On Career Development: The Ability to Focus



The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

~ Stephen Covey

In yesterday’s post I introduced the acronym FACE IT to identify six leadership attributes I believe will help accelerate your career and professional development.  The six attributes are Focus, Accountability, Customer Driven, Execution, Innovation, and Teacher.

The first attribute, FOCUS, is simply the ability to keep the main thing the main thing.

Earlier in my career I had a position as a financial controller.  For the first couple of years in this position I felt I did my job fairly well and executed the standard accounting processes to provide monthly financial statements and analysis on time as expected.  Over time, however, I decided that I could, and wanted to, help in other areas of the company and started offering to assist in other projects and areas of business development.  This was well received by those who I helped, but my boss was not too pleased.  Over time, my relationship with him began to suffer.  I couldn’t understand why this was happening and felt that it was unfair as I was still doing my job (although not quite as good as I used to) and was contributing in other key areas of the company (at least I thought so).

Eventually, I switched to other departments in the company that changed my reporting structure, but I never quite got back to the trusted relationship I used to have with my supervisor.  For a long time I thought it was him.  Now I realize that I contributed to the setback in our relationship because I forgot what my main thing was – to be the Controller and to make sure I was meeting and exceeding expectations in that role.

I see now that no matter what else I do to help develop a business, if I am not delivering and meeting expectations of the main thing I was hired to do, I am failing.  I can help with strategic plans, marketing, operations, key IT projects, or whatever, but if I don’t execute on the basic key aspects of my position, I will not truly be considered successful by those who evaluate my performance.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take external projects or offer to help others.  In fact, I encourage it as it will help you advance in skill, expand your network, and open up doors of opportunity.  What I am recommending is that you ensure you do not let those other opportunities distract you from your main thing.  You can accept and participate in those projects after you know, with 100% assurance, that you have nailed your main thing.

If helpful, here is a three-step guideline of how to focus and still expand your opportunities:

1) Know Your Stuff (be an expert in the job you were hired to do).

2) Do the Right Stuff (make sure you understand what is expected of you and ensure you do that consistently well).

3) Help Others with Their Stuff (once # 1 and #2 are happening, you can then extend yourself to other areas of opportunity.  You need to do this to grow and advance).

What is your main thing?  Are you focused on it?  Are you absolutely nailing it?  If not, I encourage you to step back, reset, and move forward again using the simple guideline above.  It will set you on the correct path for success.


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