Are you Awareness driven, or Focus driven?

It’s important that we don’t get so caught up in where we are going that we forget where we are. It is equally important that we don’t get caught up in where we are that we forget about where we are going.

Are you Awareness driven, or Focus driven?

Sometimes we think of awareness and focus as being very similar.  In fact they are opposites, and both are necessary. One is centralized or concentrated, the other outwardly distributed.

Awareness and focus are both important factors in our success.  It would be great if we all had a natural balance of the two, but we don’t. That puts us at odds with each other, or does it?

The Brain

The human brain is an incredible creation, but one thing it doesn’t do so well is see the big picture and see the details at the same time. We all have a tendency toward one, or the other, but not both. The eye can only focus on one thing at a time.  It can roam around taking smaller snapshots of information from all over, in a broad sense, or it can stay focused in the same area to get a deeper understanding of what it is looking at.

People tend to see that way too, but we also learn to grow, socialize and communicate similarly.  We are always seeking to expand our awareness of what is around us, or deepen our understanding of what is in front of us. Awareness driven people like to take complex ideas and simplify them to help ‘the many’ gain awareness and understanding.  Focused driven people like to add more details for a deeper level of understanding for ‘the few’ to gleem insight.

We all do both at times, but lean one way most of the time.  Some people become a jack of all trades and master of none, yet others may be able to play Mozart, but struggle to tie their shoes.


Imagine a scenario where two individuals were asked to put ten puzzles together, and they only have one hour to finish. These puzzles are not extremely difficult but not likely to be completed in a single hour by the average person.

An awareness driven person may approach this task in a much different manner than a focus driven person. He would look at the task; determine that finishing the project is the most important desired result.  After all they were given an hour TO FINISH!  He quickly figures out that there is 60 minutes to work with, ten puzzles so that gives him approximately six minutes for each puzzle.  After 60 minutes or so he has all ten mostly completed but none of them fully completed.  He walks away fairly satisfied knowing that all ten puzzles look pretty good.  He can still recognize the intended pictures from the boxes even though there are several gaps. “Git r done!”

The focus driven person takes a different approach.  She takes a good look at the picture on the box of the first puzzle to know what the outcome needs to look like.  She begins putting the puzzle together making sure she uses the pattern of corners first, edges second and then looks for identifiable patterns. She carefully searches for the right piece, finds it then puts it in its rightful place. With 20 minutes left, anxiety increases, she picks up her pace and pushes through completing 3 more puzzles before she runs out of time.  She looks at her six completed puzzles and is quite pleased.  She got six out of ten puzzles fully completed exactly as the boxes suggest.  “If you are not going to do it right, don’t do it at all”, she thinks.

Opposing Perspectives

What if each of their work is shown to the other to observe and comment on?  You can guess the criticism that may come from those evaluations as they view each other’s work from a different lens. “You didn’t even start four of them!”, “Well you didn’t finish any of them!”

In the leadership world we find these seemingly opposing perspectives play out all the time. Some people value efficiency; some are high on details and accuracy.  Some find satisfaction in covering more ground and others by covering better ground. Some put a high value on time or relationships. Others put a higher value on money or influence, while yet others seek excellence or strategy.


We can cause a disconnect when we fail to appreciate other people’s perspective, or if we believe that our way of thinking is more viable than others. By nature we all tend to think this way sometimes. It takes intentional effort, and humility to consider that others may have something specific to offer that we don’t (Cain and Abel). It also takes humility to accept that our perspective may be inferior compared to another.

“It takes intentional effort, and humility to consider that others may have something to offer that we don’t. It also takes humility to accept that our perspective may be inferior compared to another.”

One Body with Many Members

1Co 12:14-18 NIV Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

When we choose to see awareness and focus not just as opposing views, but also as complimentary views, we may learn that we actually CANNOT get along WITHOUT each other. We complete each other. Unless we come to this awareness we will never understand the importance of interdependence and the beauty of productive, relational and spiritual harmony, as God intended it to be.

So What Makes YOU so Valuable?

dollarAre you valuable to your employer?  When I ask this question, most people  would say “Yes, I am valuable to my employer”, and many would be right. Some may tend to believe they are more valuable to others than they really are, while others may not realize their true value. We all want to think we add value. But what is value?  What does that mean? All employees’ matter of course, but the question I am asking is about value, and not importance.

