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Focus by Daniel Goleman

71nvYbMAE6L._SL1500_This book is composed of some of the concepts already presented in the bestseller Emotional Intelligence by the same author. The suggestive subtitle (the hidden driver of excellence) gives a relatively clear idea of the starting point: distraction and its importance in the quality of our performance, whether in the professional environment, sports, family … And this is not a minor issue in our society, where distractions and interferences (whatever they are) are numerous.
Accordingly, the first part of the book deals with the attention from the scientific view and from the behavior of the brain. And from that point, concepts like open awareness are introduced, which allows us to enjoy the moment in front of the emotional reactivity that makes us get stuck in irritating details. How often do we lose the track of what we are doing because we cannot get out of our head that discussion, or that comment, or that angry face…!
The book is based on the concept of self-awareness (knowledge of oneself), a kind of internal compass that allows us to be aligned with our values and to focus (hence the title) on achieving goals. Only from this knowledge can we, according to the author, practice self-control which, among other things, is to delay gratification, manage the impulses, regulate ourselves emotionally or plan. With the domain of self-awareness and its control we can manage our will which, ultimately, is what allows us to keep our attention and focus, above impulses, habits or desires.
What is the proposal to achieve excellence? Of course, for a high level of performance it is required lots of practice (it is mentioned the rule of 10,000 hours), but accompanied by the concentration and the support of a teacher or coach. No matter how much time we spend, for example, to improve our record in swimming, if we do not focus on our style and do not receive any feedback on our performance.
To improve and work the attention the author proposes the practice of meditation, specifically, something that is now a quite fashionable topic, mindfulness as an “organic tool to teach skills on concentration”. Broadly speaking, this is a mental training that allows us to develop the ability to focus and break the chain of thoughts and internal dialogues that can irritate us and deviate.
Other issues are discussed in the book, such as the characteristics of focused leader (especially in the field of organizations) who should enjoy a wide or systemic vision to guide the team and the required empathy to manage it. Ecology is also addressed, but from my point of view it is a bit out of place in the book.
In the end, this is a work of scientific type (the aforementioned studies, references and bibliography are numerous) introducing the matter of attention nowadays in an entertaining way. This is not a self-help book or a practical guide to meditation. It can be considered as a strong tool into the topic.

“You already know how to be Great” by Alan Fine

You Already Know How to Be GreatThe first time I heard about this book was during a leadership course to which I attended some months ago. The main ideas of this document were used to teach the coaching as a technique for self-improving and to develop collaborators’ performance. In fact, I would say that this is, besides other things, a coaching book.

The author bases his proposal on the idea that everyone has the potential to perform better. The potential is blocked by the interference. That interference can come from the perception that we need more knowledge, but the author considers that “the problem is not as much about knowledge acquisition as it is Knowledge execution”.

Apart from knowledge, there are other three elements blocked by interference:

  • ·         Faith: our beliefs about ourselves and about others.
  • ·         Fire: energy, passion, motivation and commitment.
  • ·         Focus: what we pay attention to and how.

These three elements which are present throughout the book create with Knowledge what it is called the “K3F” model of human performance. The author releases his model and keeps insisting on the importance of developing each element for a better performance, but they are little the real advices to work on those elements.

The most interesting part of the book, and which I believe we can use with ourselves, is the GROW model for performance improving. This is a technique with four stages where by means of questions, we generate the better ways to achieve our targets. This is an inside-out process, where the person or team has the responsibility of developing his solutions and ideas, and the action plan. The four steps are:

  • ·         Goal: what is the goal? Make sure it is SMART. grow
  • ·         Reality: it must be accurate.
  • ·         Options: a brainstorming to come up with all the options.
  • ·         Way forward: what will you do? Make sure it is doable.

The book provides an exhaustive list of questions for each stage, which we can use from goal setting to way forward.

Since coaching is thought not only to work with ourselves but with others, the author proposes different ways to deal with people (performers) depending on their willing to collaborate. Examples of coaching conversation are given; however, I found some of them a bit fanciful (like the coaching conversation with a two-year-old girl).

Finally, I would say that this is a book from which we can obtain some helpful ideas. Probably the GROW model is the most relevant and reliable part, giving a tool to work on our (and others) performance.

The Old man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Lessons for management

OldmanseaSomeone may ask what this short story has to do with a blog about business, and I agree that, at first sight, there is no relationship. However, I am one of those people who are always thinking of ideas from other fields which can be applied in Companies management.

I am not the first one who obtains conclusions from this little masterpiece. In fact, many readers identify the novel with an allegory about the old age and the lost battle against the death. But I found a couple of ideas which can be taken into account at work.

The first idea is related with focusing deeply on a task without considering if the best track has been chosen or if there are other options. So absorbed was the old man with the fact that he hadn’t fish for the last eighty-four days, that he didn’t even think of the consequences associated with following and fighting the great fish. He didn’t calculate if he had enough food or water, or shelter for the cold nights. Don’t we do sometimes the same when we start a task? Don’t we have to stop and rethink the whole thing because we come across problems we didn’t consider at the beginning? Time is short, we shouldn’t waste it. Please, think twice before starting a task and focusing on it.

Secondly, we should pursue realistic objectives that we can get. This doesn’t mean that we can only set up easy objectives which don’t require effort. Not at all. The objectives must be attractive and demanding.  When the old man noticed that the fish was longer than his own skiff, he knew that his sole arms weren’t enough to achieve the goal he yearned. Apart from that, there were other threatens that he didn’t consider, or at least, he underestimated. I understand that in Companies it is different, since normally there is more than one person setting the objectives, but we can’t afford to lose time and efforts in no realistic targets.

Finally, I would say that this book, which was the clue for Hemingway’s Nobel Prize, worth reading. It is possible for us as readers to participate in the story and think of our own life.

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