Aim Small, Miss Small

Oct. 28, 2019
Narrowing your focus is the key to achieving larger business goals.

A recent study indicates the average attention span of humans has shrunk to 7 seconds—one second less than a goldfish. My first thought is, How do you study the attention span of a goldfish? But let’s ignore that part. When you think about our teammates, and ourselves, having such short attention spans, how are we, as business leaders, supposed to get through to anyone? How do we get a group of people pulling in the same direction for longer than 7 seconds?!  

The answer might be found in an ‘80s movie, The Karate Kid. Mr. Miagi always reminded his student Daniel to focus.   

I have been fortunate enough to take part in some very impactful leadership training classes throughout my career. One of the main themes they all share is how beneficial it is to focus. Now, I know that may seem like an obvious statement, but how many of us can actually say we have a singular, narrow focus that we use to approach our jobs everyday? A common day can see us pulled in several different directions. 

The magic potion to getting things accomplished is to focus on the smallest target possible.   

Years ago, I took an intensive two-day class that Franklin Covey taught, called the “Four Disciplines of Execution.” The first discipline was to narrow your focus. They had all kinds of data from thousands of companies. They found that companies that had more than three goals would typically crash and burn, rarely achieving success in just one of their many goals.  

However, companies that had anywhere from one to three goals almost always achieved complete success. They concentrated on the two or three goals that would have the biggest impact on business. 

It reminds me of an article I read by Warren Buffett. In it, he discussed his secrets to success. He instructed readers to make a list of the top 25 things they wanted to accomplish in their lives. His next instruction really stood out: He said to cross out the bottom 20 and only focus on doing the top five within their lifetimes. He said the people who do that will accomplish all five of those. And the reverse of course is that the people who have a list of 25 things to do will rarely accomplish any of them.

I also participated in training with Discover Leadership. This was by far the most intense training I’ve ever taken. One of their key sayings is, “What you focus on will expand.” I have found that to be so true in business and in life. If I focus on something negative it just seems to grow and get worse. I’ve found it’s best to focus on the positive.  

One of my all-time favorite stories about focus involves the 2000 British Olympic rowing team. In 1998, the team realized it could never finish better than seventh place in an international competition. The rowers knew if they didn’t make any changes they would end up finishing seventh or worse at the Sydney Olympics. The team got together and developed what they called the “Golden Question,” which was, “Will it make the boat go faster?” Everything they did from that point forward was evaluated by answering that question. When they got to Sydney, they skipped the opening ceremonies, a great honor for any Olympian, because it wouldn’t make the boat go faster.   They ended up winning the gold medal!  

There are countless lessons on making our focus as narrow as possible. Talk to any good dart thrower or archer and they will tell you the spot they concentrate on is incredibly small. 

Aim small, miss small.    

So how does this all apply to leading a collision shop? We can be faced with myriad distractions throughout a day, week, month, that create a challenging environment to stay focused on our overall goals. Franklin Covey calls these everyday distractions the “Whirlwind.” How do we focus on our big goals when it seems like every day we get pulled in several different directions?

One exercise I would suggest is to take a couple of normal working days and write down everything you did during that time period. Then separate the list into two categories:  things you need to handle yourself, and things you can delegate. You might be surprised at how long the list is for things you can delegate to others.

The main theme of all the successful people and groups I’ve mentioned is to narrow your focus on a short list of things to accomplish. Doing that will drastically increase your chances of reaching those goals.

At our shop, we focus on two goals each day. The first is to make sure we deliver a set number of hours. The second is we track what percentage of vehicles go through production without needing a second parts order. When we sharpen our focus on those two measurements, everything else falls into place. I would encourage you to figure out what is the key to success in your company and focus solely on accomplishing that.

About the Author

Jason Boggs

Jason Boggs ran Boggs Auto Collision Rebuilders in Woodbury, N.J., for nearly 25 years. He has attended the Disney Institute and Discover Leadership, and has studied lean manufacturing processes.

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