Last fall, I attended the Path for Growth leadership experience in Asheville, North Carolina. Path for Growth’s mission is to help impact-driven leaders step into who they were created to be SO THAT others benefit and God is glorified. In pursuit of this mission, much of the experience’s content focused on clarity. This makes sense because for a leader to be someone worth following, they need to be clear about who they are (including what they value) and what they do.
In today’s post, I want to focus on the latter: What is it that you do? What are you focusing on in your current role? Reaching clarity on this matters because it will help you more effectively prioritize your time.
During some downtime at the Path for Growth experience, I clarified six specific areas where I invest my focus and time. I will share what these areas are and why they matter below. Then, I’ll challenge you to do the same:
My Six Focus Areas
My role: Co-CEO
My areas of focus:
Safety: I see this as the most foundational area for a senior leader in any business, not just those of us in manufacturing. I say this because if there isn’t physical, emotional, and spiritual safety inside your workplace, the workplace is unhealthy at best and potentially toxic at worst. Safety allows everything else to happen.
People: Leadership is about doing things with and through other PEOPLE (emphasis mine). This means that you don’t use people; you realize they intrinsically matter. My focus is on how I build up our people. How can I say hard things in a way that is instructive and not unnecessarily cruel? What questions can I ask to show that I’m truly interested in our production floor tech’s life outside of the floor? How can I show and demonstrate value to people every single day? These are the real questions that keep me up at night.
Vision: Leadership is always about moving people from “here” to “there” and you can’t do that without having eyes on “there.” What are the threats, and opportunities 18 to 24 months out? What things do we (the company) need to do right now to keep our people safe in the future? What technology can we develop or invent that would improve the lives of our customers?
Finally, what can I learn about pending regulations in our industry? And what relationships can I develop to learn more about all these topics?
Financials: A good leader would never miss their yearly physical because doing so could mean they miss a diagnosis when it is still treatable. Keeping an eye on your business’ financials is much the same.
What complications are coming in terms of costs like healthcare, CapEx, or changes in raw materials pricing? Can the business handle inflationary wages for the foreseeable future? If not, how can the business strategy pivot so that it can? Other leaders might have different questions than mine, but our mission is to be all-in for people first, so we stay true to that.
Sales / Relationships: Without the customer, there is no business, and without sales, the company dies. As a leader, we should be asking how we can help customers gain market share with a new design? What can we do to help them resolve production floor challenges? Who should we spend more time with, and are we prioritizing our time to do so? These questions energize me!
Succession: My final area of focus is succession — at all levels of the organization. I recognize that our people are priceless, but I also realize that everyone is replaceable (even and especially me!)
How can we help our people end well? How can we help younger leaders level-up their leadership skills in preparation for upcoming opportunities? What kinds of people do we need for the future, and what skills is our team missing today? These are the questions that I think about regarding succession.
What a Life!
In my private notebook, I wrote one final note that I hesitatingly share now. I hesitate because it is kind of embarrassing, but it also gives you a sense of the ah-ha feeling I hope you get when you do this exercise yourself:
Focus on these areas and what a career! Actually, what a life!
I invite you to spend time in the next few weeks clarifying what areas you focus on. The ah-ha may or may not come, but trust me, this exercise is worth your time.