Personal Development

3 Actions That Overcome The Distractions

DISTRACTIONS.  

A daily challenge that business leaders must be overcome.  The reality is we have already lost precious time today to distractions that have nothing to do with our priorities. 

If this article is distracting you right now, bookmark it and come back later for the THREE ACTIONS that effective leaders use daily in order to stay focused.  If you have time right now, keep reading.

I asked a group of leaders to create a list of the most common distractions in their lives. Here's the list they agreed upon:

  • Email  -  up to 25% of the workday is managing email.
  • Meetings - On average, business leaders spend 18 hours a week in meetings.
  • Visitors (Scheduled and Uninvited)
  • Telephone Calls
  • Internal Politics

No surprise, right?  Those are the same ones we juggle in our businesses.  

It also shouldn't surprise us that there is price we pay as a result of the distractions.  The price is measured in dollars.  We like to avoid the monetary reality by hiding it behind other explanations - lost productivity, emotional drain, decline in morale, etc...  But there is still a real cost.  Researchers claim that US companies suffer a loss of over $500 Billion annually due to lost productivity.  Now, wait just a moment!  I know, it's easy to gloss over that number because it is so massive; and there is no way it can apply to us.  But it does.

(Please, don't waste your time calculating the financial loss you suffer on a daily basis.  Instead, start practicing self-discipline and graciously lean into your priorities.) 

Here is the big surprise to most leaders.  The major distractions that consume our time are not the ones listed above; but the ones that subtly influence our ability to stay focused mentally.  Here is a short list:

  • Checking emails/text messages during a meeting or multiple times an hour while working at your desk.
  • Scanning documents unrelated to the conversation your having on the phone.
  • Taking visual inventory of who is in the room while someone is speaking to you.
  • A cluttered desk or office.  (That pile of paper is taunting your brain).
  • Scrolling through social media to see how many "likes" or followers you have, all while your colleagues OR family are talking to you.

None of us want to admit that we do these.  But we do.  It's easy to get distracted.

Cognitive control is the discipline that separates excellent leaders from average leaders.  When we stay focused on the current priority until it is completed, we create greater value.  Staying focused on the agenda during a meeting, we multiply the investment of those represented in the room.  Staying focused on the conversation with the one speaking to us, eliminates the need for another meeting later to clarify something we missed and it validates the personal worth of that person.

Pexels-photo-mediumLet's Get Focused!   Here are the THREE ACTIONS I promised to give you.  They come from a statement that I use whenever I catch myself drifting off priority.  I say out loud: 

 

"If it distracts - delete it, delay it or delegate it!"

 

Delete It -    A good one for electronic or visual distractions.  Turn off the notifications.  Eliminate unnecessary apps from our phones. Don't read the unessential emails and unsubscribe from resources we didn't sign up for or haven't read in months!

Delay It - We will think of things that need to be done (i.e., a call to be made, a document to sign, an idea to brainstorm, etc).  Schedule these for later.  Put these on the calendar or make a list for review.

Delegate It -  It might need to be done, but it might not be our task to do.  Yes, we are still responsible for the accountability and it's completion; but there are people around us that are waiting to do their jobs! Let them.

 

Here's the Reality Check:  "Divided attention will not produce multiplied success!"

 

Let me know how you overcome the distractions.

- Steven Iwersen, CSP

 


10 Things Successful People Know About the Road to Success

Many people think that the road to success is a paved Super Highway.  In reality, it is an off road experience!  Here are the 10 Things Successful People Know About the Road To Success:

 

  • You won't find a well marked exit ramp.  You have to create your own.
  • You won't find signs that point the way.  Usually you discover those when you look back on your journey.
  • You won't be competing for a space in the flow of traffic, because there are no traffic jams where you are going.
  • You won’t typically run into detours predetermined by others.  Obstacles may restrict your progress, but that’s to be expected.  You will reroute and navigate through unfamiliar places.
  • There won’t be any convenient rest areas.  But, it will be important to take advantage of those great “view points” along the way and appreciate the new perspectives you’ve gained.  So make sure to take a break and recharge.
  • You won’t be restricted by a speed limit.  Go as fast as you like.  Just keep in mind that most successful people will tell you that the journey takes time.  
  • You won’t find a “carpool” lane.  However, significant success comes quicker when you include others that share the vision for a more desirable future.
  • It is acceptable to ask for directions.  But make sure you ask people who know what it’s like to have mud on their shoes.
  • You won’t find a bridge where there is deep water.  Don’t wait for the government to provide one, build your own.
  • You won’t find a well lit tunnel when you come to the mountains that stand between you and the horizon.  Just put yourself in gear and start climbing!

