Focus is defined as the center of our activity or attention. While that sounds simple enough, today’s non-stop, all-connected, 24/7, global village can keep us forever preoccupied. It’s that endless information stream that often distracts us from accomplishing our goals. Winning in the marketplace is achieved when we limit our action steps to those which directly impact our bottom line. Everything else is just a runaway squirrel.
Here’s the way tennis superstar, Venus Williams sums her approach to the business of winning. “I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and try to ignore the rest.”
Simply put, focus is a choice. Each day, we must choose to say yes to the actions that truly move our strategic vision and goals forward and say no to everything else. “No” to the things that get in the way of what we’re working to accomplish each day. Bring a singular focus to the job. Avoid situations that may distract. Life may not get a whole lot easier with focus in mind, but you’ll most certainly be more productive.
“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 that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” --Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
Reclaiming your ability to focus will allow you to reap substantial rewards both in the quantity and quality of your performance. Keeping your eye on the prize by keeping distractions at bay produces real, tangible results. A commitment to mindful focus each and every day promises the satisfaction of achieving not only your professional, but personal goals, too.
And the squirrels? Nuts to them!
Remember the old saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees”? It’s an excellent metaphor to explain the often-elusive relationship between strategy and tactics. We see the trees. Each stands tall and proud before us in its own, unique way. Trees are the metaphor for corporate tactics. However, in the business world it can be challenging, if not impossible, to SEE THE FOREST, a broadly ubiquitous and ethereal topographical overlay. The forest is analogous to the ethereal and elusive nature of corporate strategy. Often, strategy is neither seen nor heard outside the executive board room.
What am I missing, you ask? Let me lay it right in front of you: Successful organizations make both strategy and tactics readily visible to their employees. After all, your workforce is the mission critical "boots on the ground", a team of individuals that is charged with getting the job done. And by “done” I mean executing your master plan in a cohesive, highly choreographed and most efficient way.
But, while “the job” is most certainly carried out with specific action steps, or “tactics” the effectiveness, efficiency and the morale of the entire organization rests upon each and every employee buying into the corporate master plan or strategy. Without it, the work of your staff may appear more like solitary trees swaying randomly in the wind, than a well-orchestrated, workforce on its way to mission accomplished.
In plain sight, so-to-speak, the over-arching corporate strategy must be clear to the entire organization. From the executive board to the entry level employee, your strategy needs to be shared, seen, heard, acknowledged and understood.
Strategy answers the biggest corporate question of WHAT. Exactly WHAT will the company and its workforce do within the limits of corporate resources to achieve its goals?
Indoctrinating your staff to the strategy answers the next big question of HOW. HOW to accomplish your strategy through the use of action steps or tactics to effectively emerge and ultimately succeed in the marketplace.
Think of strategy as a map. A master plan for navigating from start to finish. Strategy is the over-arching path forward to achieving a major goal. Be it a short trip or a long-distance journey, strategy is the ubiquitous, grand design—a corporate blueprint for success. It’s this coherently conceived action plan which dictates over time how to best allocate the limited resources available to us—time, money, capital, workforce.
To reiterate: strategy is the “what” of corporate planning the execution, but it comes to life in the choice and use of tactics. Tactics are the “how” of your action plan. These tangible steps using available resources are “how” goals are achieved from an operations standpoint
Your strategy may be to become the pre-eminent, “go-to” player in your marketplace for high-tech, hardware gizmos, beginning with your grand opening launch. Tactics would be the devices and resources used to implement that strategy over time. For example, tactics might include the use of targeted direct mail, promotion of the special grand opening event on your website and social media. It may also include ongoing public relations to establish your expertise as the “go-to” player. You might even buy a radio or TV spot for the big event launch to maximize your momentum out of the blocks. Another tactic could be leasing a billboard on a busy thoroughfare that leads directly to your new business startup.
Strategy is the vision. Tactics are the eyes on the ground. When employees see both strategy and tactics, they see clearly. And when your team sees clearly you not only see the trees and the forest, you win!
Welcome to the New Year!
Perhaps you’ve already set a traditional “New Year’s Resolution”. And while that’s great in theory, I find that in practice those well-intentioned January resolutions have a tough time seeing the light of February. I include both personal and professional goals in that category.
Perhaps we wouldn’t fall short if we had an actual plan. Not overly complicated. Call it a blueprint or a road map or a bullet point list. The plan would help us focus on the goals we set out to achieve.
That’s exactly what happened back in 1981 when George T. Doran, consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company created his S.M.A.R.T. system of effective goal setting.
He created a winner. The S.M.A.R.T acronym has been used by executives and managers across all businesses and industries for decades. Doran identified 5 criteria for effective goal setting:
Assignable – today often replaced by “achievable”
Over the years, the SMART system words have changed, evolved and been rebranded, depending on who’s presenting the information. The acronym has even been extended to SMARTER which includes the criteria of Evaluated and Reviewed. The message remains the same, however: a simple and effective means of goal setting accountability; a system built to work.
Today, I’d like to simplify it even further, using a time-tested acronym we’ve all heard before:
No, the acronym doesn’t stand for Most Valuable Player or Performer, but YES, you, too can lead your company to greatness by implementing M.V.P. The goal setting process is simple:
M is for MANDATORY. No matter your goal you must take action steps toward it every day.
V stands for VERIFIABLE. It’s easier to focus on tangible goals. Create one that matters to you or your organization. It could be the bottom line, of course, or anything else that’s measurable. For example, the number of cold calls you make each day; or a Monday morning team meeting that happens EVERY Monday.
P is the last letter in our simplified, goal-setting acronym, but it actually comes first on the goal-setting list:
P is PRIORITY
Your goal must be a priority EVERY SINGLE DAY. Be it 50 seconds, 5 minutes or 5 hours, your goal must be the focus of your energy if you’re going to achieve it.
MVP goal setting might seem like a lightweight in the world of heavy-hitting, corporate acronyms, but when it comes to accomplishing a goal, it offers the simplicity and economy to cut through the clutter, keeping you on track in the New Year and beyond.
Best of all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new year or a new day, you can always take action to be the MVP in your organization. My advice? Be the leader. Set your MVP goal today.
How do you approach goal setting? Do you use the same method for career and personal goals? Feel free to share tips below in the comment section.
Need help with implementing your goal setting strategy? Feel free to get in touch for a discovery session.
Heike Heemann, LinkedIn and career coach, brings over 20 years of business experience to her blog.