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Deliberate Leadership in a Distracted World Ten ways to manage daily distractions Although, I have been fortunate to discover many leadership truths over the last 25 years, one truth continues to have the most far reaching benefit in my life. To be sure, there are numerous leadership lessons that have served me well, but all of them combined don’t equal the cumulative power of believing that there is no off switch on leadership. The truth is that every one of us can demonstrate leadership in every role we play, not just at work but everywhere, every day. While most leaders would be quick to acknowledge the opportunity this truth presents, most would also agree that it’s a challenge to seize the opportunity at every juncture. Despite the fact that real leadership is so desperately needed in all corners of our society today, the multitude of distractions we face often prevent us from not only seeing the opportunity but seizing it too. The National Science Foundation and other prestigious research organizations have confirmed that on average, our brains produce anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day. Add to this the accelerating drive for enhanced productivity and the dizzying array of technology available to us and it’s no wonder that we are distracted at a near epic level. The truth is that we live in an increasingly distracted world where it is difficult to focus on any one thought for more than a few seconds before new distractions arise. While the implications of this truth are many, the most significant may very well be its impact on our capacity to seize the leadership opportunity with clarity and consistency. Absent a deliberate, focused effort to manage our daily distractions, we simply cannot expect to be highly effective leaders in any of our roles. Like the word leadership, the word deliberate means different things to different people. At a foundational level, deliberate is the absence of being impulsive or hurried. In many ways, it is the opposite of distracted in that it allows us to be far more purposeful in whatever action we take. Being purposeful not only affords us a better range of decision making possibilities but also allows us to lead more often and in more places. Several years ago, I had the realization that like most people I knew, my life was a series of one distraction after another from the moment I awoke each day. Knowing that this had the potential to prevent me from spending most of my waking hours on the leadership path, I decided that I had to manage it in a more proactive way. What followed was a combination of Divine intervention and more than likely, the wisdom of a few dear friends. For as long as I can remember, I had started my day with a few minutes of quite time and self-reflection. Most of which was focused on building my “to do” list for the day. I still invest the time to do my daily “to do” list but my morning routine has taken on a far more deliberate dimension. Every morning of every day, I devote at least 20 minutes to what I call my compass calibration time. In this quiet space, I reflect on three questions. The first is what’s important to me today? This question allows me to reconnect to my moral compass and associated values. It reminds me of who I am and what I stand for. The second question is why are these things important to me? Beyond allowing me to connect more deeply to my core values, this question allows me to connect to my true purpose. Finally, I explore the third question which is, how do I need to show-up in all of my roles today? This question not only allows me to have far more clarity around my behavior but in doing so fosters leadership congruence across every role I play that day. Is it easy and convenient to do this every day? Of course not! I find myself struggling with it at times and occasionally, am so distracted that I have a hard time focusing on all three questions. In fact, some days it takes me the full 20 minutes just to quiet my mind. What follows, however, is far more clarity and the capacity to manage my daily distractions in a deliberate way. 10 More Things You Can Do Now: 1. Invest the time to assess the most common distractions in your day and consider ways to limit or minimize your exposure to these distractions. 2. Calibrate your compass every morning through deliberate meditation, prayer or self-reflection. 3. Make an effort to slow down, shut off the “auto pilot” more frequently. 4. Initiate a conversation with your team to assess their most common distractions and identify actions that you can take to remove or limit their daily distractions. 5. Focus on your short-term goals. Consider why you want to achieve these goals and redirect your attention and energy to getting back on track. 6. Remember your purpose and what truly matters to reduce the distractions and re-energize your focus and motivation. 7. Take short breaks to clear your mind. Even 5 minutes away from the distraction can help you to refocus and prioritize. 8. Utilize a daily affirmation or mantra to help stay grounded. 9. Resist the urge to allow distractions to put you in the panic mode. 10. Remember, you have some control over what distracts you. When you re-focus your attention to what is in your control and re-adjust your focus on your goals, the distractions diminish. LE By David A. O’Brien David O’Brien, is President of WorkChoice Solutions, a trusted provider of organizational effectiveness consulting services that was founded in 2000. Call David directly @ 860.242.1070. Visit www.workchoicesolutions.com 17 leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014


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