 

Now here comes the reality check: IMAG1324

If you can reach your sales goals in the next 30 days by playing it safe, you’re selling yourself short of your potential!

If your goal is to create a “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Customer Experience and to gain a long term relationship for your business, you have to do what your competition isn’t dreaming of or willing to do.

If you want to get referrals (word of mouth marketing) from super satisfied customers, you have to go the extra mile for them and then ask for the referral.

It will be uncomfortable and bumpy at times.  Do what you already know you need to do, but kept putting it off because your comfortable or concerned about what others might think.

If you want to reach your goals - you have to declare what they are, develop an adventurous spirit and break away from the crowd! 

You can make 2016 the best year ever!  Make the decisions about where you want to go and who you want to be, take ahold of the wheel and get off the highway. 


When You Feel Offended - Get Offensive!

Have you ever noticed how quickly a conversation can get uncomfortable when someone says something that is rude, insensitive or simply contrary?  A cold hush comes over the room or a heated rush to battle makes innocent bystanders want to escape.  

What fascinates me is how the offended can so quickly get defensive.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not immune to this scenario.  I don't like it when someone takes a shot at me and I'm inclined to go into a "let's settle this right here and now" mode.  Which isn't always the best approach.  And that's what has me thinking today - "What is really going on in those awkward moments and what would be a better approach?"

The way I see it, these moments are similar to what happens in most sports.  There is offense and defense.  Each has a specific purpose and strategy.  The difference however, is that we don't approach conflict with purpose and strategy - we just react or over-react.  Let me explain:

When a team goes on offense - the goal is to make a point.  The same is true in life.  When we are "offended" it is typically because someone made a point that we don't like.  Whatever their intentions, we are unhappy.  

So we get defensive and try to protect our rights, dignity and pride.  We want to naturally "even the score"!  But defense is not about making points, it's about protecting our turf and preventing others from making any more points.

BasketballThink about that for a moment.  What do we do in a sporting event when the opposing team makes a point? Do we stay in a defense posture?  No!  We shift quickly into an offense strategy and seek to make our own points.  If we play only in a defensive mode, we'd never have control or opportunity to score.  A basketball team in defense is focused on preventing a score and getting the ball back.  If they succeed in that, they pivot their strategy immediately to offense.  Staying in defense at all times would be a guaranteed loss.  They would always be running backwards and being pressured by the competitor.  Might as well just sit on the bench and let the other team demonstrate their slam-dunk skills.

That's what I see happen all the time in corporate environments.  People get offended by a point made by another and in turn they immediately try to defend themselves.  Usually by attempting to discredit the other person or by arguing that the opposing view is wrong.  That is not an effective strategy.

When you feel offended - get offensive!  

Don't attack the person or their perspective.  Instead, use this offensive strategy:

1) Shift your thinking.  Give thought to how you can best communicate your ideas and make your next point.

2) Stay focused on the facts.   Being factual, not emotional is the best game plan.

3) Stand your ground.  If there has been a foul or an attack, don't retaliate.  I believe that if you stay professional, others will come to your defense and stand up for your integrity.  

4) State your position and make your point.  Be brief and tactful.

5) Step away.  Sometimes after the point has been expressed people need time to think. In other situations, if the "offender" is simply being a bully or trying to instigate a fight - it's time to walk way.  

Just one more thought.  Don't keep score.  It's much more rewarding to work with others for a desired team outcome, then it is to be constant competitors.

- Steven Iwersen


Speak Less, Listen More - The Art of Persuasion


Balancing the demanding schedule of a leader is tough enough:

  • Client Meetings IMG_2416
  • Strategic Planning
  • Emails & Phone Conferences
  • Staff Agendas
  • Budget Considerations
  • Production / Service Issues
  • Communication

Communication.  That's the big one!  The one skill that weaves its way through every other responsibility.  And the leader has the extra challenge of keeping the balance between speaking and listening.  The speaking part comes easily for most leaders.  Especially when you reach a point of confidence in your mission and decisions.  The hard part for most leaders is the listening side of communication.  And yet, that is the skill that makes the biggest difference in your influence.

John Baldoni, chair of leadership development at N2Growth, contributes an important perspective on this in the SmartBLog on Leadership.  He points out an interesting example from the show “Ray Donovan”and how the title character played by actor Liev Schreiber demonstrates the importance of being a quiet leader.  "A quiet leader is one who values his own strengths but also has the ability to see the world as others do for one simple reason....Knowing how another thinks is essential to persuasion."

