As leaders, we are required to manage the focus of our people. When we manage the focus of our people, it means that we’re able to direct their emotions, efforts and energies. Leaders need to teach their people to focus forward.
So often, I walk into organisations and notice that people are focused on one of three things:
1. The Drama. They are asking the question “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why is this happening to us?” They are caught up in the emotional drama of the situation, which leaves them at absolute effect.
2. The Problem. They are asking “What is wrong?” or “What exactly is the problem?” This is a good focus to have but it’s not ultimately the best use of your energies and focus. This is kind of like trying to drive your car from the rearview mirror; if you focus backwards on the problem, then you won’t be able to drive effectively forward. It’s good to check in with the problem, but not good to spend too much time on it.
3. The Solution. They are asking the question “How do we want it to be?” Through studying human behaviour for the last 10 years, I’ve noticed a significant pattern among all of the best thinkers. They always get people to focus on how they want the situation to be, rather than how they don’t want it.
Our brain can only process positives. What I mean by that is that if I told you not to think of a blue tree, you would think of a blue tree. Our brain is designed to focus specifically on what we are talking about, even if we’re trying not to focus on it. The key here is: focus your attention on your desired outcome. Get a really clear idea of how you would like it to be, then make it how you want it.
Let me give you three questions that will help to guide your staff members and managers when you have a conversation with them, to focus forward:
1. How would you like it to be? (Very simple question but one of the most powerful.)
2. If it was how you would like it to be, what would you be seeing, hearing and noticing?
3. If you knew what to do to move this project one step forward, what would it be? (I like this question because it helps them to focus forward but also has the presupposition that they know the answer.)
This week, teach your people to focus forward on the solution, rather than backwards on the problem.