Are You Too Focused on the Problem? Here is a Better Way to Lead the Future.

Stacey Ashley Blog

Are You Too Focused on the Problem? Here is a Better Way to Lead the Future.

Ever had a problem? A really big problem. A problem that was impossible to see past.

At the beginning of the COVID pandemic we all had a problem, a really big problem. A problem that seemed impossible to see past. And maybe like me, you focused a little too much on this really big problem. Did you?

It’s like the difference between looking up at the night sky and seeing all the stars and the moon and the expanse of sky, compared to looking though a telescope and the moon is the only thing you can see. It takes up all the visible space.

When we focus on a problem, it can consume our attention, our energy, our effort. It can impact our perspective, our behaviour, and our leadership. I have heard so many leaders say to me in recent years, ‘it is so hard’, ‘there are so many challenges.’ And while we are becoming more accustomed to living with COVID, there are plenty of challenges ongoing. Some are COVID related, many others are not.

To name a few: the battle with ongoing fatigue, continual transformation, the great reevaluation, the war for talent, the hybrid work place, compromised supply chains, climate change, political unrest, multiple generations in the workplace, and many more.

As a leader, it can be paralysing if you let it be. Of the 3 typical responses to change and challenge, these big challenges can result in leaders heading towards the FREEZE zone quickly.

Leadership is how quickly you get back onto the FUTURE line.

Years ago, when I was first learning to coach, I was introduced to the concept of the black spot and white space. This is a great concept to help you find a way forward when faced with a problem that is taking up a lot of space.

Imagine you have a piece of paper with a black spot on it.

Like this one:

At first it looks like a black spot.

However, when you focus intently on this black spot on the paper, it is all you see. The black spot represents your problem.

Go ahead look at the black spot and imagine this is your problem. Get nice and close to the problem spot. When you focus intently, putting your energy, attention, and effort towards it, it becomes all you notice. You just see the black spot.

And of course, when you do that, and that is all you see, that is all you focus on. There is nothing else. The problem becomes your focus and your black spot takes up your vision. You see only the problem.

It becomes very challenging to overcome or see past a problem when the only thing you focus on is the problem. The problem takes up all of your space. This then limits your ability to lead.

This is exactly what I observed when COVID emerged. All the news was about COVID. It was everywhere and it was all you could hear and see and think about. Leaders moved into the FREEZE zone in the early days of COVID. Not making decisions, not taking action. The focus was on the problem.

What happens though when you move your focus from the black spot, away from the problem?

If you draw back, you can see all of the space around the black spot. And so now what you have is space for ideas, space for options, space to overcome challenges. New ideas, new ways of doing things. You focus on other than the problem. And when you focus on other than the problem, you have solutions. You have ways forward. You have options and opportunity. When you focus on other than the problem, you open up possibility.

The opportunity during the COVID pandemic came when people chose to focus elsewhere. Turned off the news and created space for other thoughts and ideas, opened up space, changed perspective, because the problem was no longer the only thing they were seeing and thinking about. So just like with the black spot, white space, when you change your perspective and focus, you clear the space and create the opportunity to lead the future. You are not only seeing the black spot.

“Whatever you focus on is what you get.”

Tony Robbins

Now that we have faced into a future with COVID, I believe it is important for leaders to be focusing on other than the problem, for all the challenges that we know are in play.

If you focus solely on problems and obstacles, then you are not opening up to the options.

So, help yourself out. Step back. Change your perspective. Create some space from the situation, the challenge, the obstacle. And instead look for the possibilities. Look for the options, look for the opportunities, because they are all around you. Be leading possibility.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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