Where should good change leaders focus their management focus, at the present or in the future?
A lot of you may be thinking:
Duh, what kind of question is this? Of course, you want both!
In reality, this is a lot more difficult to accomplish, my friends. But this is exactly why I wanted to dig into the issues surrounding management focus and whether it’s better to focus on the now or the future.
When deciding what to focus on with your management, you want to go for a fairly equal balance of long term planning and strategic goals along with a short-term implementation to reach those goals. Both must be present, but as a leader, it’s your job to handle and manage the long-term first.
Look ahead for how we bring this focus into balance.
The Problem With Management Focus
When your entire team is focused on the day to day and the quarter, 1-year, 3-year, or even 10-year plan, things can get overwhelmed and good practices may end up falling by the wayside.
On a personal note, I work on 25-year blocks of time, but I also find ways to implement present plans to get there.
One of my favorite people, Dan Sullivan, talks about there is never just one focus, there are always two.
That sounded weird to me at first?
Two focuses? It sounds like it contradicts the whole idea of focusing.
But whether we think about it or not our day to day and our long-term are both intertwined. Denying one over the other brings our business out of balance and results in problems.
We have to accept that both need to be present, but how do we do that in a way that doesn’t burn us out or lean more towards one then the other?
Here’s the reality.
Focus for management is a lot like driving a car. You need to look at what’s right in front of you and what’s ahead.
If all you do is look way down the road, you may not realize you’re in the middle of a turn. You may not see the deer about to jump from the trees right on your side.
I spent a lot of time in Colorado and some of the roads had sharp hairpin turns right on the side of the mountain. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself going off the edge.
By the same token, you also don’t want to be focused on what’s 10 feet in front of you all the time.
If you’re so focused on getting through the road where you’re at, you may end up going too fast to make the turn at all. By the time you realize what’s going on, it’s too late.
Learn more about change leadership.
What Baseball Taught Me About Management Focus
I’m a big baseball guy. I love it, and I’ve played it my whole life.
I’m known as a big breaker ball batter. My teammates always say I hit those balls the best, and I seem to see how they’re going to move.
My secret lies in my ability to see both sides of the coin.
A lot of batters watch the pitcher. They watch how the ball leaves their hand.
From there, they guess the path the ball will take and swing. They usually do pretty well.
Others watch the ball. Keep your eye on the ball they say.
This works well for them too, but if the ball was thrown with a curve by the pitcher, they miss their chance to prepare for it.
The secret lies in watching out for both. I watch how the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and how it moves in the air.
Here’s another secret:
Management Focus Failures With Businesses
With businesses, the issue becomes leading your business with an eye toward the future and the present and knowing when to do each.
If you focus too much on one area and ignore the other, you fail.
If you try to split your attention too much, you fail.
Don’t put your head down and plan for the day to day alone.
If you do, when the turns in businesses come up, you’ll end up on the side of the road.
Don’t just dream the big dreams and plan for the future. If you do, you’ll never get there and you’ll run out of energy.
People love the big dreams and strategies though, especially leaders.
Every time you go to a coaching session or workshop, it’s all about the big stuff.
It’s so energizing and seductive.
And you know what, it’s the right place to start.
But people are frustrated when the dreams fail to manifest.
Do you know what manifest means?
To take action.
To take action, you must plan and do it.
The Problem Of The Seminar Junky
Friends, my name is Kenny Chapman, and I’m a seminar junky.
I love attending seminars and being inspired to make great change and set big goals.
I know there’s a lot of you out there too. When I present my own seminars, I see a lot of the same people come back year after year, and they tell me about all the seminars they’ve attended in the meantime.
Seminars are great, but being a seminar junky can be dangerous.
If all you do is go through a constant cycle of seminars and inspiration without putting plans into motion to achieve these goals, you’re going nowhere.
Friends, I’m a seminar junky, but I’m also an implementation junky.
I get almost as much joy out of the day to day plans for reaching the big goals as I do developing big goals and dreams.
Seminars are like the road map or the flight path. You need to know where you’re going.
But knowing where you’re going doesn’t help unless you get into that cockpit and fly!
Focus too much on the now, and you won’t have enough momentum to get where you need to go. You’ll get lost in the weeds.
You lose energy and you end up doing the same things over and over again.
Focus too much on the future, and you never end up taking the steps to get there.
