An Outward Focus – “When the focus of everyone on the team is to assure the success of everyone else on the team.” That’s the secret.
How Do You Know
I’m asked all the time, “How you can tell if someone is operating with an Outward Focus?” I say look at their “fruit”. What kind of “fruit” are they producing?” Good fruit = Outward Focus. Bad fruit = Inward Focus.
What’s “good fruit”? They’re a pleasure to be around. They bring good energy to every interaction and leave others better off for having been with them. They bring solutions to problems and take ownership. They keep their commitments by following through and treat everyone with respect. They never speak ill of others and want to do their part to help others succeed. They go above and beyond and are willing to be inconvenienced for the greater good. They have your back and will pick up the “ball” for you. They bring out their best so that others can be their best. They represent what it really means to be successful. To live life in such a way as to assure the success, even in a small way, of every life you touch. They’re succeeding so they want everyone else to succeed.
What’s “bad fruit’? They’re not so much fun to be around. They take energy from every interaction and leave others drained for having been with them. They only bring problems and expect someone else to provide and implement the solution. They don’t keep their commitments, don’t follow through and expect respect but don’t give respect. They always speak ill of others (I hate gossip!) and don’t lift a finger to help. They do as little as they can and keep their priorities at all costs, before anyone or anything else. They’ll stab you in the back and make sure you drop the ball. They are at their worst and they’re going to make sure everyone knows it. They represent what it really means to be a failure. To live life in such a way as to cause chaos and destruction in every life they touch. They’re suffering so they want everyone else to suffer.
You Can’t Hide It
I realize I’m writing with a very clear distinction between “good fruit” and “bad fruit” here. That’s the insidiousness of it. Trying to do the right things for others while driven by an inward focus i.e. a motivation to serve self, doesn’t work. It may appear to contribute but it really doesn’t. We as leaders have seen this time and time again. The person appears to do the right thing. They say the right thing. They even have the “right” look! But every time their name comes up something’s not right. There’s another problem or another issue or another mess someone else has to clean up. No matter how much we try to rationalize or justify our or someone else’s behavior if you do the right thing for self-serving reasons IT JUST DOESN’T WORK!
I liken the motivation behind behavior as the “soil” into which everything is planted. No matter what you plant: new initiatives, grand visions, core values, new benefits, exciting environments, etc. If you plant it into the “bad” soil of an inward focus it won’t work. We need good soil. We all need to embrace an Outward Focus. Imagine any organizational effort planted into the good soil of an Outward Focus. The potential is mind-blowing. Imagine if everyone on the team was committed to the success of their fellow teammates! The speed, the magnitude, the agility of an organization driven by an Outward Focus would be incredible. And that’s what our world really needs today.
I believe every single person on the planet would love to find their “place” in the world. I also believe that they would love to work in an environment where they embrace an Outward Focus and develop the quiet confidence to handle the challenges they face. To know that work is the one place they can count on to risk their best because others won’t let them fail. To know that when they pour into others it comes back tenfold. To live a life of meaning and purpose, turning challenges into opportunities and being a part of building something special. I believe that’s what everyone, every single person, wants.
So why do people embrace an inward focus? Lots of reasons: that’s how they were taught, they don’t know a better way, in the past, leaders have rewarded that motivation. All of this, however, as far as I’m concerned, is a mask for one thing: fear. They’re afraid and they believe they have to protect themselves. I get it. It seems only right and it’s absolutely wrong. We are to “love our neighbors”. How can you do that if your primary motivation is to serve yourself? There has to be a better way…and there is! We leaders have to lead the way!
This is what we leaders are accountable for. To believe in others before they believe in themselves. It’s simple. It’s not easy. What it means is believing in the best someone can be and holding them accountable to that. It means separating your belief in them from their behavior. Good and bad behavior each have their rewards and consequences but that can never impact our belief in them. If we hired them we’re at least 51% responsible for their success. What we’re telling them is that we believe in them and, as we do that for each member of our team, it breaks down the walls of doubt and fear. It shows our team a whole new way to think. A whole new way to believe. A whole new way to succeed. An inward focus brings out our worst. An Outward Focus brings out our best. And that is what we are here to do: To bring out our collective best and model what it really means to succeed!