Managing distractions to stay on track towards your goals? Or are they a welcome escape? How do they affect your focus, energy and success?
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Distractions, obstacles, barriers – call them what you will – they always seem to get in the way somehow, don’t they? To test our resolve; whether we are truly committed to what we want to achieve, right?
Managing Distractions. An Example
Take an HR space example. I’ve seen on a few occasions now where someone with the right background, leadership skills, visibility, credibility, connections and nouse has consistently had significant impact on successfully managing industrial relations (IR) related business issues to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders involved. To the extent that they can sometimes be construed as “saviours”, and are subsequently promoted into managing the entire HR function. Whether planned or not, that way they can still keep an eye on the industrial relations arena, irrespective of the poor (often “junior”) manager hired as their replacement.
Recently, one of my clients found himself in the unenviable position of having to invest numerous weeks on and off to “rescue” a critical IR situation that had developed in another state. One quite outside of his jurisdiction and responsibility.
Of course he did the right thing by the organisation. But at what price?
Managing or Being Managed by Distractions?
Firstly, this activity resulted in him missing key KPI’s within his responsibility, putting him behind in his own work raising the pressure on him, his team and his family. Can you relate? Where “other stuff that had to be done” gets in the way of our current objectives. Quite normal, right? However, how many of you will protect your situation by writing an email to those that matter to capture the facts, so that they can’t be ignored in the next performance review? A common oversight, I assure you.
Particularly if the leader above the incumbent’s line manager makes the decision for this to need to be the case.
That’s OK if it happens rarely and occasionally. For many it’s a welcome break back into their Comfort Zone of old. But what if it occurs frequently and that this situation appears to be taken advantage of? Not abnormal is it? There are far too many examples where organisational structures, policies and processes are vaguely defined, allowing this to occur.
However, what if the incumbent chooses to allow this to happen, because such distractions are an “escape” that give them a reprieve from their current role? A distraction they know from a career and growth perspective they shouldn’t. But one that they enjoy so much?
Easy looking from the outside in. But if there is nobody to “call you” on such behaviour, then it is quite easy to slip into acceptance of it, often without really noticing that. But having great impact on visibility, credibility and leadership image of all involved.
Awareness Manages Distractions
Given the frequency of such situations, I’ve learned that there are only a few remedies, cure being the least desirable one, as the horse will usually already have bolted. But an important one to prevent re-occurrence nonetheless.
Of course prevention is more appropriate to avoid the pain of having to rectify things in the first place. This is where timely intervention is so valuable. A boss or a supportive peer with a hunch checking in with the affected incumbent asking: “I could be completely wrong here, but is it OK for me to share an observation? Sure. Could it be that you are allowing …?“.
You see, often coaches presented with “I’m so behind in my work, and my leaders just don’t get it” will, by digging deeper get to a range of Cause and Effect contributors. Many help uncover “furfies” where perceptions have manifest as supposed reality. Players themselves getting to see the “reality” often suffice to have them know what needs to be done. Just like when a leader presents a time management (or overwhelm) situation to me, I usually first check in with their (un)willingness or (in)ability to effectively delegate and empower their staff. Cause and Effect.
Distractions. So What?
You can see that I’m not too sympathetic towards distractions. They are often a signpost to greater or deeper seated ills in structures, processes, policies or behaviours.
The remedy? Awareness. Stepping back and Using the Gap to Reframe yourself – that is giving yourself some space to recognize the obvious. Or seeking or allowing someone else to help you “check it out”.
Of course the best person to do that might be your coach. And if you don’t already have one, why not join the growing number of successful leaders that make a point of finding the right one just for you?