We all tend to be myopic creatures by nature. Our minds want to focus on the immediate, the present, the apparent, and the obvious. This is the nature of the Technician in us, as we sometimes frame it at EMyth.
The problem with this approach in a business is that, if you are the owner, you can’t strictly focus on the day-to-day of running the thing. You must be able to see into your future, visualize your destination, and focus on the path ahead.
Oh… and do all that while keeping a hand on the wheel and paying close attention to what is happening today, now, in the moment.
As the owner of your company you are, by default, the Leader. (Of course, in order to become an effective and truly great Leader you must also inhabit that role by choice and by intent!) The point is that, as the Leader, it is absolutely critical that you learn to have one eye on the present (viewed within the context of the recent past) and one eye on the future (viewed within the context of the present).
I remember taking walks with my best friend in high school and we would be talking, watching people, and so on, when suddenly one of us would ask, “Where are you going?” And, invariably, the other of us would respond, “I don’t know. I was following you!”
Both of us were walking somewhere, but our attention and focus were so concentrated on what was being said in the moment that neither of us were aware of where we were headed.
Attention and Intention
These are strategic leadership qualities that are the hallmarks of truly great leaders. Attention can be described as an awareness of not only what one is doing, hearing, seeing, or perhaps reading in the moment, but also a studied awareness of what is happening around them at that moment, the larger context of what is happening, and a consciousness of the more subtle interactions, cause and effect, and systemic consequences of what is happening in the moment.
This is not some New Age or Zen-like awareness that requires you to be attuned to the Universe. It is simply learning to be aware of and paying studied attention to what’s really going on around you, because of you, and in spite of you, in your business in the moment.
Intention embodies purpose framed by a larger vision. In an ideal Leader’s world, nothing he or she says or does should be random or without purpose. This does not mean that you cannot engage in casual, informal conversations, or even take some time to make paper wads and throw them at people while at work. (You should try this – it might shock the pants off of some of your staff!)
Being intentional means that the larger context of all your words, actions, and decisions are framed by and embodied within the Vision you have for your business and the heartful Purpose that fuels your Vision. A mental exercise that illustrates this would be to always ask yourself this question before you say or do anything: Does this (action) move us closer to our Vision?
Making the boat go faster
In 1998, after another disappointing rowing regatta in Cologne, British athlete Ben Hunt-Davis and the rest of his GB Eight rowing team realized that if they continued doing things the same way, they would keep getting a lot of 7th place finishes.
So they decided to approach things differently with a new strategy - asking the same simple question with every single action they took: ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ The result was that they learned sustainable, dependable techniques that helped them win the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
A book was written later on and he formed a consultancy leveraging what they learned in the process. The efforts of these men epitomizes the idea behind Attention and Intention, and the value of developing a Leader’s unique skill of “dual vision”.
So, where are you going?