Apr 2015 at 11:48

Where are you focusing your time and attention?

Okay, I’m always banging on about ‘getting rid of the gadgets and distractions’ (and I love the fact that we have no mobile phone reception in my office) but here’s Harvard Business Review on why leaders need to focus their attention on managing their emotions in order to deliver a high quality strategic performance.

We are too app addicted (others might say, too ‘appy!’) and with so many of the time saving, labour saving gadgets, texts, tweets, Instagram’s and interruptions from the continuous brrrr of the mobile increasingly high jack our emotional peace and calm, destroying our productivity. The art of effective listening, truly listening to what your people want to share with you, is nigh on extinct in some companies.

Last year I observed a manager ‘going through the motions’ of an appraisal with a key member of his team. In the 90 minutes  that they spent together he answered three calls, responded to one physical interruption (another manager popped his head around the door to ask a question) checked his emails twice (when he thought I wasn’t looking) and staged, in the words of Ed Batista, ‘a theatrical function’. He was present in the room for an important performance discussion, but he wasn’t truly ‘present in the room’.

How did the member of his team who was being appraised feel?

I asked him.

“Oh it’s usually worse than this. You just get used to it. I hate having appraisals and he hates doing them so the feeling’s mutual. It’s just a waste of time really.”


What a waste of an opportunity! Six months later we had a very different conversation when the same manager booked a quiet space, left his gadgets in another room and worked very hard at listening to the employee, using pinpoint open questions to draw ideas out from the individual and giving detailed feedback on his performance. Both manager and employee were in a very different place at the end of the session with a truly engaging conversation taking place during the delivery of a disciplined appraisal without the usual distractions. Both agreed that creating the right emotional space had a positive impact on both the quality of communication and their relationship. Instead of multi-tasking badly, they were focusing on doing one thing at a time -  Really well!

Want to find out more about staying focused and managing your time effectively? Read the whole Harvard Business Review article here.

Oh, and switch your phone off whilst you do!


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