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Boost Your Leadership Abilities with These 3 Winning Focus Strategies

We are currently in the midst of a silent transformation in the way work is being carried out. The convergence of inflation, the pandemic, and a heightened emphasis on wellbeing has left workers feeling anxious about their job security and unsure about their ability to maintain a decent quality of life.

Leaders more than ever before need to lead their people to reduce anxiety and uncertainty.
This requires laser-like focus and attention on what really matters.
After all, one of the primary jobs of a leader is to help direct people's attention. Without it, people fall into confusion and uncertainty. They focus on misplaced priorities, put effort into the wrong tasks and don't know what to do next.
In today's fast-paced and attention-demanding world, leaders hold a vital role in guiding their employees towards strategic thinking and innovation.
However, to effectively fulfill this role, leaders must first master the art of directing their own attention. By focusing inward, towards others, and the external environment, leaders can tap into their full potential and inspire those around them to reach unprecedented heights.
As Daniel Goleman says in the HBR article, The Focused Leader, attention can be put three broad buckets—focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the wider world.
In my Trust Forces Model (from my book Trusted to Thrive, get a free chapter here), I also talk about self-focus (micro), people focus (meso) and external focus (macro). But I talk about them from the perspective of both oppositional and supportive trust forces.
3 Types of Forces that Impact Trust - 3 Focuses-1
As I mentioned in last week's article, on 5 Silent Trust Decelerators, one of the biggest fallouts from being busy and unfocused is that employees start to distrust their leader.  Common complaints are that the leader doesn’t listen to them in meetings or take action on their suggestions.  It can even make some employees feel that their boss is too disorganised to find the time to help them, which reflects poorly on their perception of the leader’s capability.

For many leaders, managing trust in teams is a challenge because they don't understand the interplay between these three different forces.  To save time and reduce frustration, you need to know what you can control and what you can’t.

We send these forces out to people and they send them to us, so they are multidirectional you could say and impact us in six different ways. If we don't get manage them right, people tend to distrust our intentions.
Let's unpack these forces in more detail and what you need to focus on to improve your results.

1. Self-Focus - Micro Trust Forces


Micro trust forces are critical to our ability to lead. These are our intrapersonal skills – our ability to self-manage, understand our strengths and weaknesses, adapt to changing circumstances and learn new things.

Micro trust is underpinned by self-awareness and understanding that the only person we can change is ourselves. We can change how we react, interact and behave, as well as what we believe. At its core, it’s about how much we trust ourselves, how we trust others, a belief that things will turn out okay and trusting our gut.

Improving our self-awareness also improves our ability to empathise with others. Humble and empathetic leaders embrace criticism regarding their personal biases, allowing for greater self-awareness and understanding of their limitations. This self-insight fosters increased levels of humility, empathy, and perspective-taking, enabling leaders to connect with others on a deeper level.

Effective leaders diligently work on developing their self-awareness, staying attuned to their followers' concerns, triggers, and idiosyncrasies, creating an environment of comfort and safety.

According to research by UNSW Business School and Deloitte,  their analysis of the 360-degree Inclusive Leadership Assessments (ILA) of more than 400 leaders made by almost 4,000 raters reveals a leader’s awareness of personal and organisational biases is the number one factor that raters care most about.

What employees like to see is a leader who “constantly challenges (their) own bias and encourages others to be aware of their pre-conceived leanings” or when a leader seeks insight into their biases by, for example, by asking others to test whether their thought process is biased in any way.

"The best way to change the world is in concentric circles: start with yourself and work your way out from there.”
James Clear
Changing from the inside-out magically transforms how people react and interact around us. It requires leaders who live continuous improvement  - being willing to update their point of view, being mindful of the stories they tell themselves and living their leadership brand.
It is the only focus area we have the most control over. Good self-awareness levels also help you better identify which battles your team considers important to fight and which are best to leave alone. 

2. People-Focus - MESo TRUST FORCES

Next are the trust issues that occur more within and across the team domain that you have some control over, but still need to navigate to get right.

At the meso level, trust is impacted by what team members think about one another and their leader. These can be supportive or oppositional, depending on the personalities in your team.

It's about being good with people at the team level and across teams/with higher ups. This is where leaders are focused on being real with where they are right now and actively engaging with people. This involves being present - asking curious questions, listening and empowering others (in meetings and one-on-ones). 

This necessitates a team leader who possesses exceptional interpersonal abilities. In other words, they invest the necessary time to cultivate trust, effectively handle underperforming individuals, navigate perceived fairness within the team, and manage challenging personalities. Additionally, they foster an environment where team members can develop trust in one another.

In other words, they have the ability to build strong relationships, they know how to approach conflict, communicate change or provide negative feedback. Being able to collaborate and influence others is key here.

People-focus is about recognising that you can't get work done without others and knowing how to authentically get others to trust you.



Macro trust forces are either external to the organisation or part of the internal fabric of how work is done overall in an organisation’s architecture. These are environmental factors that leaders need to shield their employees from, in order to reduce distress and unnecessary distractions. 

These can be the most frustrating and anxiety provoking as they are outside your locus of control. They come in a variety of forms - erratic weather patterns, pandemics, internal changes, bureaucracy and difficult executives.

To reduce unnecessary distractions from events outside of your control requires:

1. Directing Effort to a Positive Future

To lift people's sights towards a brighter future requires being able to talk about a positive future. To empower, motivate, and ignite the passion of individuals on a grand scale, leaders must possess the ability to effectively convey a captivating vision or purpose, guarantee that the organisation's systems and values align with the stated goals, and serve as exemplary role models in their everyday actions.

2. Monitoring Real Time Data about Progress

Leaders must continually monitor emerging trends and ensure their teams are ready for what lies ahead. They are real about where they are and regularly consult real-time information to give a true feel for how their team and the business is tracking.
They are honest about progress and don't cherry pick results.

3. Pick Your Battles

Effectively dealing with the external environment means being really clear on what you can and can't control.
I once ran a workshop with managers who wanted to complain about the culture and executives. They were more into ranting about what they couldn't change than trying to embrace what they could. This didn't help their team members nor themselves.
A self-aware leader is able to discern which battles are of utmost importance to their team members and which ones are insignificant.
When circumstances arise where leaders are unable to protect their employees, such as during layoffs, pay cuts, or cumbersome bureaucratic processes, the best leaders exhibit compassion, taking small actions to alleviate fears and finding ways to mitigate negative consequences. They are honest about what's going on. This approach not only enhances the performance and well-being of their people but also fosters loyalty and support.

Learning to Focus on What's Important

One of the distinguishing features of successful leaders is that they have learnt to focus on what's important. They start inwards - focusing on themselves, in order to be able to better focus on their interactions with others and then better discern what's of importance for their team to better navigate the uncertain, external environment. 
Focused leaders have the ability to fully harness their attention. They possess a deep understanding of their own emotions and they have learnt to trust themselves and others.  Additionally, they have a profound understanding of what others require from them, enabling them to navigate interpersonal dynamics with ease. These leaders possess the remarkable ability to filter out distractions, allowing their minds to wander freely without preconceived notions.
Understanding the interplay between these three forces and what you need to focus on, works towards you being seen as a trusted leader.
If you want to learn new leadership strategies across these three domains - leading yourself, leading your direct reports and leading your team, then come and join my Tribe of Trusted Leaders Leadership Mastermind.
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