…especially significant ones we care about. Last year, I allowed too much of my capacity, especially my reading capacity, to be taken up following the news—hoping for some signs of sense prevailing, especially in Britain and America, frankly. Sense ...
Last year, I allowed too much of my capacity, especially my reading capacity, to be taken up following the news—hoping for some signs of sense prevailing, especially in Britain and America, frankly. Sense in these contexts is a matter of opinion and values, of course.
I know what I think is right. You may well differ.
Anyway, the point is I can’t influence these troubling events, and I’m guessing, neither can you.
So how to detach our attention from them, and focus properly on things where our energies actually can make a difference? How to stay focused on what we want to achieve through our own efforts, as opposed to what we hope may transpire? How to make sure we are fully present for our families, friends, and colleagues? And at the same time stay connected with big events?
Some say it’s good more people are engaged in political issues. Up to a point I agree, but not if it means we neglect what we can actually make a difference to. In the end, our potential to transform our own affairs can most likely overcome the consequences of national upheaval—if we stay focused.
If our country is going to be in a mess, that’s bad enough—and maybe we can learn leadership lessons from politicians’ errors—but best not to compound the problem by undermining our own work. Then we’ll suffer twofold.
As with many things, being aware of the issue is at least half the solution. The rest of the answer may be detaching emotionally from what we can’t do anything about, at least when we should be doing something else.
What’s your key to managing significant distractions?
We all like a bit of freedom—the chance to act on our own initiative. Much of the time that’s a good thing.
Recently, however, I’ve been noticing just how much energy can be wasted if everyone is pulling in different directions in an organisation, even if they’re acting with the best of intentions. The result can be a feeling of overload and not having enough resource. In reality, lots of energy is getting wasted in unaligned, incoherent activity, much of which cancels out.
Yes, the organisation may be short of resource—quite likely it is…
Or maybe it has enough resource, if its participants would agree to a little more alignment in what they do—to sacrifice a little autonomy in the interests of a sensible workload.
An important role for leaders then to stimulate a shared sense of purpose that leads to coherent, aligned activity.
We need to keep learning e.g. about people; and we need to keep doing or delivering e.g. in a business. So which is more important? Delivering perhaps (it’s certainly likely to be more urgent), but what if the delivery is weak because we haven’t yet learned some vitally relevant information?
If learning is the priority then perhaps the opportunity or expectation will pass before we have made ourselves ready.
Obviously, it’s a balance. Do you have it in the right place? Could you benefit from moving learning up a bit?
Sometimes, of course, we need to act in order to learn: We can’t merely think our way to the right solution. We need to gather some experience of the issue. We need to attempt delivery and see what happens.
Which is more likely to make a long-term, sustainable difference: Learning or delivering? Probably learning, I’d say.
Or is it just natural human reticence that most of us could do with overcoming (though some were never troubled in this way)?
For many, we need to work at putting ourselves out there to be judged. It’s uncomfortable, or seems so at first. But arguably it’s part of the natural human journey of increasing maturity, if we choose that particular part of the path.
How do you decide whether you are being admirably refined or just unwisely and over-cautiously reticent?
The wrong choice could be holding you back and, conversely, a change could propel you forward.
Just because something is comfortable, doesn’t mean it’s right: It just means it’s our usual habit—a familiar, programmed pattern that was helpful once but perhaps not any more.
Many situations seem to require being focused and broad at the same time; being specialist as well as generalist.
That appears to be a contradiction, a dichotomy—one that needs very careful handling if a group of people is involved, and a considerable challenge to manage successfully.
If we suggest focusing an organisation, for example, in one or more particular areas, the people involved in the non-preferred areas are likely to resist because they feel threatened. But we possibly didn’t intend any real downside for them. It’s more that we hope to grow certain emerging strengths.
Alternatively, if we aim to keep everyone happy, we may fail to develop the concentration of effort necessary to achieve significant breakthroughs.
Chances are what we really require is a relative emphasis on certain areas that may yield superior returns on effort, not a major upheaval.
Our biggest challenge, in fact, may be to convey the subtlety of what we intend so that we don’t “frighten the horses” whose support we need. Managing the situation with the necessary sensitivity and spreading that ethos throughout the organisation could be harder than—and just as vital as—the actual choice of areas of focus.