A Leader’s Role In Management Focus
All companies and people-first companies to some extent.
Even if your service is hands-off, you’re still interacting with clients and your workers to some extent.
This means your leadership affects the perceptions and direction of your business.
If you’re in charge of anything, you’re a leader whether you want to be or not.
I have a friend who doesn’t own his own business, but he does organize community charity and community service events.
I told him he was a leader, but he didn’t believe me.
He said: “Kenny, I’m not like you. I don’t have people working for me.”
Like hell he doesn’t. All those volunteers and people, the community he works with, those are his “workers.”
He’s the leader, and he has a natural ability to focus on the right things at the right time.
Leaders need to balance the now and the future at the right times.
Leaders in general need to start with their future goals. They need to see the flight path, and plan out the steps.
Leaders then implement the now and teach their managers and team mates how the day-to-day will get them there.
The word “manager” comes from the root word, “maintain.”
But what are they maintaining? Now with an eye toward the future.
Your day to day people and managers need to have an idea of the future, so they can keep the now on track to the future.
You, as the leader, needs to have more of an eye on the future while also tracking the now. But with more focus on the future, you’ll be able to see and plan for the now when storms and turns come your way.
Pandemic Crisis: What It Taught Me
Let’s look at how leaders handle crises in their business by going back to our driving analogy.
As you drive on the road map the leader planned out, your focus is going to drift back to the road right in front of you. This is good.
But when a turn or landslide comes up on the horizon, what do leaders do?
They plan for a new roadmap. They look back to the future and develop new plans for the now.
Leaders may even slow or stop the car for a time to see better how to navigate the landslide.
It’s the same for businesses.
When difficult times come up, leaders slow or stop the plan. They don’t trudge ahead and run right into the problem.
They come up with a new road map. This happens whether it’s a gentle curve ahead or a landslide.
This pandemic is more than a landslide; it’s like a bomb dropped on the road.
When everyone was panicking for their businesses, I realized the same things I’ve done for other, minor crises apply here too.
Stop the care. Look at the lay of the land. Plot a new path. Lead my team in the now through the new path.
Was the new path perfect right out the gate? No way.
This is why leaders need to keep evaluating the now and the future.
My Dad, The Racer
My dad was way into the Indy 500 and races like that.
When he inherited some money, he spent it on race cars and driver training. The whole process fascinated and excited him, and I was fortunate to get to go to several of these races.
One thing the driver’s training teaches you is this:
The winner isn’t the one who drives fastest on the straightaways or even has the fastest car. The winner is the one who masters the turns.
The turns, not the straightaway.
Your success in business isn’t determined by how well things go when times are easy. It’s determined by how you navigate the problems when they arise.
When drivers come into a turn, what’s the first they do? Slow down.
They evaluate the turn and make a plan. They keep an eye on the apex of the turn where the car will accelerate again. Then they do it!
It’s the same with your management focus.
- Slow down.
- Plan your way through the future.
- Begin now the plans with an eye towards keep moments.
Homework For Management Focus
The goal for this post is to reflect on where your focus is.
Think about your next week’s worth of tasks and goals.
Write these down in a list.
Take each goal and evaluate by asking the following questions on each goal:
- Are you too focused on the now?
- Are you too focused on the future?
- What’s the long-term strategy of this task or goal?
- Is the day-to-day working towards the bigger goal?
- Are there any turns or landslides on the horizon?
Friends, hopefully this gives you a good place to start on making sure your management focus is in balance with the now and the future.
Plan for the future first, execute the plan, and reevaluate to watch for pitfalls ahead.
I had a blast sharing this time with you, and I hope you did too.
Now go, and make it a better than fantastic week!
About Kenny Chapman
Kenny Chapman’s mission is to help driven leaders build their ideal lives and careers (even if they don’t know what that looks like yet). He is an award-winning authority on helping people discover their true potential and make the simple, though not always easy, necessary changes.
Kenny is a professionally trained speaker, consultant, columnist, author of The Six Dimensions of Change 2.0 and In-Home Sales Acceleration, and host of the Leadership in a Nutshell podcast. He is an entrepreneur at heart, building multiple successful companies, most recently the Blue Collar Success Group. His teachings have inspired individuals worldwide to reshape their lives and organizations, creating sustainable change, happiness, and personal fulfillment.