In Focus, Leaders

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” – Winston Churchill

It goes without saying that leaders today are faced with sometimes overwhelming amounts of change. The things our customers value have changed and continue to evolve. The way those customers want to buy is markedly different today than 10 years ago, and more changes are on the horizon. We no longer compete with people down the street from us; now everybody on the planet is on our street. Our employees are looking for different things in their careers, and in some cases, they have entirely different definitions of what a career even is.

With all that change and all those challenges, it’s easy to feel like you’re being pulled in a dozen directions at once. It’s easy to feel like you have to juggle a laundry list of items all the time, and that you never have a chance to work on anything long enough to really ‘fix’ it. And sometimes that’s true.

But you can’t allow that to be true all the time. At some point you have to decide what really matters, what’s really critical, and stay focused on that. At some point you have to understand what’s going to make your business successful in the future and really drive that thing. At some point you have to accept that you can’t be everything to everybody, that you can’t be perfect at everything – and stop trying.

I have this conversation with clients on a fairly regular basis. Most of them respond with some version of “But how do I figure out what that really critical thing is?” At its most simple, the answer is this: know your WHERE.

WHERE do you want your business to be in 5 years? WHERE does it need to be? For example, what will your customers want? How will you reach them? What skills will your people need in order to deliver that product or service? And so on. The point is, if you have a really clear picture of WHERE your business is going, it becomes much easier to decide which competing time demands are most important.

Of all the things on your desk, which are going to have the biggest impact on your business reaching its WHERE? Those are the things to focus on. Everything else becomes background noise. Minimize it. Delegate it. Outsource it. Better yet, stop doing it altogether. The amount of stuff we spend time on that probably could be eliminated entirely is a topic for another day, but don’t kid yourself – a bunch of what you do doesn’t really matter.

Are you trying to be everything to everyone? Are you trying to perfect a hundred different things, when only five really matter? Figure out what those things are, and then get to work on them. And let the rest fade away.


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