“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.” – Steve Jobs
Early in my career, I thought I understand the primary idea of leading an organization, at least when it came to decision-making. I thought the idea was that when you’re faced with a decision, you choose the good option and not the bad option. Then you execute the good option and everybody goes home happy.
After 20+ years of watching and working with other leaders, and being part of the leadership group in our firm for more than a decade, I realize I had it wrong. Rarely as leaders are we faced with a good option and a bad option. That would be way too easy. Far more often we’re faced with multiple good options and we have to say no to something that’s actually pretty interesting. That’s what’s hard.
When we’re young, somewhere we probably all hear somebody – a parent, a teacher, somebody else in a role of authority – say that it’s important in life to take advantage of our opportunities. That’s true. Unfortunately, somewhere in there the message in our brain evolves into how it’s important to take advantage of all of our opportunities. That’s impossible.
It is incredibly difficult to turn down what seems like a great opportunity. We get visions in our head of success and how great it would be and we just can’t let it go. We’re drawn towards the energy that it gives us, or the type of work we’d get to do, or the money we’d make, or whatever else.
As leaders, we have to remind ourselves that we cannot do everything or be everything, either as individuals or as organizations. We have to focus on the things that are most important, or that we do best, or that provide us with whatever the critical thing is we’re looking for.
That’s challenging no matter what, but that’s impossible to do if you don’t know what’s most important, or what you do best. Do you know what really matters to you & your business? What’s most important? Being able to articulate whatever that is, and then acting on it, is one of the most important things a leader can do.
I challenge you as a leader to take thirty minutes a week and just think about that. What are the absolute non-negotiables in your business? The thing that you cannot compromise? The thing that you absolutely cannot allow anything else to interfere with? If you can’t answer those questions, then you have work to do. If you can answer them, then start living those answers.