Are You Focusing on the Right Thing?

Gerwig 2016-05-09

Did you celebrate Mother’s Day? Mother’s Day is a day when we take a brief “time out” to thank our mothers. We thank them helping bring us into this world, for cooking our meals, for washing our clothes, for helping us with homework, for overlooking our failures, for teaching us manners, for encouraging us to chase our dreams and for a million other things. We should truly appreciate and thank our mothers on a continual basis. If it weren’t for your mother, you wouldn’t be here. Right?

I have a great mother. She was always there for me. Still is. She made cookies for me. Helped me with homework. Helped me better understand people in general and girls in particular. She was patient, kind, loving, and wise. She also had one of the greatest work ethics of anyone I know. She attended practices and games. She fixed a lot of cuts, scratches, and other types of “wounds” incurred by a curious boy. She is a great mother and continues to invest in my life even today.

And on one day a year, along with millions of others, I have a chance to recognize her. Mother’s Day. Cards. Gifts. Flowers. Phone calls. You know the drill. It’s required. It’s important. And it’s deserved.

This year, while shopping for a mother’s day card I had an interesting experience. One that reminded me that great leaders are focused on the right thing. Great leaders know what they’re about. They know their mission. And they stay focused. Great leaders aren’t distracted by the noise around them. They stay on point because to do otherwise would jeopardize the mission.

Here’s how I was reminded of this: I walked into the card shop and went to the Mother’s Day section. And right in my way was a store employee feverishly rearranging the cards. Not just any cards. The Mother’s Day cards. Not the birthday cards. The Mother’s Day cards. Did I mention this was 3 days before Mother’s Day when most people in the store were trying to buy Mother’s Day cards? And no one could get close to the cards.

I couldn’t look at any of the cards because she was moving back-and-forth at a intense speed. I was flabbergasted. And, initially, somewhat amused. I assumed she’d notice I was standing there, apologize, and then then get out of the way, allowing me to select and purchase a card. Nope. Didn’t happen.

After a minute or so, my humor faded and my sarcastic demon emerged. I said, “Excuse me, am I in your way?” My assumption was that she’d get the hint, apologize, and allow me to select a card. To my frustration, she replied, “No. I’m just trying to rearrange these cards for customers.” Hmmm. After another few seconds, I said, “I’m a customer.” Pause. Longer pause. She said, “Okay. Well, I’ll be done in a few more minutes.” Really!

I almost left the store. In fact, if I didn’t love my mother so much I would have. But I swallowed hard, waited, purchased the card, and left. However, I won’t be back. I’ll take my business to a different store. One that values the buying customer. One that knows the right thing to do is facilitate a customer purchase. After all, that’s why they’re in business, right?

This experience reminded me about staying focused on the right thing. Some businesses, families, and organizations (of all types) forget why they exist. Card shops exist to sale cards to customers. And they should do everything they can to help facilitate that sale.

What about your organization? Are you focused on the right thing? Do you get distracted and take your eye off the goal? Have you lost sight of your purpose? A kitchen is meant to cook meals. A truck is meant to haul things. Tools are meant to be used. Yet some people polish and shine their “things” but never use them. Weird. Some card shops want to be organized but forget to serve their customers. Weird. Hobbies are meant to be fun and relaxing. Right? Ever seen a golfer throw his club out of frustration? I have. Weird. It’s a game. And it’s meant to be fun. And relaxing.

Great leaders know their purpose and they stay focused on the right thing. Do you? Great leaders don’t allow distractions to take them off course. Do you? Great leaders don’t major on the minor. They remain focused on their primary task, their purpose. Do you?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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