Thursday, June 13, 2013


Focus is much harder than it sounds. It has happened to all of us, we are in a meeting or having a conversation when little by little some outside thought creeps in and pervades our consciousness. Suddenly we have lost track of what is being said and when it becomes our time to contribute we are clueless. It can be embarrassing, it is a huge waste of time, and it is always counterproductive.

Let’s begin with the basics; the big difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is the passive act of being aware of voices or noises around you. Listening, or better still active listening, is focusing on what is being said and assimilating the information for storage, analytics, and response.

Listening versus hearing is easy to demonstrate. The next time you are in a crowded restaurant make an effort to listen to the din, a cacophony of voices and conversations that blend into a dense background, or a sort of white noise. Next focus on a table within earshot and center your attention on what is being said by the table’s occupants. You will immediately understand the conversation as though you were at that table. Your focus excludes the confusion of the ambient noise. The dissonance of sounds comprise the act of hearing, picking out a specific target is listening.

Part of the problem with listening is our brains’ ability to process information more rapidly than we speak. This allows for free mental time and our brains search for information to fill the lulls. The key to focusing on what is being said is the same as it was in the restaurant scenario, we must focus on the speaker, the content of what is being said, and not allow our brains to take us away on a tangent. We can consciously fill the additional time in our brains by considering multiple aspects of what is being said as we decide how the information relates to us.

Focus is an important part of everything we do. We are more successful when we focus on our customers, coworkers, employees, family, friends, and the people we meet every day. In every interaction we must ascertain its value and determine the appropriate amount of time, effort, and resources. Especially in the case of customers and clients we should always make an effort to determine their true need and expectations. Only when we understand our customers’ true need are we able to serve them with a high degree of satisfaction.

Focus can and will improve everything we do. Focus creates a safer more productive work environment, content employees, and satisfied customers. In fact, by focusing on our family and friends when we are together we can improve our relationships. There is no down side.

Give it a try, focus!

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Paul D. Alexander
Alexander Group, Inc.
Sullivan, Missouri
(573) 468-4719

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