It is always good and necessary to have clear business goals and, therefore, business focus is also necessary to reach those goals. However, when I am coaching I often see that for some people having a goal and being rigidly attached to it often becomes an obstacle to sustaining and growing a business. Learning along the way, I came to the conclusion that goals too clearly defined can become blinders.
My first school teacher had a peculiar –to say the least- concept of discipline. Whenever she wanted to punish one of us for poor performance, she made the student wear for a few hours -sometimes even a whole day- a headband with two large pieces of paper attached to the sides, simulating horse blinders.
Nowadays, this would be a monumental scandal, but back then nobody questioned teaching methods, and that was her way to teach us how to focus, however controversial it may have been.
She probably didn’t realize that by punishing us with the blinders, she was only encouraging our tunnel vision, blocking other peripheral learning experiences and, consequently, making us less aware of new possibilities.
Keeping your business focus to accomplish goals
We all strive to accomplish goals in our personal life and in business. But we can stay focused in order to reach our long-term goals, and yet remain flexible and aware of what is going on around us to maintain control of what needs immediate action.
If you don’t want to be blindsided by competitors, your advisors, or yourself, the most effective way, from my point of view, is to develop strategic focus and a strong sense of awareness.
It sounds simple, but few entrepreneurs have the discipline of constantly zooming in and out of their “bubble zone” enabling them to really observe what is going on around them. At times, they can be too stressed out to be conscious of what is really happening and often forget that their business – your business- depends on your attention, and if you are overloaded or under pressure your level of attention to details tends to decrease.
A certain research done by Johns Hopkins University regarding this topic caught my eye. Before reading ahead, try this test for yourself:
If you have focused only on a particular thing – in this case the T–, you mastered what scientists call the “Art of Ignoring” or overlooking irrelevant information in order to get quicker results.
This type of exercises can be very useful for certain professions which rely on visual searches, such as radiologists or airport baggage screeners. The ability to ignore is a key part of the ability to pay attention, as the researchers determined. Nevertheless, as an entrepreneur, your business depends on your undivided attention. To you nothing, absolutely nothing, is irrelevant.
The John Hopkins research reminded me of another fabulous experiment which is extremely useful for business people. Perhaps you have heard about it, because it has been a classic since professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons published their book in 2010, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.
Look at the video first, and we will comment on it later:
Did you see the invisible gorilla?
Here is my two cents. You, as an entrepreneur, must always be looking for the invisible gorilla in your business. “The Monkey Business Illusion”, as it is known, reveals a lot about our focus, our attention, and our perceptions.
All of these are key points and have the capacity to boost, or to derail, your business. So, please reflect on this metaphor. Look for the gorilla, but keep your strategic business focus and awareness. Don’t blindside yourself.
If you concentrate only on one particular aspect of your project – location, employees, loans, marketing, levels of production, that client that would bring cache to your list of VIP, you will miss other important things that are happening right now in front of you.
Avoid over concentration but following these tips
To avoid this overlook, here are a few tips to enjoy the journey of your entrepreneurial experience, applying strategic focus:
- Your goal is what you want to accomplish, the finish line. However, you will have better results if you keep your business focus on the daily challenges. If you commit to the process, instead of the goal itself, you will be happier. This state of mind will feed you clarity and energy and will activate your creativity.
- Bringing to life an entrepreneurial initiative is literally like a road trip. You have a plan, your roadmap, and a destination. However, be ready, because just like in a road trip you will experience the greatest surprises during the unexpected stops. Be flexible and make it just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. In other words, be open to pull over, enjoy the landscape, and reflect.
- If you are too preoccupied on how far you still have to reach your goal, and the long term progress seams unreachable, you will get overly stressed. Appreciate the present and enjoy the little wins. If you value what the builder that is in you is accomplishing, you will remain motivated and open to looking outside of the box, which is always a very healthy and stimulating exercise.
- Lead from the front and promote and seek feedback. You might have great ideas but your employees and customers do also. Create an entrepreneurial culture and encourage and share creative thinking.
- And lastly… Remove your blinders and keep all your senses turned on, always!!! Awareness is vital to identify opportunities and, of course, to find your “invisible gorillas”.