Tips for Maintaining Your Focus as a Leader

by Jennifer Miller on June 18, 2015

in Leadership

Disciplined Leader QuoteIn the new book The Disciplined Leader, John Manning writes about the importance of focus—and how it drives leadership success. After reading the book, I had the opportunity to ask John some follow up questions. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Jen: In the book’s introduction, you write that leaders must learn to focus on the “Vital Few” in order to achieve results. How does one go about staying focused on the Vital Few?  

John: That’s a great question because making sustainable, personal change is hard. Many people start off strong, but after the initial excitement of doing things differently wears off, they revert back to their former habits. My strongest advice is to avoid taking on all the ideas at once because you will feel overwhelmed. Instead, start with a few changes that you can really focus on. Once you set your goals, accountability helps you stay the course.

I spent a considerable amount of time in the book talking about accountability because it is so vital for success. One of the best accountability methods for personal change is to partner with a trusted friend, advisor, or coach. Establish consistent meetings with this person to discuss progress and talk about what’s working or what’s not.

I have found this approach very powerful. It helped me stay on course and provided me the needed insight to move ahead. The key here is consistency because change is a process and not an event.

Jen: What additional insights would you like to offer about the actual discipline to stay the course, once a goal is set?

John: Leaders need to be patient in this journey. They’re not going to be perfect all the time and sometimes stumble and fall, reverting back to old behaviors. The key is to forgive yourself first. Then recommit and figure out where you went wrong and why, so you can boost your odds of success next time. Journaling is a great tool to hold yourself accountable. The sheer act of writing a summary of the day helps you became more self-aware. The process gives you an opportunity to celebrate successes and develop corrective actions where you are falling short.

Jen: In the “Take Action!” section of the chapter “Spot Opportunities to Coach,” you suggest that leaders seek additional training on coaching and use a coaching model that they find useful. What courses or resources would you suggest?

John: The type of training or coaching model someone chooses is going to be very specific to their needs. We create customized solutions for our clients based upon their needs. We also offer a program called, 12 Steps to Effective Coaching, which is dedicated to helping managers and leaders coach their teams.

Beyond taking a workshop, we’ve found one of the best ways to learn how to coach your own team better is to study someone else who is already an excellent coach. In the past I’ve had mentors and colleagues who were just really good at coaching. I listened and observed what they said and did, as well as what they didn’t say and didn’t do, and that’s been a very powerful learning experience for me.

Jen: In the third section of the book, “Extend Your Reach”, you write that leaders who move beyond their departmental walls and build alliances throughout the organization build their personal “brand into something people can trust.” Would you please elaborate on the connection you see between trust and a leader’s reach beyond his or her department?

John: The degree to which people trust you is directly connected to the level of impact you will have as a leader. Leaders who build trust gain followers. And together, they collectively create impact and influence the world that’s immediately within their reach—and beyond.

In fact, leaders can become game changers if they build powerful trust, not to mention the respect and loyalty of their people. As well, the opposite is true: Leaders who lack the trust of their people will ultimately lose any potential to influence those beyond their department in any meaningful way. Trust is the seed of power, influence, and change.


Thanks to John for sharing these additional insights with the readers of The People Equation. We appreciate it!

To learn more about The Disciplined Leader, read my book review.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review. Also, some of the links are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and make a purchase, I may receive compensation. This doesn’t increase the price of your item and I only review books that I believe my readers will benefit from.

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