Creating Focus for High Impact

EPISODE 71: The world is full of distractions. Adding in the elements of stress and fatigue blurs the boundaries of our personal and professional lives. When the norms that have long been established change, it may take some time to return to a state in which we can thrive. Guest Bob Kunkle returns to this week's Growthcast to discuss how focus can lead to a stronger impact.



[0:00:09.7] JL: Welcome to today’s edition of DHG’s GrowthCast. I’m your host, John Locke. At DHG, our strength relies on our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser-focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG’s GrowthCast provides insights and thought-provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace.

Thanks for joining us as we discuss tomorrow's needs today.

[0:00:42.3] ANNOUNCER: The views and concepts expressed by today's panelists are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult the advice of your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


[00:00:57] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to today’s episode of DHG GrowthCast. Today's guest is Bob Kunkle DHG’s Executive Vice President of Coaching. Bob, welcome back to GrowthCast.

[00:01:09] BK: Thank you, John. It's thrilling to be here. Always love being with you.

[00:01:12] JL: Well, and it's great to spend some time on a topic I know that our listeners are going to benefit from today. That really is this whole concept of focus. We were talking about actually a name for this GrowthCast segment today, we came up with, Creating focus for high impact. Just, personally why is this so meaningful for us to talk about today, Bob?

[00:01:39] BK: Yeah, I think that the two most challenging things that we face, personally and professionally, I think, well, maybe some of the most challenging are creating focus and having the impact that we will really want to have both need attention, they need intention, as well. It does take some work. If you put in a little bit of work that you need to, you can really own the focus to be able to create the high impact that you want.

[00:02:07] JL: Wow, well said. As we all have been struggling, I think, to find our individual ways to create focus in the world of distractions. I was actually looking at some data the other day, and I found an amazing survey on LinkedIn, which I think, if our listeners are interested and you can Google this because of is actually a 2020, glint survey. It posted the results from an intense survey that was done last year, which was the year of 2020, around burnout as it related to the elements of fatigue, workload and stress.

It was just amazing to see month by month, over last year, I mean, the stress levels, in our lives in general, increased as a population 40%, which I think is amazing and then you look at sectors healthcare, which, if you looked in just pull them out alone, they're up in the 75, 80% categories of how much stress is a part of their daily world.

I think, Bob, what we're, what we've got here is blurring of lines between home, work, personal space, margins, in our life had been reduced, boundaries that have totally been collapsed. When you think about scheduling, thinking and recovery time, think about those of us who were doing some community. Even though now we're starting to get back to a little bit of that, but gosh it's just that time has been filled with these repetitive zoom calls. That just has been taken energy out of our beans every day and you couple that with the fact that we have got this illusion of thinking we're actually able to accomplish more with all these back to back zoom calls.

I tell you, it's a pretty crazy environment that we're dealing with today. Any thoughts that you have when you hear all of that and all that data?

[00:04:18] BK: Yeah. It's a wonder that we got through this, with some days being able to smile about it and think about, “Okay, there's been something good here.” Because just been really challenging. If we're honest with ourselves that I don't think there have been many days that went by that we didn't feel some sense of loss of control. As human beings, losing control is one of those things we're most scared of. We're hardwired for some sense of control, because we're about protection, or our brain is wired that way, or chemicals work that way.

The fact that we've had this environment where all the norms that we had had established for a really long time can collapse like you said. We had to exercise some different kinds of controls, to be able to get to back into a place that we could thrive. Yeah, it's been a really tough, tough time. I mean, there's some things that we don't really know are true about certain aspects of what we've experienced, especially this last year.

Truth number one, most people desire to have high impact in various areas of their lives personal and professional. They also want to be perceived as someone who can make a difference both in their personal lives and in their professional world. The second truth is that burnout begins when individuals feel unable to control important variables in their lives and perceive a lack of time to do things that are important. That's a big one.

We heard a lot this year about, I don't have time to do with X or I don't feel I can take the time or give myself permission. Because of all these other components that have been introduced into my life, things all of a sudden I've got to pay attention to my kids in a very different way. Or I'm being asked to meet a certain set of expectations that's very different than what I've historically been asked to do.

