Intention, Focus, and Discipline in a Changing World

Our German Shepherd Gus loved to play fetch. To him it wasn’t just a game, it was serious business. He intentionally sought out the perfect stick. Once found, he would drop it at the nearest human feet and stare… stick… to hand; his focus forcing the throw. We would often pause and have him sit and wait, while the tension built. He would quiver with anticipation but always had the discipline to hold until given the “okay”, before tearing off in pursuit of his prize.

 

Focused German Shepherd

 

In my last post, I talked about perspective, narratives and crows and how the narratives we tell ourselves influence and shapes our perspective of our context.

 

If we agree that we are at a Fork in the Road then we must recognize that we are surrounded by changing context.

 

Leaders will struggle to be effective if they continue to interpret this changing context through industrial age, hierarchical approaches. These command and control, top down approaches to management were born out of outdated perspectives of scientific management and reinforced by incomplete narratives about how we as humans function. Our reality has changed; so must our narratives.

 

Similarly, as individuals we continue to view life as a series of compartmentalized moments; each existing independently.  To renew our meaning and purpose in the changing context at the Fork, it’s critical that we change as well.

 

But how?


We need to become more intentional, focused and disciplined in our personal narratives and perspectives. And as leaders more intentional, focused, and disciplined about building effective teams through similar changes in narratives and perspectives.

 

Intentional – purposeful, deliberate, willful; not happening by chance; who we are, what we do and why we do it; how we intend to interact with our contextual reality

 

On the teams I coach and lead professionally, we break down our backlog of work into very small, but meaningful, slices, ideally completed in a day or two. We do this in order to be very intentional about what we should be doing today, why we should be doing it, and exactly how we will know we have completed it.

 

On a personal level my family has an “off-site” meeting every few months, at times on a boat at the lake, at a ski resort, in the woods at a campsite and other ‘unique’ venues. We use these to intentionally review existing goals, as well as to identify new ones, as a family, and to break them down into the slices necessary to achieve them.  We make adjustments to our plans and ensure our actions are deliberate in moving us forward.

 

Focus – central point of attention and activity; an unblinking and relentless eye on intention even if it requires changing our narratives in order to shift our perspectives, as the late Stephen Covey wrote about “First Things First”

 

On the teams I coach and lead professionally, we continually review our work at a tactical, as well as a strategic level, to ensure we don’t and haven’t taken our eye off the slices of work we’ve committed to in the moment.


Similarly, as a family we continually review and question our slices to ensure our day to day activities contribute to their realization by a daily review of our backlog (currently represented digitally in Trello).

 

Discipline – activity, exercise, or regiment that improves a skill; a rigorous cadence that enables our focus on intent and rigorously making these things happen

  

On the teams I coach and lead professionally, the teams commit to a rigorous cadence of structured ceremonies (events) and artifacts (things) that enable and reinforce our focus on the slices we’ve committed to in the moment.


Similarly, our family has committed to a cadence of weekly ceremonies. We maintain, and add to, a gratitude journal every night; we conduct daily stand-up’s to discuss our backlog, weekly retrospectives to reflect on what worked and what could work better, and weekly planning sessions for the next week. Our kids have checklists to keep them on track for chores and getting ready for school.

 

In our changing context at the Fork in the Road, intention, focus, and discipline become key elements of highly effective teams and individuals.


In my experience agility is the approach that enables such teams and individuals.

 

Our German Shepherd
Our Beloved, Deceased GSD, Gus: Focused on a Stick

 

Image: Shutterstock/Andrii Muzyka

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