Focus Determines Success (by Barry Slauenwhite)

I have served in various leadership roles over the past 40 years. I wish I could tell you that all of them were exciting and successful initiatives, but the truth is, I’ve made mistakes along the way. These mistakes, coupled with a healthy dose of wisdom from others and a heavy infusion of God’s grace has taught me three very important leadership principles. These principles can be succinctly captured in three words that we will discuss in a three-part blog series: Focus, Strategy and Integrity.


In my early days of leadership I was easily distracted. Not always by bad things but often by very good things. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to respond to every need. I wanted to walk through every open door. However, I quickly learned that unless I am focused I am not effective.

To be focused is to know where you are going and what you want to accomplish. It’s that laser concentration on the main objective – the purpose for which God has called you to. I had to recognize that I can’t do everything, nor does God expect me to. God has many servants in His vast pool of human resources and He calls each one of us to a specific task- a mission that He has uniquely equipped us to accomplish, an assignment that we are uniquely called to carry out in the context of kingdom realities.

Enfocando / Focussing

In Compassion’s ministry we use the term “focus brings velocity”. I often explain it this way: if you take an ordinary garden hose and turn on the tap, water will flow but it lacks velocity. You can actually drink from the garden hose without being injured. But attach that garden hose to an orifice or power washer and the velocity of water is powerful enough to cut through wood or even rock. The same water that once trickled out of the end of the hose now becomes a powerful force.

In the world of poverty there are many great causes but God has called us at Compassion to focus – laser like precision on ministry to children at risk. That doesn’t mean there are no other needs in the world nor does it mean that other ministries are ineffective. It simply means that God has a very specific task for us to do and we are most effective when we focus on that task.

I’ve seen churches and parachurch ministries using what I call the “shotgun” approach to ministry. It exhausts me to read the list of activities they are involved in. But my question is; “what impact are you having”? When you assess your effectiveness, can you, with certainty, calculate impact and success? Without focus the answer is often negative. When we try to do everything we are often stretched to succeed in anything.

One of the lessons I’ve learned as a leader is to say no. At Compassion we are inundated with many opportunities that, if we respond, would quickly take us off mission. In order to be effective – in order to be the best child development organization in the world we must learn to decline many good opportunities. Charles Spurgeon said it well: “learn to say no – It will be of more use to you than being able to read Latin!”

Jesus was focused: “For this hour I have come.” He was clear on His assignment. He was not distracted by all the opportunities. He was laser focused on the cross. Because of that laser focus we enjoy the redemptive benefits of His ultimate sacrifice.

Compassion is the world’s leading child development organization- it didn’t just happen! It was a conscious decision to focus on three things: Christ, children and the church. These three foci provide the rails on which we run, and independent research data clearly identifies Compassion’s success.

Barry Slauenwhite

President & CEO of Compassion Canada

PS- watch for the part 2 & 3 of this blog series!

Photo credit: [Magec] via /CC BY-NC-ND


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