Focus only works if you’re looking at the right thing

Why is focus important?

It is simply because lack of focus means that either you will not achieve your goal or if you do, the results will be sub-optimal. Worse still, you might think you’ve reached your destination only to discover that you’ve ended up down a blind alley. It’s not unlike punching a place name into your satnav and realising when you get out the car that you have made a tiny error in the it’s spelling and are hundreds of miles away. I live in Prestwich and but is often confused with Prestwick, of which I have fond memories visiting regularly as a child. But that is small consolation when I am waiting for a letter to arrive that is sunning itself on the Clyde coast.

Challenge of remaining focused

Consider your typical day and where the interruptions are coming from, along with their frequency and depth or length of distraction.

Internal:  staff, clients, suppliers, computer problems, communication issues

External: family, health, finances, “breaking news”, social media

It’s not simply a quick glance at the phone screen – it’s the perceived imperative of firing off a reply and then the vicious cycle of the downward spiral commences. Each hour, each day, each week.

I suspect you know exactly what I mean but have never put it into context.

Focus brings results

In recent years the business world has steadily pivoted towards rewarding those who specialise, no matter what the discipline. Specialising necessitates delving deeper into your field of expertise of experience, whether it is research or networking.

Once you commit to a path there is a constant requirement to continue building and developing your knowledge and network. It will eventually take on a momentum of its own and that requires even more focus as you’ll need make decisions on what stays and what goes, often instantly as your finger hovers above the delete key.

It’s a long tried, tested and proven fact that nobody succeeds without focus on their goal whether it is sales target or perfecting a product or cracking a market.

The harsh reality is that the job is never done or as we used to say in Scotland, it’s like painting the Forth Bridge.

Out of focus or focused too sharply

Okay, so now you are focused like a laser so what can possibly go wrong?

Obviously being focused is not a of itself a panacea nor a preventive medicine – just think Covid 19 as “an unknown unknown” in the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld back in the early noughties.

However, it is entirely possible, and sometimes likely that you can be focused to the extent that you have developed tunnel vision and blind to the peripheral threats.

You’ve spent 18 months concentrating no building a crack sales strategy with a compelling narrative – the killer product and a price that nobody would imagine possible, something that your competitors will not manage to steal from under your nose  because you alone  have the IP.

What could possibly go wrong?

While you were focused on bringing a flawless ingenious solution to the market, your market had begun to move on – the next generation was being touted half way through  but you were too busy minding your own business to notice or certainly to give the necessary thought as to whether this represented a credible threat to your well laid plans.

Such tight focus might work if your lookouts, your trusted lieutenants, were scouting the business landscape while you were leading the charge on the new front. It happens that the leader is too focused to countenance any dissenting voices or perhaps too many of the generals have been swept up in the fervour of the new direction that they too have dropped the ball.

This is often where the importance of recognising sunk costs comes in – do you abandon ship, continue to flog a dead horse or double down on your bet in the hope that it takes you to a better destination?

So, in reality you weren’t focused, you were out of focus!

You failed to pick up on political, technological, market or demographic changes to list but a few.

Time to refocus

Recognising when you’ve made a mistake isn’t always easy, especially if you have led a whole team down a blind alley after they had voiced concerns.

What does it look like to refocus?

It can be something simple like one of the items below or it could involve a root and branch change to your whole business model – just think pandemic and how either your business or others have pivoted and pulled off the unthinkable.

New opportunities

New markets

New collaborative partnerships

New alliances

Newfound flexibility

New products

New services

New suppliers

New type of working model

New balance in staff / worker relationships

Just as you would fiddle with the focus on a pair of binoculars, or in my case adjust my line of vision on a pair of varifocals, changing focus in business can be an iterative process until you get it right.

Don’t stay on the old focus and hope that things will move into focus – you have to do the work to get that focus right.

There are things that are within your control and things that are not, so why not pick the low hanging fruit and change your focus before everything becomes a total blur?

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