Session three of my coaching engagement with Jerry. He keeps bringing the discussion back to a very minor performance issue that he was working on at his job. As I glanced at the clock, I realized he had just consumed 20 minutes of our hour long meeting obsessing on just one minor symptom of his performance. There was no way we were going to have to for the really important stuff on the agenda: the core issues that could move the needle. As his business performance coach, I could see why his supervisors were so frustrated.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s our work or personal life. When we’re building on our strengths and fixing our weaknesses, we absolutely must target our efforts on what’s most important for our results. In short, we have to bring laser-like focus to what absolutely must be addressed to jump our results towards our goals.
Focus is critical for accelerated results.
There is a ton of useful guidance on this topic in a 1996 book by Al Reis titled Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It. To make his point, Reis uses hundreds of examples of brand-name companies who lost their focus by trying to be all things to all people rather than staying committed and dominating the one or two things they do absolutely the best. He creates a strong case for corporate and brand specialization. And he presents convincing examples of what happens to those who lose their focus. Many of these 1996 powerhouse organizations are no longer around.
While his primary message is directed at corporate leaders, it was an easy jump to take his findings and relate them to the performance of individuals like Jerry (and me!). Intense focus on what we do best speeds up our results; distracted focus by spreading our time and efforts to busywork and dozens of other diverse tasks slows us down and makes us a commodity in the workplace.
A human commodity can be easily replaced in the workplace. But a critical expert specialist?
Here are a few questions to sharpen your focus:
- Can you summarize what you do best in a short, clear, unforgettable statement?
Be factual, but bold in your statement. In my performance coaching and business consulting work, “I teach you how to get extraordinary results in six steps.” In the fraud prevention portion of my work, “I teach you and your employees how to prevent fraud.”
What’s your ‘branding statement’? Write it out right now. Then say it out loud to see how it feels.
- What do you do every day to increase your ability in your area of expertise?
Do you read, watch videos by other experts in your field, or take classes? How about this: do you actively practice your craft? Practice gets us ready for the moment when opportunity sits before us. Because we’ve run the drills in practice, muscle-memory will kick in and guide our efforts at critical moments.
- Do others know about your expertise?
Good work must be visible. You must make your expertise apparent to others without bragging about it. You do this through writing ‘how to’ articles on your specialty, speaking about your specialty in training classes, webinars and other education events, and by volunteering to help others who are learning your specialty as well. Don’t worry about them stealing the show; you’ll always be the wise expert leader that got them to their own level of expertise.
What’s your specialty? Do you bring ‘focus’ to your efforts? Are you working consciously every day to master this specialty?
Let me know what works for you.
John J. Hall, CPA
John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 35-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”