Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman is a wonderful, “focusing,” book.
Known for his work in Emotional Intelligence, Goleman brings such insight into the challenge of finding, keeping, and fine-tuning our focus. Here is his “overview” paragraph:
All that can be boiled down to a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well-lived life demands we be nimble in each. The good news on attention comes from neuroscience labs and school classrooms, where the findings point to ways we can strengthen this vital muscle of the mind. Attention works much like a muscle—use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows.
Inner focus attunes us to our intuitions, guiding values, and better decisions. Other focus smooths our connections to the people in our lives. And outer focus lets us navigate in the larger world.
A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided, and there’s a strong case that leaders need the full range of inner, other, and outer focus to excel—and that a weakness in any one of them can throw a leader off balance.
And the book issues a call to practice empathy – a trait far too lacking in many leaders. He describes studies of doctors, and how the simple act of looking a patient in the eye (instead of looking at a tablet or computer screen, or chart), genuinely listening to the patient, and speaking with a caring tone of voice, builds bridges from the doctor to the patient.
This is a needed trait for all leaders, because:
The just-get-it-done mode runs roughshod over human concerns.
And, for leaders, they are too often woefully unaware of how they “come across” to others. In other words, they lack “self-awareness”:
But there was one “meta” ability that emerged: self-awareness.
I found myself thinking, throughout my reading of this book, “I need to work on this personally.” When that happens, I know I’ve read a good book.
Here are my takeaways from Focus:
#1 — Organizational rigidity keeps the old focus for too long, and can lead to being left behind.
#2 — Focusing on IQ only takes you so far. Then you need other skills (in Goleman’s world, skills connected with Emotional Intelligence).
#3 — Since top leaders may not listen to other people about their own deficiencies, they have to be incredibly self-aware to spot their deficiencies and work on them.
#4 – Leaders must – MUST! — provide time and space to talk about human concerns.
#5 – Getting the right balance between intense focus and attention, and the value of “mind wandering,” is a great challenge.
#6 – Master the “long view” – or risk being left behind…
(And… don’t forget to develop and demonstrate empathy)…
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis