In Action, Focus, Leaders

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.” – Ann Patchett

There have been a lot of posts in this space over the years about focus.  The importance of focus, the importance of focusing on what’s important, the importance of staying focused amidst distractions, etc.  The ability to stay focused on the target is a critical piece of being an effective leader.

That said, I’ve been reminded over the past few weeks that it’s possible to take that focus too far.  I recently met with a leader who for some time had been convinced that a certain product was the future for his business.  No matter what happened, he wasn’t going to let anything distract him or the business from that product and making that product successful.

That leader’s business nearly went bankrupt.  A certain technology in their industry changed, and the result was that the product he was focused was going to become obsolete.  He didn’t notice the change, and he didn’t notice an obvious opportunity that arose from that technology, until it was almost too late.

I think we all do that sometimes.  We get so focused on – or emotionally attached to – some idea, that no matter what happens, we ignore all other possibilities.  As with everything else in life, we have to stay in balance.  We need to be focused, but we have to be agile at the same time.  That’s a hard balance to find.

Think about your business.  Think about what you & your people are focused on.  Now ask yourself what you’d do tomorrow if that thing you’re focused on didn’t exist.  What impact would that have on your business?  On your people?  On your customers?  What changes would you have to make?

I’m not suggesting that you should go from idea to idea, one after another, and never commit to anything.  I’m not suggesting that leaders who are focused are necessarily blind to opportunities.  I’m simply saying that we have to be careful that, in our desire to stay focused on what matters, we don’t miss what actually matters.

Sometimes we start off by focusing on the wrong thing.  Sometimes a change in circumstances alters what the right thing is.  Regardless, the point is this:  Be focused.  Don’t allow yourself to get distracted.  But take time every so often to look around and recalibrate.  Don’t miss a pile of gold because you’re on your hands & knees looking for a penny.

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