By: Danuta Dunajska, Founder Executive ODITK and CEO ODITK Consulting
“My calendar is filled to the brim,” “I know I need to deal with this, but I don’t have time,” “I’ll definitely think about it, but first I need to manage current affairs.”
A typical week or quarter in the life of a senior manager. This one and then the next one. And it’s not a contest for the busiest manager. It’s the reality in which senior managers operate. Action movie. Pace, variability, the complexity of topics, not to say entanglement, and the uncertainty arising from the number of variables. Equations with many unknowns.
Result? The strong current of current topics pushes important (sometimes strategically significant) topics out of sight.
They go to the waiting room or to a “blind corner/point.” If this is your story, senior manager, or someone you know, today I want to share with you the bifocal approach.
The bifocal approach is one of the tools of Executive Coaching according to N.E.W.S.®, a challenging 1:1 work of a senior manager with a N.E.W.S.® coach based on a structured, tool-oriented, thought-provoking compass.
The creator of the The NEWS Compass® and executive coaching methodology is Aviad Goz.
What is the bifocal approach?
Simply put: looking close and far at the same time.
However, simplicity ends here, as it is not that simple. Every eyeglass wearer knows that thanks to them, we see better either up close or far away. Unless… well, we have bifocal/progressive lenses. Nevertheless, like in the case of a healthy eye, it is a process that requires switching, attention, and some effort.
Close and far lens
The brain is similar – the close, operational perspective (I act here and now, I manage; I react to what appears) or the long-term, strategic perspective (I see the horizon and refer to it in my thinking, I look at the whole, causally, seeking strategic references) – but not both at once.
Both perspectives are lenses through which we view our reality. Each requires different energy, focus.
Which perspective is more yours?
Operational perspective – close – brings (zoom in) and is about today and tomorrow. In it, we move quickly forward – we act, solve problems, finalize issues. It’s our plan for the week, month.
It rewards us immediately – because it brings numerous small victories like “today I handled it,” “thanks to me this month…”.
It raises our pressure, giving an energetic boost – there’s action, there are quick decisions. However, in excess, it becomes addictive and then burns out. The quiet quitting syndrome also occurs in senior managers. “I can’t imagine living like this in 2 years” – how often I hear this sentence, but that’s a topic for another article.
Strategic perspective – far – on the contrary – moves away (zoom out). It’s not interested in actions, victories in battles. It’s about what will happen next. It allows you to grasp the reality that will be. It requires standing aside to see the logic of topics in another lens, for example, how things will look like for me in a year.
It requires clearing the head of current threads, so it appears at a lower energy level, in moments of relaxation (“under the shower”). It rarely appears on its own and often needs inspiration – from others or from reading. This perspective clears the head, allows you to catch your own course. Sometimes a discovery may hurt for a moment, but ultimately, it gives relief and relaxes. And it charges our batteries – both managerial and “human.”
Which perspective/lens do you prefer?
Most senior managers tell me they prefer the second one, but they don’t have enough space for it because the operational perspective – close – consumes their time and attention.
They wait for it to change. Only the amount of stimuli coming from outside forces them to focus on them, and this often never ends.
Bifocal approach – appetizer
A senior manager needs both perspectives. None of them is enough solo because the world is not black and white. He needs to use both lenses – looking bifocally and switching smoothly between them. Manage (close lens) but also set the course – both for the organization and personally (far lens).
And here’s the “gotcha” because – as you already know: what’s close takes attention away from what’s far.
So what to do to have a bifocal approach? In Executive Coaching N.E.W.S.®, it’s a significant piece.
Here I’ll share one tool that helps to look bifocally – moving away and – after a while – getting closer. Pay attention – moving away, and then getting closer.
Experience it with an example – think about an important event for you, such as a crucial upcoming meeting. If you choose a specific, significant event now, you will better feel the taste of this tool. Thinking about this event, set your compass by looking through both lenses:
WHERE – WHAT DO I INTEND TO ACHIEVE HERE?
WHY – WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE IN THE CONTEXT OF MY BROADER/GREATER PLAN in the perspective of, for example, 6 or 12 months?
WHY NOT? – WHAT CHALLENGES MAY ARISE? What will be the consequences in the perspective of 6 months if I don’t consider the broader plan?
HOW – WHAT IS MY PLAN FOR THE MEETING?
Think: What new thoughts emerged under the influence of these questions? What has now become more important than before? Name the difference between this result and the situation when you would go to that meeting, asking yourself only the last question.
Setting your current challenges on the compass forces a bifocal perspective. You’re looking through bifocal glasses. You manage what is here and now, but you have your course. This approach enforces strategic focus and, moreover, charges personal batteries. I’ve tested it. I recommend it.
Bifocal – EXECUTIVE COACHING
The entire Executive Coaching process is based on structured 1:1 work with a senior manager on a strategic compass.
Setting your own compass, just like in life, starts in the north. The north is precisely the strategic perspective (far, zoom out) because it asks: WHERE are we going? Setting your own North leads to decisions, sometimes breakthrough ones, on how we want to set the course in the organization, in our area, but also personally.
In turn, the West (W) deals with planning northern aspirations and HOW we want to get to that North. It ensures disciplined plan execution. The order of movement on the compass matters. It changes priorities. And wonderfully, it causes us to find time and energy for northern topics. We remind ourselves and engage our own passions.
This work is potent. It takes about 10 meetings.
Who is the coach in this process?
a challenger, a sparring partner, a cheerleader on the road to discovering your own compass and implementing it in life.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” – Albert Einstein
As the environment changes, so does the need to change the senior manager’s perspective, review his own course, and priorities. Setting your strategic compass. Some will call it a vehicle check-up, and I call it intellectual SPA.