that I am going to crash into them.” I found this ironic for a moment as I thought about the size the parking lot in comparison to the few trees that stood as obstacles. Then I recognized the problem: my daughter was focusing on the wrong thing. I came up with a simple maxim that day that helped my daughter and continues to help me in my own life:
Focus on where you want to go, not on where you don’t want to go. My daughter has been able to navigate her bike safely ever sense.
How can we apply the power of focus to our own lives? Here are three ideas:
1) Focus on Mission. What is it that you as a person have been called to accomplished? What dreams has God placed in your heart? What is it that you were uniquely created to do? Or to phrase these in broader communal/institutional terms: For what purpose does your movement, group, or organization exist? What can it offer the world better than anyone else?
Focusing on mission will help us to achieve clarity and guide us to fulfill our God given callings.
2) Focus on People. John Maxwell reminds us, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Relationships stand at the core of the meaning of our lives. We were created to be in authentic, genuine relationships with others. Most of us instinctively recognize that the power of relationships can trump other factors such as reasoned argument and even financial incentives. The focused leader pays attention to people. People matter. This includes both the people with whom we labor and the people whom we are attempting to reach. The leader who invests in and serves the needs of others sets herself or himself up for longterm success.
3) Focus on Strengths. Too many of us worry about our weaknesses and spend too much time attempting to shore them up. The focuses leader recognizes his or her own weaknesses. To be ignorant of one’s weaknesses is a recipe for disaster, but it is equally important to focus on one’s strengths. As I coached by daughter, we need to focus on where we want to go, i.e., situations where we can maximize personal or team strengths; not where we don’t want to go, i.e., situations where our weaknesses will be exposed. The focused leader raises up others who have complementary strengths so that each person on the team can use their strengths to maximum effect.
This is the power of focus. Focus on mission. Focus on people. Focus on strengths. Allow God to unleash you to accomplish the dreams with which He as entrusted you and/or your team.
© 2006 Brian D. Russell