Over the past few decades I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of people.  I have worked with some amazing people.  They bring a great deal of value to the workplace and are major contributors to the success of the business. I am grateful for the staff and owe a debt of gratitude for all their hard work and commitment to helping us succeed.  Every business relies on these champions, and my company is no different.

Reflecting back, I have also worked with many that brought little or no value to the success of the business.  Unfortunately in today they seem to outnumber the champions.  And then there are those who take from the business … they would have a negative value. Grrrrr, don’t get me started.

There is a difference between “quality of a person” and “value of an employee”.  I have met many terrific people who contribute to the world and are wonderful people. But they brought little value to our workplace.  Some were good people just in the wrong industry. Some were trying to take on responsibilities they were not qualified to do, and others just simply were not willing to put forth the effort to add value.


Unfortunately there is another group of people in the world that are a bit more challenging than the groups listed above.  There are those who are emotionally broken and find it very difficult to see the world through any other lens but their own distorted pair.

When a person becomes desperate or stressed sometimes something gets triggered that can send them into a state of self-preservation.  They begin to go into survival mode and become blind to others needs and how others see them in this state.  A sense of entitlement takes over as they focus on how much they have done for others and how little they have received in return.. They may believe they are much more valuable to their employer than what the employer or teammates know to be true.  They may express their feelings of being under appreciated or take a more passive agressive approach. They tend to justify doing less or helping themselves to “added benefits” because they feel underpaid anyway so they are just “evening the score”.  Sometimes even when their work is suffering thay can have a puffed up distorted perspective of their value to the company. Usually by this time the writing is on the wall.  You have likely worked with a person like this.

I am defining “value” in this article as the level a person contributes toward the success of a company, relative to their cost to the company.

People find reward by what we do in many different ways. Satisfaction of adding value to others is one of the most valuable rewards you can experience.  It can go a long way toward feeling fulfilled, but it doesn’t tend to replace the need for meaningful financial gain.  We all have responsibilities and needs that require making the most of our efforts.

Let’s Make a Deal

Most of us have had an experience with some kind of negotiation.  In some cultures people haggle over the value of a peach or banana.  We haggle over the value of a car or a house. We comparison shop all the time. The value message is everywhere.  It’s the backbone of capitalism. We do this because the whole idea is to get as much value as you can for the lowest possible cost to you. It would be poor stewardship to pay more than we need for an item.  Indeed, that is true.

In the job market, more experience, talent, education and a polished curb appeal leads to higher compensation. You are trying to make what you have already accomplished count for as much as possible. You want to get as much compensation for your future efforts as you can as long as you can deliver the goods. This is how it is, and should be.

The Change of Allegiance

Once you have chosen your position in the workplace and begun working, your allegiance changes. Or at least it should.  If it doesn’t you are certain to remain at odds.

If you continue to put your needs above the company making sure you are paid more than what you are worth, there is a simple way to cut to the chase.  Just do less.  Unless you work on commission, your rewards are sure to outweigh your efforts if you just do less.  As shortsighted as this seems, it really is the domanat approach in our country, unfortunately.

Bad work ethic

Do as little as you have to instead of as much as you can.  This is the simplest way to make sure you are compensated more than what you are worth. If you really want to get creative, do less, threaten to leave, and ask for more money.  The bottom of the workforce lives by the mantra “Do just enough, make what you can and take what you need.”   Unfortunately our government has created an environment where sometimes people are incentivized to work less to receive more.

That sounds crazy but I’ll bet it struck a chord with you.  Either you have been there and done that or have been affected by people like that.  There are people that make deposits in this world and there are people who make withdrawals. You can figure out who adds more value to their own lives, career and their community.

In our company we call this the 60/90 effect.  If you allow someone to work at 60%, they most likely will.  They’ll do “as little as they have to”.  If you expect them to work at 90% they may.  Only if inspired, will people do “as much as they can”.  I have yet to find an exception to this including myself.

Value Defined

costIf we define employee value as “the level a person contributes toward the success of a company, relative to their cost to the company.” then we also need to flush that out and address a major misconception.

If you wish to experience success you need to be worth more to your employer than what you are paid.  What? That doesn’t sound right!  You want me to make less than I am worth?  Hang with me here pilgrim.

