Improve your performance by Narrowing Goals: How to Stay Focused

Stay Focused: Watch the Birdie

Stay Focused: Watch the Birdie

Let me start with a confession. I don’t really know anything about politics. Yes, I religiously follow all the political spats in the media. And, I’ve been in the Dail on a variety of missions. But, overall, I know as much about politics as Ivor Callely knows about estimating the distance from Clontarf to Kildare Street (it’s about 380 kilometers, right?).

Political Contact: That’s why I was surprised when the contact came. A budding politician – seeking election in Dublin – wanted someone to manage the campaign. Was I interested? I was intrigued enough to go along to the meeting. This woman, whom I instantly liked, had spent most of her life on the fringes of politics. It was now time to move out of the shadows and make a real play for a Dail seat. The Question: Could I help her craft a winning election strategy? I deployed the Manuel Defense (‘I know nothing’) but she didn’t seem to be put off. So, we decided to do a ‘mini-election-strategy’ session there and then in the restaurant. It made a change from discussing Ireland’s ‘8 month long winters’. The conversation ran along the following lines:

“What sort of issues will you campaign on?”

“That’s not the way it works. The electorate decide the issues and I represent them.”

“Talk me through that?”

“Well, you thoroughly canvass the area. Then you group the data that people have raised and categorize this.”

“OK. What sort of issues are important in your area?” (a mix of Dublin City Council and middle class housing).

“Well, there are tons of issues. Crime and fear of crime is a hot topic. Of course, there is always economics – zero jobs and high taxes. Then there are working mothers; a lack of provision of crèche places along with the general cost of childcare. There are also some environmental concerns around the proposed construction of an incinerator. There’s a heap of stuff emerging around the reform of politics itself, how expenses are recorded and all that”.

“It’s a long list. What do you see as your particular ‘calling card?’ What will you focus on?

“I don’t think you understood the original point. Politicians don’t decide the issues, the electorate decides”.

“Where do you see yourself having a particular interest? Where is your own passion?”

“I keep telling you” (getting somewhat agitated now). “I will follow the electorate, not push them down avenues which are pet topics for me. Are you hearing the message?”

“OK, I have it.”

“You have what?”

“I’ve figured out your campaign slogan. It’s really memorable.”

“Jesus, that was quick. Go on, what is it?”

“Vote for me. I will improve absolutely everything.”

Not Funny: She didn’t think that was particularly funny. Neither did I.  I told her that politicians need to take a stance on issues. It’s called branding. Think Ming Flanagan in his heyday (allowing people access to cutting turf – despite EU regulations that this is illegal). She understood the point – but – felt that you couldn’t narrow it down to a handful of issues. There were 100+ issues in the constituency and she would provide a platform for 100+ views. I thought her proposed strategy was nuts and we parted amicably. I’m not sure who eventually helped her with the campaign, but she didn’t get elected (in fairness, she was running against some very seasoned players).

Banking Executive: I had a somewhat similar experience in one of the main banks. Like President Clinton daydreaming about the 80’s, let me inhale a moment of nostalgia here. Oh yes, the good old days when the banks used consultants.  An executive was promoted into a role where he didn’t have a lot of experience and I was asked to coach him, specifically to co-author his objectives for the next coming year. I asked about his legacy, what he hoped to achieve over the next 3 years (the average lifespan for an executive in that bank to remain in a single role). He said: “Can we skip the philosophy lesson and get on with setting the objectives?” But you can’t just roll over at the first sign of opposition, so I stuck to the point.

His Legacy: I asked him how he would like to be remembered. Did he want to be ‘Mr. Top Line’ – the man who had improved revenue flows (there were a number of possible M&A options)? Or did he want to be ‘Mr. Bottom Line’ – using business process reengineering to rip out every non-value-added step in a slimmed down organization? Perhaps he wanted to be ‘Mr. Customer Service’ improving the Net Promoter Scores? As a final twist, he could become ‘Mr. Staff Engagement’ – making sure that the group managed (about 2800 people) were in 5th gear, happier than a group of alcoholics on a guided tour of the Jameson Distillery.  The only answer that was disallowed was: ‘I want to be remembered for all of the above’ – because some of these ideas are mutually exclusive.  As soon as he decided his intended legacy, I would work backwards from this and clinically set out what he needed to achieve in the next 12 months. As a final kicker, I reminded him of the Einstein quote: “Intellectuals solve problems;  geniuses prevent them”.

Stay Focused: Lots of us behave like that budding politician and the banking executive. In trying to appeal to ‘everyone’ – we run the risk of appealing to no one. We’d do well to remember the Chinese philosophy:  ‘When you chase two rabbits, you catch neither’.  The suggestion is as follows: Fold up that Superhero cape. Consider what you can actually achieve in your time in the chair. Yes Earthling, focus on human scale stuff. And then actually deliver it. Move out of the land of dreaming and into the land of doing. Because results pay the bills. You are paid to get things done, not to go home tired. Being focused is the engine of performance improvement. Simple, isn’t it?

Have a productive week.

Paul Mooney

PS Lighter Moment: For Golf Fans (courtesy of Tim O’Neill). Since Tim retired his wife Geraldine claims that she got twice the husband for half the money! Apologies to all non-golfers for the ‘insider’ jokes.

Subject: Fwd: My New Golf Book …

I have written a book on golf and am quite proud of the results. In order to market  the publication, I’m asking friends and family to spread the news about this essential read.
The book gives the  reader valuable playing tips and insider information that I have  gained over many years of experience.

Highlights  include:Chapter  1: Properly Lining Up Your Fourth Putt

Chapter  2: Hitting a Maxfli  ball from the Rough When You Hit a  Titleist from the Tee

Chapter 3:  Getting More Distance off the Shank

Chapter 4:  Magically Finding a Ball That Everyone Else Saw Go in the  Water

Chapter 5:  How to Relax  When You Are Hitting  3 off  the Tee

Chapter 6:  How to Relax   When You Are Hitting 5 off  the Tee

Chapter 7:  Timing: When to suggest Major Swing Corrections to Your Opponent

Chapter 8:  Helping your opponent find her ball  when you are standing on it

The  book also includes some key golf terminology. A Salman Rushdie – an impossible  read.  Rock   Hudson – thought it was straight, but it  wasn’t.  Cuban  – needs one more  revolution. An  Adolf  Hitler – two shots in the   bunker.  A   Kate Moss – bit thin.  Rodney King – over-clubbed.  An   O. J. Simpson – got away with it. Extra copies in stock but I anticipate a rush so be quick and  ensure you don’t miss out!

Pass this  information to anyone who you feel may benefit from  my expertise…

PPS: If you have 2 more minutes to spare and are in dire need of a laugh – Google what Pepsi did to this poor, unsuspecting car salesman. Brilliant! Should be a standard part of inductions for everyone in car sales.

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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