A Google search for focus revealed “about” 4,570,000,000 results. With so many results it is no wonder why so many individuals and organizations are seeking ways to improve their focus on something. Perhaps it is productivity, concentration, attendance, grades...the list seems endless. When leading a classroom, building, or district, focus has to be top of mind, literally. But what exactly is focus?
On any given day our team works cross functionally with nine buildings, hundreds of personnel, and support thousands of devices across the network. Focus is crucial to our success. Our team recently completed reading Boundaries for Leaders (Cloud, 2013), and found that the big secret to increasing individual and team focus consists of three components:
WHAT WE LEARNED
We learned that we have to pay attention to what matters most by focusing on the relevant (attending), block distractions by not letting them in (inhibiting), and increase our individual and collective memory by having systems in place to help us to "remember and build on relevant information" (working memory).
And that is when it hit me. While we learned the importance of having a system in place to help us focus, we had a little work to do with our newly found knowledge. Here is how we use the executive functions of the brain to help our individual and collective focus. The executive functions of the brain (attending, inhibiting, working memory) are now common language and practice in our system, and here are a few examples.
We attend by:
We inhibit by:
And finally, we increase our working memory by:
NUGGETS OF KNOWLEDGE
The resources included in Cloud’s writing, most notably the meeting processes of Lencioni, have completely reshaped how we approach meetings and work with one another. Focusing by using the executive functions keeps us on task while avoiding getting lost in what McChesney, Covey, & Huling (2012) refer to as the whirlwind.
The knowledge and examples in Boundaries for Leaders fundamentally changed the way we do business. Is that not something you would like for your department or building? The goal is to attend to what matters, block out as many distractions as possible, and find a way to keep what matters most in front of you and your team as often as possible. Remember, "you get what you create or allow and you are ridiculously in charge!" (Cloud, 2013).
I found these resources for improving our focus to be of great use and hope you do as well. Let me know how, or what processes you use to increase your individual and team’s focus in the comments below.