Thriving in a VUCA World: Vision and Unwavering Focus

Apr 09, 2020 5 Min Read
Vision, the Third Eye of the 21st Century
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. – Helen Keller

A ‘vision’ is not just a group of words that corporations (and individuals) string together to display in their corridors, meeting rooms, reception halls, and annual reports. Despite knowing this, however, many are doing just that.

Vision differentiates living from merely existing. Existing refers to the here and now, self-gratifying, aimless and accidental. Living connects the present and future, creating (and leaving) a legacy, intentional and purposeful.

Ben Renshaw in his book, Purpose, describes ‘vision’ as the big picture of a compelling future state. Vision lifts you up from the here and now and inspires you to move in your intended direction. He goes on to talk about purpose as an aspirational reason for being. A deep conviction about what is important to you.

Without getting too deep into semantics, I see purpose as a compass that is set within you. Vision is you charting your course to fulfil your purpose. Sometimes, you need to refine your vision and make adjustments to your direction, but your purpose remains largely unchanged.

What is your purpose and vision – for yourself and your organisation? If you don’t have one, take time to reflect on and think about it. Write it down. Share it with a trusted friend.

If you do have one, does it reflect where you’re at now? Does it reflect your decisions and strategies? Share it with your leadership team. Regardless, today is a good time to pause and reflect on them.

Focus, my Padawan…

According to authors Hougaard and Carter, focus is the ability to concentrate on the task at hand for an extended period of time. Awareness is the ability to make wise choices about where to focus your attention. In their recent book, The Mind of the Leader, they define mindfulness as having the ability to be fully present and engaged (highly focused and highly aware).

How often we find ourselves wandering in our thoughts. Especially during difficult times, how easily our minds think of the worst.

Hougaard, at a recent webinar, spoke about the ‘first arrow’ and ‘second arrow’. The first arrow is the fact of the matter that hits us – the loss of a loved one, an illness, a crisis, etc. The second arrow consists of the associated (unhelpful) thoughts that follow. Often these thoughts create anxiety and fear.

The good news is you can train and discipline your thoughts. They prescribe a series of practices and disciplines that can help us develop focus. Try it!

Read more: Mindfulness Exercises to Boost Your Mind’s Performance

Today, we are inundated with information, some more reliable than others. How do we distinguish the good from the bad? John Maxwell suggests that when leading in a crisis, leaders need to be focused.

Focus allows us to separate the appealing, competing, conflicting and essential priorities. – John Maxwell

Mindfulness, being fully present and engaged, is a much-needed skill/competency in today’s crazy world. As a consultant, I am constantly asking myself how I can add value to people I’m advising. To add value, I must be fully present and engaged. To lead others, I must give them my full attention. To serve my clients, I must give them the time they deserve. I don’t mean putting away my phone, blocking out my calendar, etc. but rather having a sincere desire to serve (and add value) to people and organisations.

Maxwell speaks of the need for leaders to have clarity (not certainty). Under our present circumstances, uncertainty is hovering over all of us. Nevertheless, leaders must have clarity of the future plan. Focus allows us to have that clarity. This clarity enables us to be agile and responsive.

Focus can be developed. What better time now to spend each day to pause and reflect. Don’t do this alone. Do this with your team and organisation!

Here are six takeaways I’d like to leave you with:

In our VUCA World…

  1. Mindfulness (focus + awareness) allows clarity of our thoughts and actions.
  2. Focus enables us to be alert to changes and positions us to respond quickly.
  3. Focus enables the right channeling and concentration of attention.
  4. Vision gathers people together and energises them for a common cause.
  5. Vision builds unity and facilitates co-creation synergy to forge ahead.
  6. Vision develops resilience and gives us hope for the future.

This is the first in a two-part series on how to Thrive in a VUCA world. In the next series, I will address two more factors: change leadership and acceleration

Read more: The 5 Ingredients of Mindful Living

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Tags: Foundational Leadership

Bernard is the Founder of Invigorate Consulting, a firm seeking to connect people and organisations to their purpose. He has over 20 years of management consulting and corporate experience with global organisations. He is also a seasoned facilitator. He enjoys travelling and is excited about the second half of life.

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