The problem is - we've never been taught HOW to listen and we don't have enough TIME to listen.  It is something that we have to learn "on the job" and master while attempting to lead others to a desired outcome. But, what if you had a system - a formula that could help you solve that problem? 

Here are 5 Key Tips / Filters that I coach leaders to use as a system for improving their ability to listen:  (From the LEADERS LISTEN article.)

RESPECT Respect the Other Person.   You give attention to those you respect.

RETREAT Retreat from the Distractions.  Minimize distractions to build positive actions!

REMOVE Remove Obstacles. Use the "Time Delay Advantage" to hear the real message.

RESTATE Restate for Understanding. Verify what you believe you heard.

RESPOND Respond for Action. Listen with the intent to produce solutions.

You can have the complete "Leaders Listen" report and strategy.  I'm giving it complimentary to every person who wants to be a more persuasive leader. Click here for the LEADERS LISTEN strategy.

In addition to the report, a 5 part video series has been posted to YouTube.  Each 4 to 5 minute segment offers practical ideas that will help you implement the strategy.  A self-paced study guide is available to help you.

Here is the first of that series.  Grab a cup of coffee and let's have a short visit.  

~ Steven

 

 


How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 4)

In this brief series on how to manage a "not my job" attitude, we've discovered that business leaders use this concept in four very practical ways in order to be sustainably successful.  (Check out the first three methods:  Think Like A CEO,  Inventory Workload & Priorities,  Dominate & Delegate.)  

The fourth method is the one practice that truly separates this leaders from all the rest.

Do What Others Are Not Willing To Do.  

I'm not referring to the tasks, duties that you've delegated.  I'm talking about a forward thinking, proactive behavior that focuses your attention on finding the extra things that create added value to your employees, customers and the company.  These are the things that are not in your job description, but will make a difference for those you serve.  When you have freed up your time by letting go of the things that you shouldn’t do, you will have discretionary time to focus on creation instead of reaction.

My friend, Stephen Shapiro is on a mission to work only one hour a day.  He wrote in his article for American Express Open Forum:

“If you spent only 20 percent of your time extracting 80 percent of the revenue from your existing business model, this gives you 80 percent of your time to do something different.”

What could you do that no one else is willing to do in that 80% of extra time?  All it takes is one meaningful action or one excellent idea to separate you from the crowd.  Your customers will be blown away by the results you provide.  Your employees will be excited to be part of a forward moving agenda.  You will have a new sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because you will no longer be working a job, you will be leading the way.

Go ahead, act like it's "not my job" by practicing these four methods for the next 30 days.  You're going to start getting better results.   

I'm looking forward to your comments about the experience.

--  Steven

 

 


How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 3)

Business Leaders have an attitude and a way of behaving that gets results.  Many of them are successful because they are very clear on what not to do.  They can confidently say, "That's not my job."  In previous blogs I introduced to you the first two methods that can help you do the same.  First, Think Like a CEO.  Secondly, Inventory Your Workload, Prioritize Your Worth.  Let's look briefly now at the third method that business leaders practice.

Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace

    Dominate your space!  Make a commitment to be the absolute best in your position.  Calendar your time around your highest priorities.  Don't waste your precious time and talents on things that are best managed by others.  Give your utmost efforts to those things you know will bring the greatest return on your investment.  I ask myself everyday, "Is this a $5 Million activity or a $500 distraction?"  Yes that may seem like an exaggeration, but the extremes help to keep the focus on what my work really means.

    Delegate with Grace.  Everything else that is on your list is your responsibility.  But, it could be accomplished by people who are smarter, better skilled, or more inclined to the task than you.  Let them do it and report to you the progress and outcomes.  The sooner you appreciate the value and worth that others contribute to the goals, the sooner you will generate a momentum that achieves those goals.

The most value that you gain from doing this is the time to practice the fourth method: "Doing What No One Else Will Do."   We'll cover that in the next post.

TIME FOR PERSONAL ACTION -  What distractions are keeping you from your best actions?   What should you be delegating to others?

Let me know what comes to your mind as you answer those two questions.

Thanks,

-- Steven

 


How To Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 2)

Business leaders that practice a "not my job" attitude start by focusing their thoughts on the most important issues.  The best way to get that focus is to "Think Like A CEO or Busines Owner."  (Check out part one of this series right here -  GO!)  The second method is to:

Inventory Your Workload and Prioritize Your Worth

Here is a practical exercise to help you accomplish this.  Sit down and write out every task, objective, responsibility, expectations of yourself, expectations others have of you, projects, meetings, etc....  You have to have a complete inventory of what you do, should do and what you wish you could do. 

Once you have that completed, set it aside for a couple days. 

