Focus is a powerful thing. When we use a magnifying glass to focus sunlight, it can set things on fire. Focused effort in an organization can have the same effect. Effort becomes optimized and results follow. That’s because the sideways energy – energy that is not directed at key goals – is minimized.
Getting focused affects the entire team. Everyone’s energy directed at a Mission creates business results and a place where people thrive. Why does it help people thrive? People know the direction, the plan, and their role in it, and they are free to operate within that design with confidence – using their judgment and skills in ways they define. Uncertain people hold back and feel frustrated at their inability to contribute. Creating clarity is a force multiplier.
I learned this from my own experience, and from working with my clients. In 2016, I left the corporate world and began to work with small businesses. Eager to serve my new clients, I dove in head first to understand their businesses and the issues they were facing. It didn’t take long for me to notice some common issues plaguing these businesses. There was lots of energy, ideas, and passion, but there was often not a lot of focus.
Upon reflection, this made sense. Most of these businesses started because of a passion for and competency in making a service or product that had turned into a growing and profitable business. Energy took their businesses a long way. However, these organizations had reached the point where energy and passion were not enough. The scope and complexity became too much to be powered by a few individuals’ passion. Those leaders started to get tired – and frustrated.
They confided that they were unable to delegate to their team members. It seemed their leaders either didn’t understand what was wanted or came back constantly asking for advice, guidance, or permission. They were frustrated that it didn’t seem like there was anyone promotable to the next level in their organization.
They were also tired of making plans that were never finished. They would gather their team around a problem. Everyone would focus on the solution for a while but when the leaders would follow up in a few weeks, attention had moved to other things.
They were often proud of the culture they had built. Their team had little conflict, and got along well, but they really weren’t focused on moving the company forward. The result was these leader’s felt they were the engine for everything; they constantly put out energy to keep things moving forward.
Listening to their stories, I thought about my own experience as a leader. I, too, tried to lead with my energy and just plain hard effort. It worked for a while, and, to be honest, was very gratifying. At some point, though, I realized that I was just not capable of keeping all the plates spinning. I was exhausted, things were falling between the cracks, and I was tired of being the answer to every question. I had the same experience as the leaders I was now serving. But I had found my way out of the cycle. I knew how to do it. Now all I needed to do was show them.
The answer seems simple – get profound knowledge of what you are trying to achieve, define how you are going to do it, and then get every-one connected to it. Easy, right? The problem is that it is rarely done, especially in small, entrepreneurial businesses. Those practices are not part of the original DNA that created the success. Those wins were created by a few, or one, individuals, who kept their finger on everything. They knew what to do and they told everyone else.
If I was going to help these leaders on this journey, I needed a system that pulled out all of their profound knowledge and organized it in a way their team could understand. So, I developed the Focus, Action, and Results (FAR) System to enable them to clarify and document what they were trying to do. It allowed them to define their strategies around important drivers of their business and develop plans to make those strategies live. It helped them get the things they wanted to get done – done.
Interestingly, when leaders worked to define their strategies, often things were unclear even to them. There were key drivers of the business that did not have a clear strategy. Using the FAR System as a template allowed these leaders to spend a little time stepping back from working on making it happen and think about what exactly they were trying to do. It also created a space for debate about the organization’s direction and plan. Decisions were made by the leaders, instead of randomly by other people in the day-to-day work.
The results using the FAR System have been transformative. Now clear on where they are going and why, leaders are able to create focus and empower their teams to give their best efforts into getting results for the organization. Goal setting and regular review habits help streamline management efforts so that leaders can quickly see where support is needed and help people overcome barriers before things get out of hand. They also keep the entire organization working on the big things when the day to day threatens to consume all the energy.
In order to keep these benefits going in the organizations that adopted the FAR System, I wanted a way to reinforce the lessons and make them available when I wasn’t there to remind the leaders. Also, since the benefits of using this System have been so impactful for my clients, I wanted to share these benefits with a wider audience. So, I have captured the ideas in Sweet Triumph. I have also intentionally written it in a way that would specifically connect with small business leaders since I found that much of the business literature available is aimed at larger organizations.
Wanting to make the ideas as relatable as possible, I chose to present the ideas as part of a story about a small business owner who is facing new challenges. This approach allows readers to understand the concepts while losing themselves in the story and maybe identifying with the characters. It also helps them see how they can use the FAR System in their own organization, where it can often be hard to see past the day-to-day whirlwind.
In order for you to start your own focused journey, the FAR Tracker can be downloaded at www.lindaallisonresults.com/xxxxx. Wherever you are in your journey as an organization, I sincerely hope it helps you get focused and unlocks the potential in your team to achieve your mission.