Someone who outperforms their compensation will raise their leverage and keep their services in high demand.  When your compensation catches up to your value through competitive demand, it’s vital that you continue to strive to increase your worth to show that you are a worthy investment to your employer. If your employer believes their return on investment with you has become too costly, you may be asked to renegotiate your current agreement, or worse, you may become expendable.

“You need to be worth more to your employer than what you are paid”

The Golden Rule of Adding Value

If you wish to expect someone to contribute to the value of your company, you first need to contribute to the value of their life. People who feel more valued have more value.  It’s funny how we as humans will run through walls for someone who runs through a wall for us.  To the degree that a person adds value to you is the degree that you will go above and beyond your compensation and enjoy doing so.

The flipside to this is also true.  If you are an employee and you wish for your employer to recognize you and increase your compensation.  There is really only one way to do so.  Raise your value in the eyes of everyone around you.  Become more valuable to your employer. Don’t try to appear more valuable, be more valuable.  Contribute more to the bottom line and make his/her job easier.  Be exactly what they need for you to be in order for them to reach their goals and levels of success that is expected of them.  Sometimes that means doing more, sometimes it means doing less of the meaningless things, and more of the important things. Sometimes it’s adjusting your values or learning a new skill or perfecting an existing skill.  It always requires effort; it always comes at a price.

“If you are an employee and you wish for your employer to recognize you and increase your compensation.  There is really only one way to do so.  Raise your value… “

As an employer, I can say without a doubt that the people who embrace this perspective create their own opportunities.  They flourished in their development and value to the company and in their value in the job market. If they increase their value and become a greater influence, compensation and opportunity will naturally increase. This is true.  It’s the law of supply and demand.   If it doesn’t happen, you have not really added value as you believe you have, or you are working for the wrong company and need to explore your options.

What are you worth?

Your market value is not what you believe you are worth. If I could determine what my efforts are worth, I would set it at a thousand dollars per hour, or $500 per pizza.  Unfortunately for me it doesn’t work like that.  It’s the people that are paying for what you bring to the table that need to decide what they are willing to pay you. The more you actually bring to the table the more valuable you are to others. It’s not how much time you put in or how well you know your job or how good you can convince others you are, it’s how much value you actually bring to the organization above and beyond your potential replacement in light of your current compensation. That’s your market value, nothing more, nothing less.

Good News!

You may not realize this, but employers are willing to pay more money than you currently make, to people with more value than you currently have.  That is great news!  That means all you have to do is increase your value to make more money.

You are completely in control of your income potential.  You can choose to stay the same and continue with a similar wage, if that is what you value.  Or if you desire a higher standard of living you can choose to invest in personal growth, adjust your allegiance to excellence, raise your value and be compensated for your efforts.  You are the captain of your ship, not your environment, not the person signing your check.  No one is holding you back, but you.

“…employers are willing to pay more money than you currently make, to people with more value than you currently have…That means all you have to do is increase your value to make more money.”

Your potential for raising your income is 100% up to you and not limited to external factors.  It’s not up to your boss, it’s not up to the government, and it’s not due to bad luck, the economy or your upbringing.  It’s up to YOU to change you.

The Pareto Principle (80/20) says that the top 20% of the people share 80% of the rewards.  This means that the bottom 80% is left dividing up the remaining 20% of the rewards.  You can guess which group is committed to raising their value by doing “as much as they can”, and which group is okay with doing “as little as they have to”.

So how do you raise your value in the workplace?

The five steps to raising your value in the workplace.

