Focus Externally


A smart colleague four years ago had four hand-written guidelines posted up on his cube. These were rules he tried to guide his day by, to ensure he focused on the most important, productive work possible.

The one rule that stuck out to me the most was simple and short: Focus Externally.

The message is simple, but execution and fulfillment can be difficult.

The idea is simply to ensure that all of your work is focused on impacting an external audience – in most cases, your customers. Everything you do should ultimately focus on helping customers become more successful, focus on bringing new products to market that impact the company’s top or bottom line, or otherwise impact the company’s growth or customer’s success.

But every company, and every employee, runs the risk of working on things “internally.” This includes anything with an audience that is ultimately, and exclusively, internal. Examples include reports, processes and other peer-to-peer deliverables that, oftentimes, have no bearing or impact externally.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes internal work is done to inform colleagues about market conditions or work progress that is very much focused on external objectives. But if those very reports aren’t leveraged or acted upon to impact external audiences, they’re wasteful.

I’ve been at marketing conferences where many of the attendees from large companies spend the majority of their time talking about how to convince managers to give them more money, or how to build consensus for their specific initiatives. Some of this work may be required to ultimately impact external objectives, but it’s unfortunate that so much time is taken up internally to get the job done.

Every company and every employee faces the internal/external challenge. Think about the work on your plate, and make sure as much of it as possible is externally focused. Your company, and your customers, will be better for it.