by Nido R. Qubein
Do you know people who seem to be busy all the time but never seem to get anything done?
I run into them quite frequently as I work with management teams, and I can usually give you the reason in one word: FOCUS.
These people don’t have it. For such a short word, focus packs real power.
Steam rising from a boiling pot is unfocused, and fades into the atmosphere. Steam surging through a turbine is focused: It will generate electricity and propel locomotives.
Light from an ordinary flame is unfocused and flickers impotently. A laser beam is highly focused light, and it will cut steel.
These two illustrations make a powerful point: If you aren’t focused and if your business isn’t focused, your efforts are going to diffuse into nothing. To make a difference, you have to become focused.
Unfocused executives look at potential customers and say “Whatever they need, we can do.” They don’t pick their opportunities, but follow every road that opens up. They see their companies absorbing massive amounts of capital and human energy without increasing productivity or building up appreciable equity.
They may be fairly successful, but they wonder whether they’re living up to their full potential. They frequently wish they were doing something else, and promise themselves that some day it will be different.
They stay busy most of the time doing things that seem urgent, but at the end of the day they feel as though they’ve accomplished little. They find it hard to explain to others — clearly, concisely and persuasively — exactly what they and their companies do.
They may have good products or services, but they haven’t found ways to turn them into integrated systems that can bring large contracts or bigger deals. If you see yourself in two or more of those descriptions, your lack of focus may be costing you a great deal personally, professionally and financially.
We all need to achieve focus in a number of areas of our lives. Here are some of those areas:
Who are you as a person? Take a few moments and write an answer to that question in 25 words or less. Don’t use your name, address, profession, age, gender, educational credentials, marital or family status, possessions, religious affiliation or nationality.
These questions can help you focus your personal identity:
1. What do you value most?
2. What one thing do you worry about most?
3. What one thing do you talk about most?
4. Which of your talents have you developed most fully and relied on most often?
5. What kind of challenge do you find most appealing?
6. What one thing have you done in your life that you have been most proud of?
7. What one thing have you done in your life that you would most like to do differently?
8. What are three important ingredients of your personal identity?
The most critical ingredient to success in any venture is a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. Describe, in 12 words or less, exactly what you do. These questions can help you focus your professional purpose:
1. What is the guiding or controlling idea in your life?
2. What is your strategy for implementing that idea?
3. How would your staff describe your professional purpose?
4. What are your three greatest strengths and what are you doing to capitalize on them?
Your Career Vision
Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur, pursuing success through intelligent risk-taking? Or do you see yourself as a worker, willing to accept a ceiling on success in return for the security of a steady income?
These questions can help you focus on your career vision:
1. How does what you do all day square with the way you see yourself? How does it square with the way you want to be seen by your staff and associates?
2. Which roles do you most consistently play in your company? What is your most vital role? What are your secondary roles? What percentage of your time is spent on each? Which two of your present roles would you rather not be playing? Which roles would you rather be playing instead?
3. What is your career mission and how will you know when you are accomplishing it?
My interest in banking has been enhanced over the last decade as a director of BB&T Financial Corporation, a thriving bank holding company with assets of $55 billion. I loved the recently published book, Productive Bankers, Profitable Banks, by my friend, Jan Myers. She compares banking to baseball. What she said about banking can also apply to other businesses:
In baseball, the strike zone differs according to the height of the player. The player with long arms can go for pitches that are out of reach for smaller players. But the smaller players can turn their small stature to an advantage. They can crouch low at the plate, making it hard for the pitcher to hit their strike zones. Banks (and other businesses) need to define their “strike zones.” They need to focus on the markets they are best suited to serve.
To focus your market, you need to determine your unique niche in the marketplace. Decide what you do better than anybody else does it.
Then determine who your customers are and what they need. Learn their perceptions of value — and of you. Remember, in today’s marketplace, it’s the customer, not the seller, who defines quality in a product or service.
Once you really know your customers and their needs, you can offer products and services that capitalize on your differential advantage to meet those needs. After you have achieved focus in these five areas, wonderful things start to happen. For instance:
* You can constantly redirect your time, energy, talents, expertise and money from areas of low yield or no yield to areas of high yield.
* You can systematically develop your most productive strengths and compensate for your most costly weaknesses.
* You can qualify the results you expect and measure your performance hourly, daily, weekly and annually.
* You can identify obstacles and problems and attack them effectively.
* You can identify the most productive ideas and go after the greatest opportunities.
* You can communicate clearly and persuasively with people who can help you achieve your goals.
* You can become competent enough at what you do to approach every opportunity with complete confidence.
* You can have a whole lot more fun at everything you do.
When you’re in focus, your life takes on a new clarity. Just as a camera lens focuses light to form a photographic image, so your mind focuses your thoughts, feeling and actions to form a clear picture of who you are and where you’re going.
When you’re focused, you’ll go far.
Nido has written numerous books and recorded scores of audio and video learning programs including a bestseller on effective communication published by Nightingale-Conant and Berkley. He is an active speaker and consultant addressing more than 100 business and professional groups around the world each year. He doesn’t just talk business, he lives it. He is an entrepreneur with active interests in real estate, advertising, and banking.
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