Focus (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series): A book review by Bob Morris

“You don’t get results by focusing on results. Focus on doing what produces results.” Mike Hawkins

HBR Press offers a series of anthologies (thirteen volumes thus far) of articles in which contributors share proven research that explains how our emotions impact our work lives, practical advice for managing difficult people and situations, and inspiring essays on what it means to tend to our emotional well-being at work. Uplifting and practical, these books describe the social skills that are critical for ambitious professionals to master.

If you were to purchase reprints of the ten articles in this volume separately, the total cost would be $89.50. Amazon now sells the volume for only $11.74.

According to the HBR editors of this volume, “The Importance of achieving focus goes well beyond your ow productivity. Deep focus allows you to lead others successfully, find clarity amid uncertainty, and heighten your sense of professional fulfillment

“Yet the forces that challenge sustained focus range from dining phones to office politics to everyday worries. This book explains how to strengthen your ability to focus, manage your team’s attention, and break the cycle of distraction.”

* * *

From “The Focused Leader,” Daniel Goleman:

“‘Cognitive control is the scientific term for putting one’s attention where one wants it and keeping it there in the face of temptation to wander. This focus is one aspect of the brain’s executive function, which is located in the prefrontal cortex. A colloquial term for it is ‘willpower.’

“Cognitive control Eenables executives to pursue a goal despite distractions and setbacks. The same neural circuitry that allows such a a single-minded pursuit of goals also manages unruly emotions. Good cognitive control can be seen i people who stay calm, tame their own agitation, and recover from a debacle or defeat.”

Later in the article, Goleman suggests that leaders exhibit empathy of three distinct kinds:

Cognitive empathy: the ability to understand another’s perspective.
Emotional empathy: the ability to feel what someone else feels
Emapthic concern: the ability to sense what another person needs from you.”

I agree with Goleman that leaders who master their attention will determine where they and their organization focus.

(Pages 11-12 and 19)

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

* * *

From “Break the Cycle of Stress and Distraction by Using Your Emotional Intelligence,” Kandi Wiens:

Executives often feel completely overwhelmed by mental and physical exhaustion. “Fortunately there are things we can do to break the cycle. I’ve found in my research that one of the reasons why soe people get burned out and others don’t is because they use their emotional intelligence (EI) to manage their stress. You can use these same competencies, in particular self-awareness and self-management, to improve your focus. Here’s how.

“Start by using your self-awareness to help you notice several things:

o Why you feel stressed or anxious.
o How you lose your ability to focus.
o How you feel when you can’t focus.
o When you lose your ability to focus.

Wiens discusses HOW to determine each of these, then suggests and explains several strategies, ones whose success depends on your self-management abilities, to make better choices that keep you focused. Good stuff.

(Pages 44-45)

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

* * *

From “5 Ways to Focus Your Energy During a Work Crunch,” Amy Jen Su

“Maintaining focus and managing energy levels become critical as tasks pile onto an already full load. When you’re in your next work crunch, there are a few things you can do to focus and manage your energy more productively.”

Jen Su Recommends and explains five that are practical and results-driven.

1. Accept the situation
2. Observe and label your underlying emotions
3. Preserve your sense of choice and agency
4. Communicate with your colleagues and loved ones
5. Practice self-compassion

“By taking these actions, you’ll move through your next crunch with greater ease and peace.”

(Pages 111-115)xt work

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

* * *

Many people need to improve their emotional well-being, not only at work but in all other areas of life. To them and those who supervise them, I highly recommend the HBR Emotional Intelligence Series.

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