07/29/2014 10:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Staying on the Path -- Critical for Executives

"One way to boost our willpower and focus is to manage
our distractions instead of letting them manage us." - Daniel Goleman

2014-07-28-stayingonthepath300x300.jpgIn the article from Harvard Business School, "What CEO's Do and How They Can Do it Better", it outlines results of a study of work habits of 100 busy executives. The article reveals an observation that 85 percent of the executive's time was spent working with people and 15 percent of the executive's time was spent alone. If the time spent alone includes everything an executive has to do to catch up on day to day correspondence, decision making, etc., it is likely that time spent thinking about the business is a much lower percent.

Envisioning the future of the business has to be a purposeful effort. Distractions are our enemy and are something we can learn to control. Why is it that operational distractions attract us? For one thing instant results are easier to attain since often the problem is fixable. With future visioning, there is a long term gain, but in the short term, there isn't a reward in sight. There are always problems that need attention and there is no end to the needs of the business. The items that arise in a day are tempting to fix whereas taking time for envisioning takes concerted effort.

Ted Williams, a famous baseball player for the Boston Red Sox was an incredible hitter. In the article about Ted Williams entitled "The Splendid Splinter" by Charles McGrath, he writes that "hitting was what he cared about, with a single-mindedness that caused critics to complain that his team's record mattered less to him than his own..." Ted Williams has many recorded famous quotes, but one pertained to his incredible success - "Set your goal. Stay focused. And you'll succeed". This fits for the envisioning process in business.

A big part of the executive leader's role is to think ahead and plan for the future. The only way this occurs is if there is passion for the vision and you spend concentrated time developing it.

As a challenge, observe your use of time this next week and see how close you are to the 85% with people and 15 percent with yourself. Of the 15 percent with yourself, how much of that time is spent thinking about where you wish to take the company?

Assuming most of your competitors are similar, challenge yourself to stay on the vision path and spend a minimum of 10-15 percent of your time thinking about the company's future.

Here are five ways to help you succeed with the envisioning process:

  1. If you use a calendar, put time each week to analyze where the company is and where you desire it to be
  2. Identify your passion with the vision - does it excite you? If not you may need to throw the vision statement out and start over. The more compelling your vision, the more excited you will become and the easier it will be to align others around it.
  3. When first starting to spend time thinking, fight any thoughts that it is a waste of time and stay focused.
  4. Limit interruptions during this time - treat it as a valuable client appointment.
  5. Consider transforming your company - an exciting vision requires different operational and business approaches to make it a reality.

Accept the challenge to stay focused on envisioning the spectacular for your customers and your company -- and then make your vision a reality!

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