Friday, 23 September 2016

Type B Razor Sharp Focus: Pass around the Winning Habit!

As a Leader, what are you doing to keep your folks focused, motivated and excited to succeed individually and as a team?

Frameworks, processes, structures and "best practices" of various hues come and go. But cracking the motivation puzzle can be challenging even in the best of times. You want your people to go all out and pursue the shared goals of your team or organization. What exactly is that "elusive" holy grail of motivation, especially in a collaborative environment? You want people to not just achieve individual goals and targets. You want them to support each other in winning too, right? 

What would be that key ingredient that'll make it happen?

If I were asked to pick one such ingredient, my vote goes to what I call the Type B Razor Sharp Focus. Let me define this Type B focus right away!

A sense of accomplishment and the pride that goes with it drives most individuals in their lives. Many of us like to do and complete things that give us this experience of achievement. It needn't be only about big audacious outcomes. How about just ticking off items from a to-do list? The mental satisfaction can be immense. It is a validation of sorts. Of our ability to simply get things done! Nothing more than that. The scale of what gets done comes after that.

Every such result or outcome is powered by well-focused actions. To overcome challenges, and to do what it takes. Let's take a closer look at this focus. I can be totally focused and be driven by a messianic zeal to get what I want. Take this zeal a few notches higher. It can become an all consuming obsession of sorts. One that compels me to give it all I have. A Razor sharp focus, where only the results matter. Only my results matter. As it is all about me and my single-minded pursuit of my success.

I'd categorize this Razor Sharp Focus as Type A. Where it is all about the individual and the outcome. So many of our finest achievements in history are driven by this Type A Razor Sharp Focus. You'll see it in some of the success stories in the world of business, academia, sports, entertainment, politics, and several other fields.

Now, let's look at another kind of success. I am of course entitled to my own success. But while I pursue this outcome, I am also actively supporting others like me to succeed. Somehow, I am convinced that when others succeed with me, I can actually start winning more often. In fact, the quantum of success may also become bigger for everyone in the process. For this to happen, I can't be only obsessed about my win. I now need to keep an eye on others around me too! Because the stakes are much higher now. The opportunities are also bigger!

This needs a different kind of focus. It needs Razor Sharp Focus, for sure. Of Type B, and not what we saw above alone.

Are you a Leader who wishes to pursue radically transformative change? If yes, have you got enough supply of this vital factor of production? The Type B Razor Sharp Focus? How can you procure more of it? And maintain a healthy inventory level too?

Let’s look at three important aspects to make this happen.

Eschew The Blind Spots & work with Shared Interests:

It is possible that we may unwittingly overlook the advantages of collaboration. This happens when we aren't fully conscious of the potential rewards and outcomes. Distractions of different kinds can skew our perspective. We may rush to make hasty conclusions in our minds about what is possible and what isn’t…

Why does this happen? Sometimes, we unconsciously tend to mix facts along with impressions, assumptions and interpretations. We may omit and edit out some of the facts and data. This happens when we’re driven by an agenda to match what we see with what we want to see! We may project our map of reality into the actual territory!

Let’s assume you’re working on a joint assignment with a colleague. You may conclude that it is not worthy enough for you to join forces with your colleague for anything beyond what is just essential. This conclusion is often based on incomplete information and the blind spots that tend to develop over time.

An open mindset can help you avoid some of these costly mistakes. This needs some focused work. You could start by first listing out the essential facts. Examine the associated assumptions, interpretations and impressions. These are usually driving your thinking patterns.

Engage with the Discomfort!

So, it helps to observe your thoughts and associated emotions. Start connecting the dots and become aware of the impacts of such a limited view of reality. Become aware of what you’re likely to gain if these limiting patterns are replaced by a more open system of thoughts and actions. Which of the assumptions can be kept aside? If some of your thoughts are making you uncomfortable, take that as an important signal or alert. You might want to do something about it. What actions, support or additional information will take you to a more positive frame of mind and make you feel reassured? Once these actions are secured, does it make sense to explore collaboration so that you can reap more benefits?

Become the Role Model!

