I recently had the opportunity to speak to more than a thousand CEOs and business owners in Australia and New Zealand. I had never worked in that part of the world before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of their most pressing issues and concerns. It turns out they face the same leadership challenges that we do in North America and Europe.
Whenever I speak to CEO groups, I always ask what keeps them awake at night, what they struggle with the most. Here’s what I heard from our peers down under:
- Everything is moving too fast; we can’t keep up.
- We think we’re clear on winning, but it’s constantly changing. Getting and keeping everyone aligned to our vision of winning is increasingly difficult.
- Where’s so much opportunity that we find it hard to say no. As a result, we get stretched too thin.
The fact is, these same issues trouble business leaders around the globe. We live in an increasingly global economy, and what happens in some far-flung corner of the world can have an impact on the rest of us. Moreover, today’s world moves at such an incredible pace that it’s hard enough to keep up with things in our own backyards and markets, much less beyond the geographic boundaries of our businesses.
The problem is not only how fast the world changes. The hyper pace is complicated further by our resistance to change and clinging to the past. We hold on to what previously made us successful — even in the face of compelling evidence that it no long works — and we quickly lose touch with our customers and markets. Once we fall behind, that’s when it seems like things are moving too fast to keep up.
To keep from losing touch and falling behind, pause every now and then to:
- Challenge your assumptions. Think about what you “know to be true” in your business or industry. Then ask, “Is it still true?” Don’t just guess. Get hard data to back up your conclusions.
- Survey the landscape. Look at what has changed in your market in the last three to six months. What new problems are your customers facing? How have their needs changed? Have new competitors entered the fray with a different approach to meeting those needs? What could you do differently to add value in ways that nobody else is doing?
- Gather data from diverse sources. If you get data from the same old sources, you’ll continue to see the world the same. Which means you’ll continue to think the same way. Which means you will fall behind. Expand your brain (and the brains of others) by making it a habit to look around in interesting places for data you normally wouldn’t see.
Staying focused on winning
Without question, we’re more distracted than ever. The things that distract us — like emails and text messages — are typically not the most important things to focus on. But they are usually the most compelling, which is why they earn our constant attention. Today’s technology may thrust interruptions on us. But we’re the ones who decide what we pay attention to and what we ignore.
To minimize distractions and stay focused on winning:
- Get clear on winning. What does winning look like for you? What do you need to do — as individuals and as an organization — to win? What will it look like when you have won?
- Set yourself up for success. Spend five minutes in the morning focusing on your vision of winning and how you will move towards it that day. Jot down some notes to help keep the right things on your radar throughout the day. Ask yourself, “Of what I do today, what will have an impact a year from now?”
- Get clear on what you will not do. Organize your day around winning rather than around interruptions and things that seem urgent but really aren’t. Make a list of your highest priority tasks and activities. Then refuse to let the daily onslaught of interruptions interfere with them.
Most of all, pause every now and then to have some fun with your brain. Make some space for it to play…to ponder…to wander…to explore. You can’t slow down the world. But you can respond to it more effectively by learning to use your brain differently. And that’s true for leaders anywhere in this amazing world of ours!
Call to action: Get focused on winning – now!