Lost your focus at work? 3 tips for getting back on track

It’s easy to lose sight of where you are going when you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for an extended period of time.  You get focused on your task and you don’t take the time to lift your head and see where you are headed in the long term.

Sometimes it’s just the opposite.  The long term looks so confusing and unclear you decide that maybe it’s best to just focus on something you know and can control.

Both of these approaches are damaging long term for individuals and the organizations they work in.  When people become so task-oriented that they lose sight of the bigger picture the result is misaligned work, the creation of individual and departmental silos, and poor teamwork and collaboration.

This is especially true with long-time employees.  Business authors Scott and Ken Blanchard highlight this in their most recent leadership post for Fast Company.  As they explain, “Leaders and organizations generally do a good job of clarifying goals as they are getting new people up to speed. With long-time employees, however, leaders often assume that the employee instinctively knows what’s important. As a result, leaders generally don’t spend the same amount of time and energy communicating clear objectives to seasoned employees that they do with new hires.”

The result?  A high level of misalignment in most organizations.

“We did a study a number of years ago with a large petroleum company in North America that shows how rarely this clarity occurs. We asked more than 2,000 employees and their managers to share their goal expectations with us. To begin, we asked the employees to rank the top five things they felt they were responsible for. Then we asked the managers to list and prioritize the five things they were actually holding each of their direct reports accountable for. We saw only a 19% agreement across the population of 2,000 people!”

Is misalignment holding you back?  Here are three strategies for creating more alignment in your organization:

  1. Make sure clear agreements are in place. All good performance starts with clear goals.  It’s a process of creating clarity about why we’re here, what we’re doing, and how we’re going to work together.
  2. Make sure everyone’s eyes stay on the ball. This includes regular one-on-one conversations with direct reports that include feedback and evaluation of how each person is doing against established targets.
  3. Catch people doing things right. Help people notice and experience the incremental successes they are having. It’s easy to slip back into old habits.  Provide clarity and encouragement on a regular basis.

Don’t let a short term focus keep you—or your organization—from long-term success.  Take a minute this week to lift your head, look around and check for clarity and alignment.  Also, to learn more about the impact that misalignment can have on performance, be sure to check out Scott and Ken Blanchard’s post at Fast Company, If Your Employees Are Squabbling, Your Company’s Probably Standing Still.

4 thoughts on “Lost your focus at work? 3 tips for getting back on track

  1. If “they” truly knew my heart and my desire to follow it….

    My desire to be a part of THAT place everyone wants to work, eat and/or visit.
    I ache to have the staff and Management be the TEAM that is admired by others. I have the will but not the means or honestly the direction to lead us to a higher place.
    The info, YOUR info is in my head but I am unsure in my abilities to implement the program we are all crying to have! If you could give me a few words that would be the PUSH……

    I am a small University Dining Service Supervisor for a large company that “appears” to have forgotten the value of Raving Fans and Gung Ho employees.
    My unit is struggling in both those areas: to the detriment of our TEAM, our contract and our Company’s ranking.
    Agian, I ask for your insight, your help, your prayers if nothing else.
    My family is affected by the decline in our Unit’s image and as we are so closely connected to the University and our little town……it hurts even worse to be seen in such a negative light on a daily basis.
    Praying for direction, hoping for answers, faith He has a plan….

    • Dear MsMary,
      I can feel your desire to create a Raving Fans service experience for your internal customers. That’s a great place to start and that will serve you and your team well.

      Let’s get started putting a plan in place to create a memorable service experience.

      1. Sit down with your team and come up with a common vision of what a great customer experience would look like. Play it out in detail. Would would people see, hear and feel when they first came in contact with your team and your service? What would happen next? And how would the service experience end? Imagine how everything would play out if you did it exactly the way you wanted to. Also imagine what customers would be saying after they experienced this exceptional service.

      2. Test your vision with the senior leaders your group reports to. Ask them if they would like to see this happen at the University. Adjust your plan as necessary to meet their expectations of a perfect service experience.

      3. Compare your desired vision with what is happening today. What are the gaps?

      4. Involve your entire team in figuring out how to address the places where your vision doesn’t the current reality. What can each person do to close the gap?

      5. Put the plan in action. Get feedback from your customers. Adjust as necessary.

      Remember that the key is to deliver what people expect plus 1% more. You just have to go a little above expectations to create a superior service memory for people.

      You may not be able to change everything you want to right away, but hang in there. Creating a memorable experience on a consistent basis will win people over eventually. In the short term, keep your team engaged and moving forward.

      Best of luck–let me know how it works out.

      David Witt, Program Director

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