“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” — Mark Twain
Building momentum takes a mix of the right kind of energy and focus on a team.
If you can balance focus and energy, you get better results.
For example, if you have low energy things won’t get done. If you have high energy, but low focus, results may be all over the board.
Purposeful work is the right combination of high energy and high focus.
Busy for the Sake of Being Busy
Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal, authors of A Bias for Action, conducted a 10 year study of busy managers in large companies.
What did they find?
Only 10% of all managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner.
The other 90% waste their time in all sorts of ineffective matters.
The authors researched companies including GE, Lufthansa, Sony and more, and what they found is that most managers are busy for the sake of being busy.
They lack focus and waste energy on frenzied activity such as daily routines, superficial behaviors, and poorly prioritized or unfocused tasks.
This frenzied activity can, as the authors put it, “act like leeches on managers’ capacities–making unproductive busyness perhaps the most critical behavioral problem in large companies.”
The Focus-Energy Matrix
Bruch and Ghoshal created The Focus-Energy Matrix as a simple way to see what happens
In this matrix, you have Focus on the vertical side, and Energy on the bottom side.
This creates four quadrants that represent the combinations of low and high focus with low and high energy.
The Procrastinators, The Disengaged, The Distractors, and The Purposeful
When you walk the Focus-Energy grid, here are the 4 Focus and Energy Personas that you end up with:
- Procrastinators – Low energy and low focus
- Disengaged – Low energy and high focus
- Distracters – High energy and low focus.
- Purposeful – High energy and high focus
It’s such a simple lens but it helps you see how a lack of focus and energy can diffuse your results.
Distractors (40% of Managers)
Distractors are high energy, but low focus. They appear as frenzied, desperate, and hasty because of their high energy, but lack of focus.
Because they don’t stop to reflect, they have trouble developing strategies and adjusting their behaviors to new requirements.
Distractors tend to share the following characteristics/behaviors:
- They have high energy, but lack of focus
- They fight fires or abandon projects
- They lack strategy (shooting first, aiming later)
- They overpromise, but often under deliver
- They are aggressive in action but not reflective
- They have difficulty adjusting behavior for new situations and new requirements
Procrastinators (30% of Managers)
Procrastinators are both low energy and low focus. They might start out energetic and engaged, but over time, become disillusioned or disengaged because of their inability to make impact.
They feel they have no control over events so they do nothing, even if they appear busy. They can sabotage and undermine projects through passive agressive behaviors, or simply by wearing out any momentum.
Procrastinators tend to share the following characteristics/behaviors:
- They lack strategy and goals
- They fail to take initiative
- They fail to raise the level of performance
- They fail to enhance strategy
- They operate in a chronically passive state
- They feel insecure
- They fear failure or negative consequences
- They feel overwhelmed
Disengaged are high focus, but low energy. Some managers are exhausted or lack the ability to reenergize themselves.
Others are not able to commit to tasks that don’t hold meaning for them.
Disengagement is often a result of organizational processes, or dysfunctional relationships with who they report to.
Disengaged tend to share the following characteristics/behaviors:
- They do the bare minimum
- They have high burnout rates
- They feel exhausted, frustrated, and alienated
- They withdraw to deal with emotions
- They act likes problems don’t exist
- They easily overwhelmed by the unexpected
Purposeful are high focus and high energy. Purposeful put in more effort than their counterparts, but they achieve critical, long-term goals more often through their high focus and high energy.
According to Bruch and Ghoshal, Purposeful use their time effectively by carefully choosing goals and then taking deliberate actions to reach them.
Purposeful tend to share the following characteristics/behaviors:
- They have high self-awareness
- They plan well and manage well
- They carefully pick their goals and battles
- They have strong willpower and good boundaries
- They are personally accountable for making a meaningful contribution
- They value time and they carefully manage it
- They are good at reducing stress and refueling
- They are good at managing their external environments to meet their goals
How To Be the Purposeful Manager
The Focus-Energy Matrix reminds us of the power of focus and how important it is to generate high-energy.
As Voltaire would say, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”
What you want is to guide your way back to high-energy and high-focus through reflective action. By checking your focus and your energy you can learn to spend your time in a more committed, purposeful, and reflective way.
As an individual, you can do a few things to help foster and funnel your focus and energy:
- Find purpose and meaning in your work by changing your WHY or changing your HOW and connecting your work to your values
- Know what you want to accomplish and set your goals accordingly
- Schedule your time strategically, and make time for creativity and innovation
- Cultivate a supportive network that helps you learn and grow
- Practice self-renewal and keep your energy strong, drawing from mind, body, emotions, and spirit
- Develop your self-awareness and practice your mindfulness
As a leader, you can do a few things to promote high focus and high energy:
- Create compelling visions and stories of the future to inspire people
- Be clear about goals and expectations
- Create time, space, and energy for innovation and creative thinking
- Find creative ways to reduce or eliminate busywork
- Present people with meaningful challenges and choices to give them a sense of empowerment
- Relax formal procedures
I think “Beware the Busy Manager” (Harvard Business Review) is an interesting article on how these focus and energy personas show up at work.