Focus on What You Control

I’m re-reading Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries for Leaders, which I highly recommend. I just finished a chapter entitled Control and Results. It was so well written, I want to share a short version of Henry’s challenge.
When Tony Dungy took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996, the team had experienced thirteen losing seasons. Reportedly, many of Tony’s friends encouraged him to pass on the “opportunity.” Their reasons included: Poor talent, low ticket sales, an old stadium; some said the team couldn’t play and win in cold weather; others said the team had been cursed by a voodoo witch doctor!
In the face of these “facts,” Tony decided to take the job anyway and focus on what he and the team could control. His research led him to believe three factors were in the team's control that would lead to victory: Turnovers, Special Teams Performance and Penalties. Tony and the team focused on these three facets of the game with laser focus. They were able to begin the turnaround that would land them in the playoffs the following season – the first time in 15 years.
Here’s the question for us as leaders: What do you control that will impact results? tweet_bird
I’ve said it hundreds, if not thousands, of times: We get no credit for doing the wrong things well. In my case, I generally don’t have to worry about people doing things well. You may not have this issue either. We’ve done such a good job selecting talent our people give their best and do amazing work. The far greater challenge is to be sure their efforts are channeled towards the right activities. That’s a big part of a leader’s role.
There is a temptation to focus on things out of our control. You may be thinking, “I don’t do that.” If you don’t, congratulations! Now you have the chance to help your team overcome this tendency. We must be sure the people we lead are focusing their time and energy on the right activities. By definition, I believe the right activities are those we can control and help us achieve our goals. (As leaders, we should invest a portion of our time on issues we actually don't control, but we can influence the outcome. I'll write more about this in the future.)
Here are a few things we control…

Who we select to join our team

Our level of preparedness

The number of sales calls we make

The training we provide employees

The amount of coaching we provide

The frequency with which we contact our customers

Our attitude

You’ll need to make your own list and certainly it will vary based on your field. The bottom line: We control much more than we think we do. And, we actually do control activities that matter!
If your team is stuck, do an activity check. Where are the individual members investing their time? Be sure you're pushing on the right things. When you do, you’ll make progress.[GLS_Shield]

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Kerry O'Neill

8 years ago

I love the concept of focusing only on those things which we can control. Actually, we only control 2 things - our attitude and our effort. Those 2 things can effect other areas, but we do not control them. As an athlete, I cannot control turnovers or I would never have a turnover. Also, the referees are out of my control so I cannot control penalties. I can give my best attitude and effort to minimize mental mistakes that may lead to turnovers and penalties, but I still do not have control over those areas.
The cruelty of the world is that it favors the bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, etc. That person can come in first place without giving their best attitude or best effort and that doesn't automatically deserve praise. Yet, their is honor in the one who gives it all, but does not come in first place. It helps to strive for excellence and not just winning (according to the scoreboard).
Here is a great resource for how this looks within sports


8 years ago

Thanks, Kerry! I love the idea of controlling our attitude and our effort. That's a great summary. Thanks for joining the conversation and for sharing other resources. Mark


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