Developing a sharper focus

While the economic downturn has been detrimental to many businesses, positive approaches have emerged that will help organizations lay a more solid foundation for the future.  Central to this, organizations need to engage, align and motivate their leaders around the critical issues and keeping them focused on what matters most.

To achieve this, leaders must have a clear vision in front of them and those they lead, and recognize the importance of being accountable for how it is achieved.

A focused vision is not the same as a narrow vision

I’ve heard the term ‘myopic vision’ used to describe ‘tunnel’ vision.  However, it is something quite different.  A person described as having ‘tunnel vision’ could imply either strength or a weakness.  If it is used to describe a leader’s focus and ability to block out all distractions, then that can be a healthy thing; if it is used to describe a leader’s ignorance of other important information, then that’s not so good.  In contrast to this, the use of the word ‘myopic’ can be used to describe someone who is shortsighted or lacking foresight.[i]

Leaders have had to adopt a more balanced approach to their vision and strategy, one that accepts the importance of short-term wins without compromising the longer-term strategy.  A lot of discussion has emerged from the dilemma this causes.  A more balanced approach does not deny the importance of being extremely focused and intentional about what needs to be accomplished in the immediate context.  It merely acknowledges that there is considerable risk when a leader’s vision lacks the foresight to pursue strategic opportunities that are relevant to its longer-term strategy.  Often, this is to mitigate a lack of confidence in the economy.

However, leaders with a more balanced vision, are committed to keeping ‘the main thing the main thing‘, while seeing that there may be a more productive and advantageous path towards achieving the desired business objectives.

A few excellent books you might want to look at are Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt (2011), GPS for your Organization by Nicholas Barnett (2012), and The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins (2003). These represent a cross-section of some excellent resources that are available.

Creating a culture of accountability, that inspires

The old adage, “what gets measured, gets done” is critical to the health of any organization.  This applies not only to financial measures, but output and productivity gains, and especially the rising prominence of human capital—people.

‘Command-and-control’ leadership has been found wanting through the recession, and in many cases responsible for it.[ii]  There is no doubt that strong leadership is required, and in turnaround situations tighter control is required.  Increasingly, however, leaders are recognizing the importance of developing more disciplined and participative cultures that are committed to removing the barriers to implementing strategy.  This is supported by the demands for good governance, accountability and transparency.[iii]

Leaders committed to creating a culture of accountability that inspires and motivates their staff are finding three demonstrable outcomes that positively impact the bottom-line:

  1. The ability to assemble the best talent and galvanize them around a shared vision, values and goals.
  2. The ability to attract and retain exceptional talent preventing unwanted turnover.
  3. The ability to achieve their business objectives without having to resort to punitive measures.

 What’s the bottom-line?

 Below are some critical questions to reflect on:

  • In wanting to maintain a sharp focus, have I unwittingly developed a myopic vision?  What steps can I take to address this?
  • How am I personally contributing to creating a culture of accountability that inspires my staff?  What things could I do to improve my approach?
  • What can I do to engage my direct reports more effectively in setting and implementing strategy?

[i] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2010.

[ii] Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave, The New Secrets of CEOs – 200 Global Chief Executives On Leading (London, United Kingdom: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2010), 163.

[iii] Paul R. Niven, Balanced Scorecard: Step-By-Step for Government and Nonprofit Agencies (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons), 2003.

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