If 2020 has accomplished nothing else, it has brought the urgency to address deep cultural wounds and systemic inequities to the collective consciousness. These issues have brought so many of us to the point of near psychic paralysis. As leaders in our communities we need to take a step back, breathe, and get to work. We are incredibly fortunate in that—what is unique about the social sector is the evergreen promise of a better future that is captured in your organizations’ missions and visions. In fact, that is your charge—to change the things you cannot accept. In this post, we introduce the power of focus, and five key strategies that will help you revitalize your passion and find the resolve to maintain the intensity of sustained focus you need to face the many unmitigated challenges that lie ahead.
1. Differentiate Between Concentration and Focus
A climate scientist once described the difference between weather and climate. In this analogy, the dog’s path represents the weather, stopping to smell all the smells and walking in circles. The owner’s path represents climate—a line that more directly connects point A to point B. Similarly, for social sector professionals, there are countless distractions and tasks that you can concentrate on, rather than focusing on your ultimate destination—the strategic goals and underlying tactics that lead to mission outcomes. What are you currently concentrating on? What should you be focused on instead?
2. Shut Down the Martyr’s Muse
There is a powerful quote by Franz Kafka, “Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own imagination.” The point he is making is that our natural tendency as humans is to recount events in such a way that we unwittingly make ourselves the protagonists (or martyrs) of our stories. I refer to this syndrome as “the Martyr’s Muse.” This “Martyr’s Muse” can be captivating as it feeds into our egos. Organizations are also susceptible to the Martyr’s Muse. Consider revisiting everything from your elevator pitch to the narrative around your organization’s initiatives and communications. Is the underlying tone “woe is me”—or are you describing an inspired vision of the future? Is the plot of your organization’s narrative focused on moving your mission forward?
3. Practice for Performance
From musicians to world-class athletes, the focus required to achieve record-breaking performances requires countless hours of practice. Developing the muscle memory, strength, endurance, mindset, and the perseverance to achieve even the smallest success can begin the much-needed snowball effect that makes larger accomplishments possible. Every initiative you undertake now is preparing you for the next big challenge.
4. Make Decisions, Eat Waffles
Make decisions, eat waffles—but don’t waffle over making decisions. Taking a data-driven approach and doing due diligence are essential steps for nonprofits to act as responsible stewards of community resources. But in many (if not most) cases, making any decision and taking action is better than stagnation. Likewise, there are few instances where you can’t course correct if needed as more data becomes available.
5. Vegetables Before Dessert
If you were to audit your to-do list for the month (at least the things you’re aware of), are you able to tie them back to the foundational elements that ought to be at the center of your work? That boring process improvement meeting? Guess what, it’s a critical step that will make your organization healthier, more resilient and more sustainable. Additionally, these micro improvements are what make success possible, and even the smallest of successes will help drive momentum.
The power of focus helps organizations keep big-picture strategic goals front and center, even as non-mission critical circumstances arise on a given day. It allows your organization to better manage its time and resources and achieve more mission outcomes. By putting these five strategies into practice, your organization will be more effective and the communities you serve will benefit even more as a result. Over the past decade, Measurement Resources Company has helped mission-driven organizations achieve better outcomes.
If you are ready to implement these strategies and would like some additional guidance, please reach out to schedule a call with us over the next few weeks. We also invite you to join Measurement Resources for a webinar on “The Power of Focus: 5 Strategies for Changing the Things You Cannot Accept,” to explore these strategies more in depth. This webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, and begins at 1:00 pm (Eastern Time), we hope to see you online!