Harper Collins. 2013. 311 pgs with acknowledgements, resource list, index.
Other books I’ve read by Goleman: none, but he is famous for 1995 best-seller, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman was once a science writer for the New York Times.
Since I’m always wondering why I can’t get enough done, why I can’t concentrate on everything that I need to accomplish — including why I can’t read more of my Guardian list books, I thought I would find out what Goleman had to say about focus, “the hidden driver of excellence.”
Goleman has ton of insights: some based on brain science, a lot based in management science and then quite a large section of his own semi-philosophical musings. Plenty to dig into. Turns out our brains aren’t really set up for big-picture problem solving and long-term focus. They are set up for alerting us to rustling in the bushes that might turn out to be a predator. This is why, according to Goleman, we all get a rush of adrenaline when we get a sudden scary shock, but we can blissfully auto-cruise in the face of global warming.
Goleman asserts that successful leaders have “triple focus”:
Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall vision … that energizes others…
Coaching, based on listening to what people want from their life, career and current job.
Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus ….
Goleman talks about systems thinking and mindfulness, but I didn’t really get a clear idea about how that was all tied together with the concept of focusing on larger problems. I understand that systems thinking is the ability to see how interconnected parts work together and impact each other, but Goleman lost me in how focus ties into this.
On the other hand, I enjoyed Goleman’s discussions on brain science. Our older, bottom up brain is intuitive, impulsive, involuntary and “the manager for our mental models of the world” while our top-down brain is voluntary, effortful, and able to create new models and plans. According to Goleman, it is the bottom up brain that might deliver a sudden flash of insight after the top down brain has been grappling with a thorny problem. The problem is, we need unstructured down time to allow those insights to bubble up — a commodity that most of us don’t have enough of.
My only other comment is that I found the book poorly organized and ironically, sometimes unfocused. I wish Goleman had used fewer-briefly mentioned examples and more deeper explorations of examples of good and poor focus. Still, glad I took time for Focus.