In a series of three blogs Lauri Brammeier explores the insights from Focus by Daniel Goleman
“A primary task of leadership is to direct attention.”
So says Daniel Goleman in his latest book, Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence. For leaders to be effective in directing the attention of others though, they must first learn to focus their own attention. Goleman separates the concept of “attention” into three buckets: focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the outer world.
- It really IS all about me: Focusing on yourself means exercising self-awareness and self-control. Self-awareness is not a new concept, but Goleman expands on it to describe “open awareness.” OK, I’ll bite. It’s about noticing what’s going on without getting caught up in it. Does that mean I need to start ignoring the dirty dishes? Or the stray socks that seem to show up in random places? Well, sort of. According to Goleman, open awareness can help you be more open to receiving feedback. Think about it. If you can be attentive to feedback without getting freaked out by it, dismissing it, or judging the person giving it, then you may learn something about yourself, thus increasing your self-awareness. I think I get it now. Or at least I’m open to getting it.
- No wait, it’s all about YOU: It’s actually about me and you. Focusing on others is where empathy comes in. But wait – it’s not empathy as we know it. Turns out there are different varieties of empathy. What? This is getting complicated. Goleman describes three kinds of empathy: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and empathic concern. Cognitive empathy is cool because I just have to think about what you’re feeling – I don’t actually have to feel it. Emotional empathy means I really do feel your pain. Ow – that could leave a mark. Empathic concern is kind of the balance between the other two. As Goleman puts it, we have to “manage our personal distress [read: emotional empathy run amuck] without numbing ourselves to the pain of others [read: cognitive empathy run amuck].”
- The world is my oyster: Still with me? Pay attention. To the outer world. This skill enables people to see the big picture and imagine how the choices the make today will play out in the future. I know, it seems obvious, but stay with me just a little longer. Goleman differentiates between “exploitation” and “exploration” as two key elements of being good at strategy. Exploitation focuses on the job at hand – think of it as your comfort zone. It’s good, but comfortable. To develop true outward focus requires a deliberate and conscious shift. Get your shift together, because this will lead you to innovation and ultimately, world domination.
So, let’s review: to be effective as a leader, you must be able to direct the attention of others. To direct the attention of others, you must be able to direct the attention of yourself. To direct the attention of yourself, you must develop “focus.” To develop focus, you must separate it into three buckets: yourself, others, and the outer world. I know… it’s a lot to think about. I’ll leave you to your thoughts now. Try to stay focused.