The third truth is time management's not really the issue. When I say that people go, “What do you mean, time management's not the issue?” Of course it is. Well, I disagree. I think the focus is really the issue. That's what we're talking about today. Intentional acts to create focus on the pathway to high impact. That's where we really want to spend our time.

[00:06:28] JL: Well, that really perked some ears, I'm sure when you say time management isn't an issue, because they're the average person listening today is going “Well, you are living in my world.” I was on a call the other day with someone what's interesting that you say this, because we were talking about this individual, and we're talking about them trying to encourage someone else to take a little bit of time off during the day.

They were challenging this person, because they said, “You don't understand, I just really don't have time.” They said, “You what, I need this time, I need to take this time away and you do too.” I would challenge you that this 30 minutes that I want you to go walk with me, which was that what she was trying to get someone to go walk with her for 30 minutes, she goes, is not going to make a difference in the overall productivity of your day.

In fact, I think it's going to help, and this person just refused. She goes, “Well, I can't do it today.” She just shook her head and said, “You know what, I'm taking it anyway, I'm going for a walk.” I thought good for her to challenge her around that. I think one of the things that we could maybe help our listeners with today, other than, “Hey, you and I need to challenge each other more to take time off during the day.” It is that there are a few different areas that we actually can control more intentionally. When I was thinking about getting together with you on the spot, Podcast Bob, three things came to my mind. One was, gosh, effective meetings, think about the number of meetings that we are now cramming in every day.

That's one that I think we can spend a couple minutes talking about. Two is organizational systems. Just the way we structure things that allow us to accomplish the things that are most important to us. Then really this concept of intentional priority management. Why don't you just, I know, organizational systems are a big part of your life and your focus and in your coaching. Why don’t you share with our listeners, your thoughts on organizational systems?

[00:08:31] BK: Yeah. Remember, the background for this, is if you don't create focus, someone else will. What that means to us, is that we've got to step back and think about the system that we live in, and in the systems that we need to create for ourselves in support of what matters to us. That's in every area of your life. You just have to be open and honest with that being a fact.

If someone else is going to create your focus for you, you're going to be in trouble. Why don't you take ownership of your own life and let's do that, let's go ahead and create some systems. The system is a system. Your company or your organization is designed to perpetuate itself and to be as effective or to profitable, if you want to put it that way, as it can or bring the most service and quality to the people that they serve.

There are a lot of different kinds of systems. They all fundamentally do that. We have to realize that we live in a system, regardless of what company we're in or organization. We can look at the system and say, “Okay, what's true about my system that I live in today?” What create, what system do I need to create organizationally for myself? To reach the goals that I have and to create the impact that I want. Knowing that if I don't do it, someone else will.

I'm a big believer in organizational systems, especially when you think about having high impact and a high performing team. Individually. Yes, very important. Also very important in a team environment, where you're trying to be as powerful and as impactful and as valuable as you can. Create the right system, create the right rituals to support where you need to go.

[00:10:10] JL: Yeah. So when people hear this, maybe for the first time. What are some things that you would suggest? Or what direction do you point people towards when they say, “Well, I don't really know where to start with this Bob? I mean, “I get it, I understand it, but I need some help.” How do you help people with this?

[00:10:28] BK: Well, first of all, it's you start thinking about who do I need to talk to, to gain more clarity about my organization and what's true and what's possible. Because the more about your system that you work in, or live in, the more you're equipped to take action. We can't do that on your own. You need to get some people that you trust or respect to help you understand the system that you live in, and have some conversations around it. Mostly listening, asking good questions about where you are, and also what's possible and ask for help.

See, this is not something you're supposed to do on your own. Yes, you own a part of it but you're supposed to partner with other people when you think about being effective.

[00:11:11] JL:  When it comes to actually implementing daily, an organizational system, is there something or, or set of rituals that you would suggest or recommend or something that physically that I should acquire and implement? Or how do I make this real in my everyday life?

