Leadership, Resources

Finding Focus

There is always more good stuff to do than time, energy, capacity or resource to do it all.

This is as true for individual leaders as for organizations. We spend a lot of time managing information and opportunities that may never come to fruition, and often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what we must (let alone could, or should) deal with day by day.

There are lots of advanced systems for effectively managing both time and information, but many of them fail to provide a fundamental perspective to figure out the relative importance of various possibilities, or the need to give some attention to less fruitful options as part of the ongoing process of identifying future areas of focus.

The simple approach I use to filter out what is unhelpful or irrelevant looks like this: Searchlight: I feel a strong responsibility to be aware of what is happening in the various fields in which we’re involved. I continually scan the horizons to see what sparkles back. Social media, especially Twitter, conferences, journals, and recommendations from people I respect get my attention. When something reflects our interest or values I pause to take a closer look.

Spotlight: Like a Broadway show, when I come across something that warrants greater attention I shine a spotlight on it. This not only allows me to see it better, but also exposes it for others. Insightful books, articles, and videos deserve a deliberate look and quite often to be shared. I use social media (Twitter: @catalystfndtn) to promote things I think you might want to see, as well as passing them on directly or speaking about them when I have the opportunity. Organizations we partner with always spend time in our spotlight before we engage.

Laser: Highly focused light has the power to shape, ignite, or even perform surgery. Our interactions with individuals and organizations are dedicated almost entirely to attempting to assist and influence leadership. This means we don’t spend time, energy, or funding on a lot of very important things. We have determined through pretty intense evaluation over nearly a decade that leadership is our focus and we strive to not be distracted from it, especially by other worthy possibilities.

There is a constant ebb and flow between these three lights. At some points in a given year or project it is  critical to do nothing but laser focused leadership development. At other times it is just as necessary to be searching broadly for new ideas, information, and potential relationships. No formula or balance is correct for every season. The challenge is to properly identify what kind of light we need to be using most and then apply it effectively, perhaps by using any of the efficiency strategies that are available.

Several years ago I used the Searchlight, Spotlight, Laser imagery in a talk explaining Catalyst’s strategy at the time. A leader for whom I have enormous respect came to me afterwards and said ” I get it: Searchlight, Spotlight, Laser. That’s what you do!” That is what we do.

A final thought: None of these lights function without a solid Generator providing the energy.

Learning what provides the power to do all of this has been an essential part of growing as a leader and an organization for Catalyst.