I want to chat with you about focus. And, no, I’m not talking about that laser-like glare you shoot at your barista when they get your coffee order wrong.

I remember this one time, many moons ago when I was green and eager, with more dreams than sense. I launched my first startup with a head full of ideas and a heart full of passion. I thought I had everything sorted. I was ready to conquer the world or at least the market. Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried.

Long story short, we tanked. Bad. Like, ‘no gas in the tank, and we’re in the middle of the desert’ bad. I was down in the dumps, and it wasn’t just because we were metaphorically stranded in the middle of nowhere. I was lost because I realized I hadn’t focused on the right things.

You see, it’s not just about hustling hard and grinding away at your goals. You’ve got to be tuned in, zoned in, and laser-focused on the right things to drive your leadership journey. Trust me, I learned that the hard way. And I don’t want you to go down the same bumpy road I did.

We’re going to dive deep into this thing called focus. It’s a three-headed beast: focusing inward, outward, and on others. Each one has its own flavors and challenges. But if you manage to tame this beast, you’ll find your leadership powers amplified, like you’re some sort of business superhero.

And yes, before you ask, this does mean you have to care about other people, too.

The Inner View: Focusing Inward

First things first – if you’re not focusing on yourself, you’re setting yourself up for a world of trouble. I’m not saying you’ve got to be all navel-gazing and introspective, but you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on in that noggin of yours.

This isn’t some wishy-washy, zen-master advice I’m throwing at you. It’s the hard-earned truth. If you don’t understand what makes you tick, how can you possibly understand what drives your team, your business, your market?

You’ve got to look inward to understand your motivations, your strengths, and – yeah, I’m gonna say it – your weaknesses. We all have ’em. No one’s perfect, and that’s cool. But you’ve got to know what you’re dealing with.

Now, here comes the sticky part. Many folks believe that as leaders, we’ve got to be “always on,” ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice. That’s some grade A malarkey. You’ve got to take some time for yourself. Reflect. Chill. Call it meditation or mindfulness, or just sitting in a chair staring out the window. Whatever works for you.

Believe me, this introspection will help you keep your impulses in check. You’ll be more in touch with your feelings and be aware of how others see you. And most importantly, you’ll be able to weed out distractions – and in this day and age, there’s a hell of a lot of those.

Focusing inward allows you to have a good hard look at yourself. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. But it’s necessary. It helps you make better decisions because they’re based on an understanding of yourself, not just a reaction to what’s going on around you.

Start spending some quality time with you. Your business, your team, and your future self will thank you for it.

The Outer View: Focusing Outward

Right, now that we’ve dealt with the inner you, let’s turn that focus outward, shall we? You’ve got to see the forest for the trees. And by that, I mean, you can’t just get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of running your business. You’ve got to look at the bigger picture.

Leaders who don’t focus outward are like those folks who walk around with their noses buried in their phones and walk into lampposts. They don’t see what’s coming, and they end up flat on their backs, dazed and confused.

So how do you keep your eye on the big picture? Well, you’ve got to become a bit of a strategic thinker. You’ve got to look at where you want your business to go and figure out how to get there. That means staying informed about industry trends, staying open to new ideas, and being ready to pivot when necessary. And yes, I used the P-word.

There’s this stereotype of the ‘ivory tower’ leader – you know the one, sitting up in their fancy office, out of touch with what’s going on in the real world. That’s some old school thinking, folks. You’ve got to be aware of what’s going on around you, and not just in your business.

If you’re only focused on what’s happening within your own four walls, you’re setting yourself up to be blindsided by changes in the market, shifts in consumer behavior, or even new regulations. You’ve got to be ready to react and adapt, and you can’t do that if you’re not focusing outward.

This kind of big-picture thinking can be the difference between thriving and just surviving in today’s fast-paced business environment. So keep your eyes open, folks. You never know what’s coming around the corner.

Focusing on Others: The People Perspective

Alright, onto the next one – focusing on others. Remember, your business isn’t just you sitting in a room, it’s an ensemble piece. Your team, your customers, your stakeholders – they’re all part of the show, and if you’re not paying attention to them, you’re missing the plot.