[00:11:33] BK: Yeah, so I'm a big believer in one pagers, or some type of a tool. In our work we use, I'm not even sure it's a productivity one pager, pretty much one page that helps streamline this whole process of gaining clarity and also setting some priorities. You can actually do that. The way to go about those Is it a ritual format, so you want to use something simple, something easy in that one pager is a way for you to think about the most important things, the people, the outcomes, the activities.

So you can capture that and it's best done early in the day or the night before, as you think about or just the week before a Sunday evening, or if you have time on a Saturday, over a cup of coffee to think about your next, next week. It gives you an opportunity to sit back think strategically, think impactfully, about the week that's ahead. Those kinds of rituals can be very powerful. It's not something you have to do every day, it can be something to do once a week.

Yes, you're going to have changes that occur throughout the week. That doesn't change the need that you have for the top three of your big high impact priority items. You got to know what they are, to be intentional about the time that you can control. If you're not, if you don't do that part, then you're really at the whim of everything that comes your way. Unless you're one of those super high power really, just really into it, at every second in your life. I don't know many people that.

You just need that time to sit back. I'm also a real advocate for doing a pre week, what we just talked about, and also a post. It's a review of the week that you just lived through and led through and made an impact through. Be intentional about celebrating the things that went great this week. The ways that you brought value, and it will help you think about some other things that maybe you didn't get done but you found out after a week of spending with it, it's even more important than it was before. That would make it on your list for the week ahead. I just think those are super proud.

[00:13:41] JL: Yeah, that's really important. I think to prioritize all of those activities. Again most people are familiar with putting together a task list. That's not what we're talking about here. I mean, you do have to have those but what you said that resonates the most with me is setting priorities around those and focusing on what is the most important. If I had three things that I'm going to accomplish this week, or three things this day, what are they? Because it's about productivity versus activity, because activity can be a little bit of a smokescreen and that you might not be getting the important things done.

If you don't have a system, I think get one. If you need a one pager, there's plenty of things you can probably find in Google, we do in our coaching practice, I think, Bob, we have a lot of success with the full focus planner, which is one that one of many out there. If you're struggling get something and you can experiment with a lot of them and find the one that's really most useful for you. I don't know, I guess this is a little bit of an old school comment, Bob. I think there's also power in physically writing things down.

I mean, a lot of people do keep it in outlook. I really honor that and acknowledge that that can be done. There's something I think in the kinesthetic element of our brain and our human behavior in the subconscious, where handwriting, embeds at a different level. I just have been a big proponent of, “Hey, that’s really important, handwrite it down.” Put it there beside you stare at it throughout the day. I think that's, again, another powerful way to engage your subconscious and continually to reinforce priorities. Those systems, I guess what we're saying here is get something whether it's a one pager that you can look at every day or a total productivity system, a full focus planner, but get something and spend time with it.

[00:15:46] BK: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:15:48] JL: Another thing, I like for us, just to briefly talk about is the concept of meetings, which I think what we've experienced here over the last year or so has really gotten to be a thorn in many people's sides, right? Meeting after meeting after meeting and just to share a few best practices around and for most of you listening, these are probably reminders but there might be a couple of things in here that, if you think about maybe you've forgotten and you aren't doing.

I'll tell you when it when it starts with meeting planning, and developing a concept around Well, why do I want to have a meeting, I think where it starts is really, other than the topic and the why you want to have the meeting is really determining who needs to be there. Because oftentimes, we just take for granted, a certain group always needs to show up at the meeting. That's not necessarily the highest and best use for that time, whether you're running your own business, or whether it's, you're in a corporation or whatever, but only have the people there who really need to be there. Okay.

I think you're honoring other people's time by making that decision ahead of time. If you're excluding people, let them know the normally attend, just tell them, “Hey, I don't see a need for you don't want to take up your time with this.” Having the right people in the meeting and thoughtfully communicating around that, I think is a first step and making sure your meeting is going to be productive. Because if you have three or four people show up at a meeting that are not going to participate, and they don't really have a high value proposition. It's always going to be determined to be a not really good use of people's time. Would you agree?