  1. Know what is expected of you – Find out what is required to be great at what you do, know what your benchmark of excellence is according to your employer or clients, then study it and adopt it as your own. Own it!
    • Have an uncompromising target – Don’t redefine excellence according to you or others if it gets too hard. Don’t compare yourself with others. Keep your eye on the target.
    • Have an accurate target – If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, find out.
    • Have a worthy target – Find out what the best in the industry do, and then do what they do. Be the best at what you do.
  1. Personal Growth – Grow yourself daily. People are willing to pay you more now, if they know you will be worth more down the road.
    • Be teachable and ask lots of questions. Learn from the experts and allow others to add value to you.
    • Accept and ask for constructive criticism. Don’t be easily offended and proud. Pride subtracts from your value.
    • Make yourself great, don’t just reach the goal. Become a person who naturally does the goal.
    • Learn how things work – Seek first to understand then to be understood. Listen more and speak less.
    • Take responsibility – Make no excuses and blame no one else for your difficulties.
    • Fail often – Own your failure, learn from them, and grow faster.
  1. Alignment – If you wish to be more valuable, make sure that your values line up with the values of the organization. If they don’t, find somewhere that does.
    • Represent the organization with integrity and class at all times.
    • Protect the brand and reputation of the organization.
    • Take pride in your organization and be part of something bigger than you.
    • Work toward interdependance and synergy. Not independance and individualism.
    • Don’t out think your superiors, trust the system and commit to the them. If it’s a bad system, you are in the wrong place.
  1. Results – Finish the job, reach the finish line and excel past expectations.
    • If you proclaim what you are capable of, then do it. Show that you are what you say.
    • Commit yourself to the desired outcomes. No one completes a task without a commitment.
    • Don’t try harder – Reject the “Try Harder” approach. It implies that effort is more important than outcomes.
    • Less is not more – Don’t show you can do what you are getting paid to do. Show you can do more than what you are getting paid to do. By doing so you may get even more to do and paid even more to do it.
  1. Leadership – Leading your self is most important. But if you have the ability to influence others, you will multiply your value by infusing your abilities into others.
    • Leadership raises the value of everyone around them, thus raising your value.
    • Leadership is influence and has exponential growth. It multiplies your efforts rather than just adding to them.
    • Leadership is much harder to find, thus putting you in higher demand to others.
    • Leadership brings solutions to world of problems, and order to a world of chaos.
    • Leadership raises the lid of your potential, and gives you financial leverage.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also referred to as the 80/20 Principle, relates to virtually all areas of life and tends to be a fairly reliable explanation for distribution of resources and success. It explains how 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.  It also explains how 80% of your problems come from 20% of your decisions.

The original idea came from a mathematical observation by a man named Pareto that 80% of Italy’s income was generated by 20% of the population.  Since then, many people have made their own applications of this principle in most every area of life in an attempt to understand and explain a natural curve that is generated by the vast variety of people. It explains how their disposition and approach towards life leads to predictable outcomes.

The Pareto Principle is very valuable to understand because when we look at the world through our natural lenses, we tend to look at the world as being flat and fair.  We think that as long as we sow hard we will reap hard and as long as we keep busy we won’t have any effort unnoticed or unrewarded.  We think that everyone who works hard should be equally rewarded for their equal efforts.

That would be great if it were so, but the truth is that very few of the efforts we make actually move the success needle as much as we tend to think.  We all have likely experienced some success in our lives that stem from great ideas, hard work or creative thought.  These successful endeavors likely came about through just a handful of talents, habits or skills that you possess.

We like to think that we are decent at a lot of different things.  We can do many things fairly well and have a pretty broad understanding of the world.  That is rubbish.  The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it.  We do many more things outside of these three to five things, but most of our success you can attribute to the time and efforts that come from these key areas of strength.  These are your core competencies.  You should pay very close attention to these core competencies and put a hedge around them to make sure they are not squeezed out of your life or schedule by your lesser skills and efforts.

“The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it”

Some people go through their entire life and really never get a good understanding of our core competencies. The success we have had we attribute to our collective knowledge and all the different skills we have picked up over the years.  We take great pride in being “well rounded”. We know we are better at some things but what we don’t realize is how many things we think we are decent at that don’t add any real value to the overall project, not to mention sometimes even taking away from the success of the project without even knowing.  Until we fully understand our core competencies and leverage them,  we will continue to be on the wrong end of the Pareto Principle.

This Blog is dedicated to helping people identify the three areas that their efforts fall into based on the Pareto Principle.

  • Competency Zone – The time, efforts, and skills used that contribute to the majority of your successful results from using your unique gifts and core competenscies. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your results.
  • Mediocrity Zone – The time, efforts and skills we often believe contribute to success, but really add very little if any value to the project. These are the efforts we make that keep us afloat at best. They often are necessary but should never be counted on to bring home the gold medal. These are the 60% of your efforts that contribute some to the solutions (20%) and some to the problem (20%)
  • Futile Zone – The time you waste when you should be doing more important things, the efforts you make in vain, and the skills you pretend you have that only make things worse. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your problems. Stop it!

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This blog is dedicated to helping people view the world through the lense of the Pareto Principle.  I hope you like it.  Please let me know what you think so I can continue to grow.