“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston
In normal times, those leaders who are able to maintain focus in spite of all the noise nearly always outperform those who don’t. Being able to put aside things that don’t matter, or things they can’t control is one of the keys to their success.
Never has that been more true than this year. More than ever before we are bombarded with things we can’t control. Some of them may not directly impact us, and some of them change our lives permanently. Regardless, some days it feels like we’re drowning in problems and challenges and change and noise, and there doesn’t seem to be a life boat anywhere around.
Focus is the life boat. Being able to maintain focus on things that really matter and that you can control is what allows you to keep swimming. Which sounds great, but it’s easier said than done.
Here’s one place to start. If you’re going to focus on what really matters, then you probably better have a clear understanding of what really matters. What’s really critical to your business? What’s really critical to your people? What’s really critical to your customers? Too many leaders don’t really know the answer to those questions, so they spend hours chasing things that are irrelevant.
Here’s another idea. If you can’t control it, then stop obsessing about it. Being consumed with things we have no control over isn’t new, but in 2020 we’ve managed to take it to an entirely new level. We see things on TV or on the internet that we have absolutely no ability to impact, and then we spend hours stressing about them.
Be disciplined. When you feel yourself going down that rabbit hole, stop, remind yourself you have no control over it, and pull back. And pay attention to the conversations you have. Obsessing about scary things we can’t control is contagious. As a leader, you cannot allow yourself to drag everyone around you into the abyss. They’re already struggling with the same things you are. You can’t be the anchor that pulls them down.
Keep a list of what matters at your desk where you can see it. Look at it every day. Make sure that your time, your energy, your engagement is focused on those things. Stay focused on what matters and what you can impact, and let the rest fall away.