Staying Focused

Staying Focused

I was with a client last week. It is a brand, a sponsor that invests in properties for marketing purposes. He was having a bad few days. He was having trouble getting his sponsorship investment approved by his superiors. He knew it would deliver good ROI for his company. He knew the alignment was right. He had empirical data to prove all this. But there was another brand manager who had a better profile with the boss than he. Her projects typically got the dollars. He also was fairly new, so not as well respected as most of the other brand mangers. And within the company, there were lots of cliques, none of which he fitted into. For all the time I knew this young man, he worried about what everyone else was doing. Instead of focusing on his abilities, the properties he had in his portfolio, and how they could benefit the company, his brain was often processing the other brand managers. He complained to me about them. He tried to figure out what they were doing all the time. Basically, he was focused on them instead of his job!

Based on this discussion, I told him a little story that a senior manager had told me when I was managing the kitchen of a national chain restaurant and was troubled by what the bar manager, the service manager, and others were doing. Here is what I was told and passed on to him these many decades later.

One day, a new employee went to the HR manager and said, “I’m not interested in coming to the office anymore.” The HR manager responded, “But why?” The young man replied, “There are people who do a lot of politics and talk negatively all the time. Some are gossiping constantly.”

The HR manager replied, “OK, but before you go, can you do one last thing? Take a full glass of water and walk three times around the office without spilling a drop on the floor. After that, leave the office if you wish.” The young man thought, “Heck, it’s a matter of minutes,” so he walked three times around the office with this full glass of water in hand.

Then he reached the HR office saying that he was done. The HR manager asked, “When you were walking around the office, did you see any employee speaking badly about another employee? Any Gossips? Any disturbances?” The young man replied, “No.” Then the HR manager asked, “Did you see any employee looking at other employees the wrong way?” The young man said, “No.”  Then the HR manager asked, “Do you know why?” and the young man replied, “No.”

The HR Manager said, “The reason you didn’t see any of that is that you were focused on the glass, to make sure you didn’t tip it and spill any water. The same goes with your life. When our focus is on our priorities, we don’t have time to see the mistakes of others.”

The moral of the story my GM told me back at Steeles and Dufferin Streets in Toronto in 1983 was “Concentrate on your priorities and not on other’s mistakes.” It worked for me back then and I think it worked for this client as well.

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  1. I love this message. Thanks for sharing this story!

    • Dee Ann,

      Thanks so much for your feedback and for reading. I too loved this story… it hits home. Hope you are doing well. Brent


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