[00:17:25] BK: I agree with that. I think people sometimes just need permission to not show up. You got to help them set their priorities sometimes. I think it could be helpful if you do it well. Some people might be feel threatened if you have disinvited them or something that, or, but if you do it, well, they'll understand that you value their time, as much as they need to know that you're setting them up for success.

[00:17:50] JL: I always thought, after you've identified that group is taking the time to really put together what you want to accomplish in that meeting in the form of an agenda. Again, some people think that is a little bit old school and don't think that that's really appropriate and as fast moving age, but I think people knowing what is intended for the meeting, and what we're trying to accomplish is important and in addition to that, giving them those attendees potential participants an opportunity to weigh in on that agenda, therefore getting it out ahead of time.

What else would you to see us accomplish? Doing that you get your first level of additional buy in. I think that's a big part of what's caused meetings to go off the rails here in this last year so is that people really are bought into these meetings. Well, guess what, you've never asked them what's important to them.

[00:18:44] BK: Right.

[00:18:45] JL: Kind of a mess, right? If it's important to them, then maybe they will want to actively participate. Think about a couple days ahead of time, putting the agenda together, asking people for their input, because they're going to engage in this and then the next part of this is, think about as you're putting the agenda together. How can you assign and maybe that's too strong a word, but invite people to be actively involved in the meeting. Have different roles for people. Maybe one person is actually the person that keeps you on track timewise. There's another person that maybe is chases the rabbit holes, chases the rabbits that are going down the hole, or you calls people back in when they are going off of topic or just rambling.

There are many ways creatively to engage as many people as possible actively in the meeting. When you've got people who are committed to a role and performing in that role, they're probably going to be more attentive, would you not agree?

[00:19:48] BK: I totally agree with that. I think we still, if I’d say this, right? We stand up for in show up. When there's something that's identified clearly for us. For the certain people the invitation to play a part actually helps them more significantly. We know some things about introverts. Introverts, especially if the purer sense of an introvert, they need to be invited into the conversation to be active, because they'll stay back in the background for a long time, until they're invited into the conversation in some significant way. If you've given a role in advance, you set them up for more success.

[00:20:31] JL: Yeah. Again, the reason that we're talking so much about meetings in the context of creating focus is that we're seeing this trend towards people zoning out in meetings and really being, I guess, but for lack of a better word, just unimpressed by the opportunity to participate in another meeting because they really are participating. So with that, I think leads us to the one concept which we've all seen done, sometimes done well, sometimes not done well and that's - How do we engage people?

More and more of our lives are going to continue to be virtual, even as we get back in person, we're still going to have a component of this. We've got to continue to, I guess, challenge ourselves to be better at engaging people throughout the entire meeting. We've seen all of this in chat, with chat and with breakout rooms and zoom meetings. One of the best practices that I've learned and heard over this last year is that never let a talking head go more than 10 minutes in a meeting without some form of engagement. 12 minutes max.

Invite people to raise their hands and weigh in vocally or on camera, or in chat, or whatever it is, or get him in a breakout room but boy, you get about 10 minutes after into a talking head type of presentation. People are - you talking about multitasking on steroids, right, Bob? People are pretty much God.

[00:22:11] BK: Yes, I was I would even vote for five minutes. I think the way things have gone because when people get to a certain point of weariness, which we if we're having back to back to back to back meanings, we get weary about halfway through the day. We're I don't know how much more of this I can take. Thinking that you're not saying it. That's the truth. I compressing and keeping people engaged, even shorter than 10 minutes. I'd be a fan of that.

[00:22:40] JL: Yeah, I think that's even better. Then the last couple things, just to think about in your meeting, design is making sure that you're leaving a meeting with action items, create expectations for performance in between meetings. Again, that high level of engagement. Then one of the things that I've really found fascinating and valuable, is taking a couple minutes at the end of a meeting and asking for feedback on that meeting. It's what was this meeting for you on a scale of one to five, five being, “Man, I wouldn't miss this for the world.” One being I wish I were in bed and has slept through this meeting. Where was this meeting for you? Was a two, three or four and actually having people weigh in on that. It's amazing what people will say that will help you prepare as a meeting organizer for the next meeting to make it more effective.

