On a recent flight across the country, I devoured a terrific book. The book was "Focus Like a Laser Beam : 10 Ways to Do What Matters Most," by Lisa Haneberg. As you'd expect from a book with a title like that, the book itself is very focused and un-fluffy, though it contains a lot of poignant stories about the advantages of focus, and the disadvantages of unfocused activity.
In the 90's, I was involved in an organizational change initiative in which there was a lot of discussion about "getting all the wood behind the arrow" as a metaphor for focus and alignment. Lisa takes us a giant leap forward in her book, using laser light's focused, aligned, and congruent particles as mental model to remind us to focus our goals, thoughts, and actions on specific goals to accelerate our success.
Part One: Excite and Energize
The first section of the book begins with methods to assess your individual focus, as well as how to assess your organization's level of focus toward a unified set of goals, then discusses how you can create a stronger connection with your employees and peers by tapping into the power of emotion and openness in your communication.
My favorite thing in Part One was Lisa's coverage of how to use relaxation and fun to unlock the creativity in an organization, and make work feel a lot less like a chore and more like a fulfilling pursuit. I liken this to the development of a habit - it won't necessarily feel natural at first, some people may feel a bit foolish, but when the new habit becomes automatic, there is no other feeling like it. Know how it feels when you are doing something and feel absolutely "on your game?" Imagine what it would feel like if your whole team felt that way!
And you've just got to read what she says about "Office Yoga."
Part Two: Tune Your Dialog
We've all been in "Meetings From Hell" in our day. Part Two begins with some very practical techniques to transform your meetings into 'focus sessions' which will turn them into high-bandwidth communication tools to align your team. These techniques include introducing a little constructive dissonance by using provocative questions to get to the heart of any matter. The provocative questions are supplemented by my personal favorite, the evocative question. These are just like the "genuine curiosity" questioning that inspired the name for my blog, and are where we can find out things we never expected to hear.
To get real power out of team interaction, Lisa also coaches us to set aside our pride and open up our ideas and plans to the constructive criticism of others. This is tough to do for a lot of folks, particularly when you think your ideas is flawless. If you could do it all by yourself, why would you work with a team? Remember: none of us is as good as all of us.
My favorite tool in Part Two is "The Huddle" - it's kind of like using a lifeline on one of those Millionaire game shows. Remember - even if you're the boss, it's OK to "ask the audience" for help. And it's even OK to celebrate when something cool happens!
Part Three: Zoom In
Think of this as the "totally necessary zoom" that is the key to focus. If you're like me, you're always up for a new trick to improve your focus and effectiveness. Part Three begins with a great technique called "Chunking" that helps you get more predictable in creating burst of productive activity. There is a mix of old and new here, and the "Ways To Chunk" list is a must-have list of best practices for eliminating wasted effort and minimizing distractions when we fool ourselves by trying to multitask.
Couple this info on how to focus with where to focus and you've got a winning combination. You pick up tricks for where to focus in the chapter called "Do One Great Thing." If you read nothing else, read the tips in that chapter's section called "Seven Times to Say No."
The book closes out with tools to help us decide when to cut bait and move on. This one hit home for me - I've had some recent situations where I hung on to projects too long after they stalled or became irrelevant to my objectives.
Be Like A Laser
In summary, I was energized by this book and it helped me to take a fresh look at my attitudes, actions, and choices through a different lens: How do these things affect my work and results?
If you want to focus like what Lisa calls a "high threshold" performer, you've got to consistently act like a high threshold performer. This book provides ten concise, powerful tools to help all of us raise the bar.