The importance of FOCUS in changing times

The global market trends indicate that the next 12-18 months are going to be a roller-coaster ride. Not only are the economic conditions in Europe (namely, Greece, Italy, and Portugal, Spain and Northern Ireland) concerning, but the World Bank is forecasting that China will have less than double digit growth in 2012. And given how strongly Australia’s economy is tied to China’s growth, it seems likely that our financial resilience will once again be tested. I am not an economist, but listening to the murmurs around town we are in for increasing market volatility into 2012 and with it (more) disruptive change. It would appear that new opportunities abound. Personally, I am excited.

Purposeful leadership is an approach to leadership that was developed for just this scenario.

Purposeful Leadership calls upon leaders to ‘lead from the inside out’ in traversing the complexity of social systems in service of the profound and transformative change. It is an approach to leadership deeply grounded in conscious and intentional ways of leading self and others.

Purposeful Leadership is not dependent upon a person’s title or status within a social system. Rather it focuses on developing a leader’s deep sense of personal resonance, and fostering their commitment to lead from this place regardless of context. It is an approach to leadership that is highly adaptive and invites leaders to take-up an approach to leading that encourages inter-dependence whilst also honouring each leader’s unique approach to leadership.

Purposeful Leadership is an approach to leadership where the leader knows from deep within that ‘they are enough’.

In the coming months and years each of us will be called to look deep within for the inner strength and personal resolve to remain resilient, agile and adaptive during an extended period of flux. Make no mistake, you will be invited to work and live more from your True Nature and your core purpose going forward. Staying connecting with your core purpose will be a key factor that will keep you centred when the very ‘ground’ of your present reality is quaking.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will know that I am a Thought Leader in purposeful leadership and living a life of purpose. However, the power and potency of living with purpose is not the topic of this blog.

Purpose without focus is like performing magic without the wand – yes, living and leading from our purpose can keep our ‘audience’ in awe (why? Because most people are disconnected from their core source of personal power and potency), but without focus there is nothing to capture our audience’s attention to know that ‘the magic’ is happening.

So the key message of this blog is this: An antidote to change is focus.

We have all experienced the after-effects of workplace change: uncertainty, ambiguity, and a lack of security about the present … and the future, just to name a few. The thing is, human beings don’t like feeling confused, lost or insecure. We crave certainty, security and knowing what is going on – especially as it relates to ourselves and those we care about.

But, what is change?

  • To cause to be different;
  • To give a completely different form or appearance to;
  • To exchange for or replace with another;
  • To lay aside, abandon, or leave for another; and
  • To become different or undergo alteration.

As you can see from the above descriptions of change, it involves the transformation of an aspect of a ‘form’ (e.g., an organisational structure, a job title or role, your sense of who you are, etc) into something different. Within the field of change, my expertise and specialisation is the inner landscape of change: How a person answers the question “who am I?” as a result of undertaking a change journey.

Change is a significant opportunity for personal and professional growth. It should have you answering the “who am I?” in more expansive and integrative ways, coupled with a greater sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, this is not often the case and it is for this reason that why people don’t readily embrace change when it is announced.

In fact, in my experience the opposite typically occurs. Working with literally thousands of people over the past 15 years around the inner journey of change I have observed that two primary psychological dynamics play out when a change is announced. First, individually and collectively people become more fearful . And second, people becomeless trusting of others (and especially the person who announced the change!).

It does not need to be this way. Purposeful leadership is a personally empowering and extremely rewarding way to lead yourself and others through change. Now back to the focus of this blog: Focus.

Four reasons we don’t readily embrace change.

Thought leader and spiritual philosopher, Ken Wilber, offers an elegant framework for synthesising the complexity of human experience, called the Integral Framework. Using this framework, we can identify four key reasons we don’t (but can!) naturally embrace change.

  1. Mindset: often are unable to mentally or emotionally make-sense of what we are experiencing as we do not have the capacity to fully comprehend the situation we are facing – and this can leave us feeling scared or fearful;
  2. Skills: when faced with a situation we have not experienced before, we often to not have the behavioural capabilities or competence to effectively navigate the context of the change – and this can leave us feeling inadequate;
  3. Access To Support: human beings are social creatures and during times of uncertainty we can often think that we do not know who to turn to for help. Usually, this occurs for two reasons with the first being we perceive that we do not have anyone to turn to and second, we have so many different options to get support we don’t know who to turn to first – and this can leave us feeling isolated; and
  4. Social Conditioning: from a young age we are socialised towards dependence and waiting for others to provide us with guidance and instruction (think of the teacher in the class room). Although most of us evolve beyond this dependency on others, but during times of uncertainty we can regress to wanting those we perceive to be ‘in control’ to provide us with hope and a clear way forward – and this can leave us feeling abandoned or victimised.

These four barriers to embracing workplace change are also the pathways towards valuing change as a professional – and personal – opportunity for growth and development. All we need is focus!

Focus is what ‘transforms’ the potential of a change being an assault on your sense of who you are to a liberating and personally fulfilling opportunity. Try:

  • Focusing on a mindset that change brings the potentiality of boundless opportunity rather than loss.
  • Focusing on the skills and behavioural competencies you already possess to assist you in navigating the ever-changing landscape of change (after all, the opportunity to change would not be presented to us if we did not have all of the requisite skills to traverse ‘the wilderness’).
  • Focusing on establishing one key relationship you can rely upon (unconditionally!) as a sounding-board and support during change, and once they are in place then identify the next, and the next, and the next.
  • Focusing on being an agent of your own destiny rather than waiting for others to tell you the what path to take, and (referring to point three above) get on with it in ways that make change experience a collaborative journey rather than an isolating one.

In my experience it is always better to live a life filled with magic, but don’t forget your wand.