Just a few things to think about as you look into the future of meeting management and making them more effective. Talk a little bit more your concept, Bob around expectation and boundaries. Tell us how that can help with focus as we move forward.

[00:23:51] BK: Yeah, so I think that when we think about expectations and boundaries, they're all wrapped up. So that if you connect those with margin, which is something we need to talk about, as well, I know, the having expectations that are manageable, clear to you, I think clarity is often the place where we get tripped up, so we can actually set boundaries, it's hard to set boundaries, if you don't really know what the expectations really are in a given moment.

It's more about talking. Are you communicating with others? Are you learning what you need to learn to be able to set boundaries and you're making agreements. Are you making agreements with others, about boundaries that can be accepted and honored? Everybody's staying clear on what their expectations are and it sets you up to be able to create margin in your day in your life in general, because there are a lot of things and I'm sure you've heard this, that people will say, “Well, at night, when I'm done with my day job, then I get my work done.” Which always just makes me smile and cry at the same time.

It's because they don't have a sense of that margin that they feel is built into their world. They don't feel they can sit back in the chair and they're thinking, share and reflect on something. They can't think strategically. They don't have time to plan. They can't solve problems that need to be thought through a little bit farther. They don't have time to just have a social interaction with somebody. They may not even be taking very good care of themselves. We see that a lot today.

There's a real focus now on mental health and well-being. There's a real focus that needs to be owned around your physical life. That's, I don't know that it's ever been more challenging than this last year. It's just really gotten really, really challenging. Especially if you think about anybody has kids.

[00:25:48] JL: Well, and let's just face it. We need to be better at thinking through what we say yes to and what we say no to, right? Because there's a lot at stake here and we have to protect ourselves to your point, or health or mental, physical, emotional health, and we have to really get better at establishing this priority. When we think about our topic today creating focus for maximum impact. We want this to be as personally impactful, as well as professionally.

We've got to learn how to say yes or no to the right things and making sure we know what's important to us. Revisiting that now and then. So, gosh it just, it's so easy for this all to get blurred, in the midst of these crazy days of back to back pressure meetings and expectations that are just have gotten really out of whack. It's just a great time to sit back and think of what can we do differently? I think we've identified a few of those things. Yeah.

[00:26:52] BK: Yeah. The tool that you and I use in our work often is, and there's lots of different tools that are this but this one I really it's called Hold on, let go, and take on. That helps you get clear on the hold on things, which are really the highest priorities that you have that only you can own. That means nobody else owns these things. These are the things that only you can do.

Then looking at everything else in your life and seeing how far down the road to get letting go of these things can I get. Some of that's about delegating. Some of it's about making a decision that that thing just doesn't matter anymore. For where I am in my life, or where we are in our business or whatever, you need to be able to let go of some things and it frees up space. We call it we call it margin for lots of things. It could be that extra time that you need to take care of yourself. It could be for the social interaction. It could be that time to step back and be strategic.

If you don't do some of this other work, the hold on and the let go. You just are not in a good place to be your best self-reaching your full potential in these other things that you need to be taking on.

[00:28:01] JL: You know what, all of that, in the end actually that creates more energy for us to focus on the things are the most important. It gives us clarity around good decision making, and managing a lot of these distractions and really just taking advantage of the moment, right? Being in the moment, being our best self. I love that. Bob, thank you so much for being with us today.

Thanks for sharing your insights on this topic. As always, it's just a great spending time with you.

[00:28:29] BK: Agreed. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:28:31] JL: I'm your host John Locke and I look forward to reconnecting with you again soon on a future episode of DHG GrowthCast. In the meantime, please subscribe, rate and review GrowthCast on Apple iTunes, Spotify or Podbean.

End of Episode
About DHG's GrowthCast

At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG’s Growthcast, provides insights and thought -provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Join us in discussing tomorrow’s needs today.

Disclaimer: The views and concepts expressed by today’s guests are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult with your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


Bob Kunkle
Director of Executive Coaching and Development
© Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. All rights reserved.
DHG is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP.