For my 10th year wedding anniversary gift for my wife, I’ve decided to give her a Nikon D5100 DSLR camera with the intention of diving in to digital photography myself. As I was going thru and testing the features of the camera, an idea initially hit me. Instead of simply knowing the features, I’ve decided to learn more about concepts in photography and how those concepts can be applied when using the features of the camera. Quick searches on Google led me to the term Aperture. Wikipedia defines aperture as a hole or opening in an optical system through which light travels. In photography, this opening in your camera lens defines the level of focus an object can have when you take its picture.
The concept of aperture reminded me of what leaders and organizations in this generation should have: focus. In photography, a big aperture means focusing on a smaller area but with greater impact. The opposite is also the same. Let’s take this photography lesson in the context of leadership.
- Big Aperture,Narrow Focus. We are all prone to focusing at too many things at the same time. We’ve fallen into the myth of multi-tasking, thanks to the messaging around new technologies that can make our lives easier. As leaders and managers, we also feel the urge to accomplish too many tasks at the same time with the feeling that quantity equals quality. But to be really productive, we need to zoom in our focus to a few things. The level of focus that we set on a particular task determines the quality of the output. I’m pretty sure you’re aware of the magnifying lens science experiment.
- Select The Important. When taking pictures, we should know which image or object we want to focus on. It’s hard to narrow down our focus if we don’t even know which ones to focus on. This would mean selecting one person in a crowd or an object within a group. Similarly, we need to narrow down our focus on things that have bigger impact. What had the biggest impact on your organizational success within the past year? What was the biggest contributor on your career’s success? Once you know which ones to select, you can then provide the level of focus that it needs to get the best results. I find this really important in my career as well as when managing projects. I’ve identified earlier on that teaching and mentoring resonate as my key strengths. So even when my customers and the technical community perceive me as an expert in my field, they can sense the “teacher and mentor” in me whenever they engage my services. Knowing this gives me the encouragement to further improve my strengths by reading and studying communication, presentation and mentoring skills improvement.
- Practice. Just like learning photography as a beginner, it sometimes feels overwhelming to know that we’re walking down an unfamiliar path. This is normal. So, when you felt uneasy narrowing down your focus and selecting which ones to focus on for the first time, do it again. Make it a routine – every month, quarter, or even once a year – you pick your pace. Maybe you prefer having a pen and paper to list down the things that you need to focus on before you can start the actual work. I’m pretty sure we all need to practice these concepts on a regular basis. I still do. But practice does make it easier the next time around.
I’m about to play around with the new DSLR camera to practice with selecting the right aperture for the right image, especially now that fall is officially here. What do you have on your list of item to focus on? I’d like to hear from you.