High performing athletes talk about “the zone” and top performing business professionals speak about achieving “flow”, a Zen-like state where they lose themselves. They become so completely in the moment that the world seems to disappear, and it’s just the golfer and the golf course. For business pros, they find themselves with the work, and the world around them just fades away as they get into the “flow.” I love the concept of “the zone” or “flow” and want to provide a bit of a road map for how to get there when you want to or need to.
Focus – It is often best to focus on one thing at a time. Start with the most important, of course, whenever possible. We’ve all found that having 10 or 12 disparate objectives rattling around in your head is not conducive to results. Intuitively, we all know that being laser focused on one thing works. Golfers speak of taking it one shot at a time when they are holding the tournament trophy. I suspect that when you set out to win The Open Championship or The Masters, you cannot be thinking about shooting 62. You have to focus on getting the 7 iron within 6 feet of the flag. You can worry about your putt next, after you are safely on the green, next to the flagstick!
Visualize Ecstasy – We’ve all seen the scene where the hockey players are taking turns hoisting the Stanley Cup over their heads after the playoffs. After two months of travel and game after grueling game, the players are in absolute joy over the chance to lift that famous cup over their heads. They often have been dreaming of that opportunity since little boys when they could barely skate. You must be able to visualize the positive buzz that you and your team will be feeling when you have achieved an amazing victory, and the celebratory champagne is flowing. If you’ve seen the joy on the face of the person who is kissing the trophy at the end of Wimbledon, you understand what we’re talking about. Sheer ecstasy is easy to visualize and difficult to get a taste of…
Intent – Schedule time in your calendar to allow you to work on your longer-term focus areas. If it’s important enough to focus on, it is certainly important enough to block out on your calendar. If you’re leading a team, ensure that they follow your lead! Get your teammates to schedule time to work on the priorities on their calendars and encourage them to respect that commitment when one of their teammates has time blocked out on the calendar to work on the biggest priorities.
Consistency – As you work on longer-term objectives and projects, remember how important it is to be consistent. You’ll never accomplish anything of consequence if you’re changing priorities or the ultimate destination every day and confusing yourself or your team. There is a reason the term “Flavor of the Month” has become a favorite term to indicate ridicule in business. Too many business leaders don’t stick with anything long enough to allow the team the time to make it happen in the real world. Changing organization charts and structure every six months is a perfect example of what NOT to do. Give your long-term goals time to come true, and they often will. Make it a habit to stay on course for enough time to make success possible.
Benefits – The benefits of focus are many, but let’s list some of them. When we focus, we feel actual palpable physical relief from uncertainty and stress. Another benefit of focus is that we become better listeners when we’re focused on the important, and that leads to stronger clarity on where we’re headed for everyone involved. When the team is focused consistently, and the priority is enduring, the team gains greater congruence and feel more trust with one another. With focus, a person or a team often gets results in solving problems more quickly and generates a strong sense of accomplishment and positive forward progress. How cool is that?
Just Do It – Being able to overcome your reluctance and fear to enable you to keep moving forward has been a key to business success for a long time. But it’s remarkable how many of us are easily stopped dead in our tracks by fear. Often something that is a VERY small risk, with less than a 1% or 2% probability of actually becoming a real problem or an obstacle, will bring the effort to a screeching halt. Don’t let irrational fears and uncertainty slow you down or stop you. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. You can do it!
Recognize that you can be the master of your domain and provide a model for others to follow by setting a fine example: Remain calm, balanced and humble. Be optimistic and provide lots of positive energy at all times! Listen well and encourage or challenge others around you to follow your lead. Take action now, instead of later, or tomorrow. Pay attention and notice the little details. Notice the little things that others miss and mention them with appreciation to the rest of the team. Remind yourself and others that single-minded focus works, and then pursue your one goal, like a dog on a bone! Challenge yourself to a new personal record, by stretching out and finding out what you could do if you REALLY focused! Let me know how it turns out….