As a Leader, you need to support the key members of your team to practice this  and train themselves to unlock the benefits of collaboration. But not by ignoring genuine concerns and warning signs. Instead, you are identifying specific approaches and steps that can minimize or even nullify the dangers that exist. By nudging everyone consciously back to collaboration, as a group, you are able to access more choices and possibilities.

Managing Runaway Emotions

Emotional wellbeing is critical so that you can leverage your Type B Razor Sharp focus. All your key team members need to develop this skill. Several “seasoned” players in organizations assume that emotions are bad and need to be kept away from the workplace. Nothing can be more damaging than such unhealthy maxims and edicts.

In the previous section we spoke about observing thoughts and associated emotions. It is important to use this as a signaling system, and move towards better outcomes.

At real-time you are getting mentally and emotionally impacted by others: Their patterns of behaviour, their actions, their thoughts, ideas. These are leaving imprints at an emotional level. Develop an awareness of the specific triggers and behavioral patterns (of others) that make you angry, afraid, uncomfortable, embarrassed, guilty, or even confused. By not acknowledging this, you may end up projecting your frustrations on others.

The Climate Change!

As a Leader, you will need to develop a climate of open communication. A safe space for people to articulate their concerns and worries in a mature manner. This is not to say that you should encourage your staff to cry and holler in public! Rather, the idea is to have a mature approach to take purposive action by working with emotional intelligence.

You can yourself demonstrate some of these skills of self awareness and self regulation. Formulate ways of working and protocols to allow for these underlying issues to get expressed in a constructive and outcome oriented manner. People will slowly open up and get into a practice of moving towards solutions. This again will allow for the right kind of focus to emerge across your team and floor!

The alternative is to keep pretending things are okay and allow frustrations, fears and seething rage to get bottled up inside. And there is a hefty price tag too, if people choose the latter option! Genuine issues get hidden, but not for long. It doesn't take long for the inevitable descent into a dysfunctional culture. Passive resistance, unwholesome politicking and even hit jobs can corrode your team’s collective energies and potential in no time! Can it get worse? Yes it does! The good and capable employees may flee, and you’ll be stuck with rotten apples that vitiate the atmosphere further!

Feed Forward vs. Intimidating Feedback

Type B Razor Sharp Focus requires you and your team to embrace a spirit and culture of continuous improvement. The ability to observe, reflect and introspect is an absolute must for such a culture to take root. It is important to keep a close watch on key performance indicators of your significant workflows and processes. People need to have a “feel” for it. And it also requires a culture of open communication.

Bad news must be picked up early enough so that you can take corrective actions as a team. Maybe, this sounds logically kosher. But, in practice it calls for open sharing and acknowledging of feedback and suggestions for improvements. How can you make sure that the feedback is taken on board in the right spirit? What if some of your folks get intimidated by the candor that you want in the process? What can be done to keep the Type B Razor Sharp Focus intact?

A few thoughts and queries that you can keep coming back to:

  • Use a feed forward approach while exchanging feedback.
    • If something wasn't done well, what learning can be taken on-board for the future?
    • What will be done differently?
    • How can the result or outcome get secured, in spite of what happened in the past?
  • Are people trying to “fix” weaknesses or leverage their strengths?
    • What would need to happen if you want more of the latter?
  • Is there a need to change the outcome itself?
  • Where possible, how can you include people in the formulation of outcomes, expectations, goals and results?
    • What can be done to increase the quality of the buy-in?
  • It may also be a good idea to draw certain red lines for behaviour.
    • That hint of a disparaging tone, the hidden signs of trust-deficit, molten hot anger, and an overwhelming lack of empathy… How can you move out of such a paradigm and stay focused on the best outcomes?
    • What red lines can you define?

We know that given a conducive and enabling environment, many among us are able to deploy our finest strengths and capabilities. Creating and jointly nurturing such an environment is the way to go!

Just imagine what can happen if more of our relationships get transformed with greater understanding. Don't you think many hidden possibilities and opportunities may get unlocked? Perhaps there will be lesser strife and discord. Stress levels can also come down. You and others can focus better on things that matter the most. 

Focus that is derived in this order: 1) Better Mutual Understanding >> 2) Actions Driven by this Higher Order Understanding >> 3) Better Quality Interactions  >> 4) Reduced Stress >> 5) Razor Sharp Focus & Co-creation of Superior Value

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