It’s not enough to be a brilliant strategist or a master of self-reflection if you don’t understand the people around you. And I’m not just talking about knowing their names or their job descriptions. You need to get them, you know, really understand what makes them tick.

And no, you can’t just go it alone. That whole “lone wolf” image of leadership is a load of baloney. If you want to succeed, you need people. And to lead people, you’ve got to understand people.

So how do you do that? First off, listen more than you talk. Not just nodding along while you’re thinking about your next brilliant point. Really listen. Hear what they’re saying, sure, but also pay attention to what they’re not saying.

Next, seek feedback. Yeah, it’s not always easy to hear that you’re not the genius you think you are. But it’s better to hear it from your team than to find out the hard way. Lastly, make team-building activities a regular part of your routine. This ain’t about trust falls and awkward happy hours. Find ways to engage and connect that are meaningful and genuine.

Focusing on others means you’re less likely to be blindsided by team dynamics. You’ll be able to foster a positive work environment, boost performance, and build a company culture that people want to be a part of. And that, my friends, is a recipe for success.

Striking the Balance: The Triad of Focus in Harmony

Alright folks, here we are at the finish line. We’ve got the inner focus down pat, we’ve got the outer focus on lock, and we’ve learned to keep our eyes on the people around us. Now, let’s talk about balancing all these elements. Because let me tell you, it ain’t a cakewalk.

Balance. It sounds so zen, right? But if you’re imagining some serene tightrope walk, I hate to break it to you, leadership is more like juggling flaming chainsaws. You’ve got to keep an eye on everything at once, and dropping the ball – or in this case, a chainsaw – can have some pretty dire consequences.

That’s where balance comes in. You can’t just zero in on one area of focus and let the others slide. You’ve got to keep them all in harmony, or else you’re just going to end up out of tune.

So, how the heck do you do that? Regular self-check-ins are a good start. Ask yourself, am I spending too much time introspecting and not enough time strategizing? Am I so caught up in big-picture thinking that I’m neglecting my team?

And don’t be afraid to seek external feedback. Sometimes, you’re just too close to the situation to see it clearly. Getting an outside perspective can be a real eye-opener.

Some folks think leaders just naturally excel at balancing focus, but let me tell you, that’s a load of hooey. It takes work. It takes practice. And sometimes, it takes messing up and learning from your mistakes.

But the payoff? It’s transformative. A balanced focus can revolutionize your leadership, supercharge your team, and take your business to new heights.

Conclusion: The Power of Focused Leadership

So, where does all this mumbo jumbo leave us? You’ve heard my tales, pondered my insights, and hopefully, you’re ready to give this focus thing a whirl. Remember, leadership ain’t just about calling the shots. It’s about knowing where to point your lens and when to adjust the focus.

We’ve navigated through the triad of leadership focus – inward, outward, and on others. Each one is crucial, each one unique, and yet they’re all interconnected. Neglect one, and the whole thing goes out of whack.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easy. Keeping that balance, honing your focus, it’s a never-ending juggling act. But if you’re committed, if you’re willing to put in the work, it can transform you into the kind of leader others aspire to be.

It’s your turn now. Take a moment, take a breath, and take stock of where your focus lies. Are you spending too much time in your own head? Are you losing sight of the big picture? Are you really understanding your team?

And once you’ve got a handle on that, don’t just sit there! Get out there and make the necessary adjustments. Trust me, your future self, your team, your business – they’ll all thank you.

As for me, I’ll leave you with a story from my early days as an entrepreneur. I had this little tech startup – nothing fancy, just a handful of us trying to make a dent in the universe. Well, one day, we landed a big client. We were over the moon. But in our excitement, we lost focus. We neglected our other clients, our team was stretched too thin, and our product suffered. In the end, we lost that big client, and nearly tanked the company. It was a harsh lesson, but it taught us the power of balanced focus. And you know what? We bounced back. We learned, we grew, and we never made that mistake again.

Now, that’s my two cents. Here’s hoping it gives you something to chew on as you navigate your own leadership journey. Remember, where you focus, energy flows.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.