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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

August - 2010 - issue > People Manager

Focus & Energy Key Executive Capabilities

C Mahalingam (Mali)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
C Mahalingam (Mali)
In the last column, we witnessed that deep domain ability is critical to success and this has to be acquired outside of the MBA degree. MBA programs broaden your horizons, widen your perspectives and equip you with tools and techniques. Deep domain expertise should be acquired by reading journals, working on products and projects and with mentoring support. In this column, let me focus on two key ingredients for executives’ success: Focus & Energy. According to Dr.Sumantra Ghoshal, nothing gets executed without focus and energy. Ghoshal also observed from his research in this area that no more than 10 percent of corporate executives demonstrate the requisite amount of focus and energy. And that perhaps explains why so many executives fall short of success and career progress.

End of the day organizations reward for what you do and delivery and not what you know. And research by Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer (of Stanford University) has again documented the widening gap between knowing and doing in the corporate leading to dismal performance as executives and collectively as corporations. Focus and energy can be sharpened with practice like any other behavior. It is as much a result of nurture as it may appear as nature.

Framework on Focus and Energy:
Dr Ghoshal’s seminal work (‘A Bias for Action’ by Dr Sumantra Ghoshal) in the area of delivering results provides a framework which is reproduced below. You will observe that those of us with neither focus nor energy end up being procrastinators. A good 30% of corporate executives can be categorized as procrastinators, according to Ghoshal.


Besides, there are 40% of executives who have enormous energy, but lack focus. They suffer from what is now well known as “activity trap.” They probably do not understand the difference between “business” and “busyness!” Being busy without a focused goal does not take the executive anywhere. The third category is those who are very focused, but lack energy. Ghoshal calls them as “detached managers.” Nearly 20% of the corporate executives will fit this description. That leaves only 10% of managers who seem to have both focus and energy. They produce results and advance in their careers.


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