Then schedule 20 minutes with yourself (or if you have an assistant include them) and ruthlessly prioritize that list.  Don't over think this exercise.  Put a check mark next to the items that are "strictly your responsibility" or fit solidly within your strengths.  Resist the urge to check off every item.  Leave it alone if it can be done by another person or even automated.  

Create a new list of only those things you checked as priorities. 

Circle 3 to 5 items that you know are your best investment of mental and emotional energy.  These have to be proactive activities that create momentum toward the desired results.  Get focused on your most valued contribution.

Getting your list down to the absolute essentials will help you get up to speed on your greatest worth.

Consider these two questions:  What do you need to view differently if you are going to think like a CEO?  What are the essentials in your workload and expectations?  

If you're getting tired of fighting fires and always having to be in a reactionary posture - get clear on your answers to the questions above.

 

--  Steven

PS - Stay tuned for third method -  Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace.

 


How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 1)


The words "It's not my job" usually causes a leader or manager to hang their head in disgust.  But we've been exploring the idea that possibly the phrase could be a positive launching point to move people to a greater sense of purpose and to be more engaged.

What would the employees in a large organization think if they heard their leaders and managers use the same term?  How could the concept of "not my job" actually help managers and executives be more productive?  Many successful leaders in business practice some form of this attitude.  Here are four methods that can help you manage your own "not my job" attitude and become more successful:

  1. Think like a CEO or Business Owner
  2. Inventory Your Workload, Prioritize Your Worth
  3. Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace
  4. Do What Others Are Not Willing To Do

Get ready for a big shift in your energy, focus and creativity.  Let's look at the first method:

Think Like a CEO or Business Owner.

Your title does not matter. You may be the VP of ________, the Manager of ________, or the Shift Supervisor.  Your role is not defined so much by the title, but by the value you contribute to the company and the results that are required.  People who look beyond the job expectations or the to-do list, and think of themselves as the CEO / Owner of their part of the company are the people who move the organization forward.  What does a CEO or Owner think about? 

Responsibility to stake holders, customers, and employees

Accountability to produce the right results.

Stability - financial, personnel, culture.

Productivity - their own and the company as a whole.

Development - a focus on growth.  What am I doing to equip leaders in my organization to make better decisions and to be big-play makers?  What are we doing to “create” as opposed to simply sustain?

Visionary - has a deeply personal view of what can be, not just what has been.

This is your job - to think proactively and to act accordingly.  Once you know what should be on your mind, then you can move on to the hard work of working only on your priorities.

--  Steven

PS - What do you think about that list?  What else should be on that list?  

 


No More Boring Presentations: 3 Quick Tips to Get You Focused


A man that I hold in high regard, because of his insights on leadership, gave a presentation at an event I attended.  My expectations were high, the experience was disappointedly low.

I discovered that he is a comma communicator. This prolific author and influencer seemed to be incapable of getting to the point.  The presentation was plagued by incomplete thoughts and detours of impulsiveness.  The repetition of ideas sounded like he was circling around the airport, but couldn’t find the runway to land.  

“Maybe it’s just me today and I’m having a hard time listening,” I thought.  “Or, he is just having a bad day.”

I ordered the transcript of the program, thinking that if I could read his thoughts I’d have a better understanding.  It did help my understanding.  It also revealed that he is without question a comma communicator.  To be fair, I downloaded two more scripts of different presentations and sadly found the same problem.  

What is a comma communicator?  A person who speaks in incomplete, rambling sentences often punctuated by multiple commas. 

Here is an example from the transcript: 

“Well here is a point that I think makes all the difference, and if you think about it carefully, and I’ve been thinking about how this applies to a lot of different areas in my life and our business, because the impact can be a big deal if we don’t consider how important this is, especially if we ignore the current trends that we are facing during the next few months, and that is putting this issue at the top of our agenda.”

What was the point? 

When you and I communicate it is imperative that we get to the point.  Our listeners want to know what we think.  They will get lost and frustrated if we fail to communicate with clarity.

Three specific ideas on how to avoid the trap of a comma induced coma:

  • Use the period.  Communicate your point in one concise sentence.  Brevity can improve your credibility.  
  • Edit your illustration/opinion.  Support your ideas with a clear example or a confident opinion.  The art of editing is removing what is unnecessary or repetitive.  Supporting the point clearly and quickly will help people to stay focused on your ideas.
  • Practice writing daily.  Take 10 minutes every day to write a specific thought out into one sentence.  The fewer the words the better.  The best presentations that I have heard were presented by people who were excellent writers.  Their spoken words were influenced by their understanding of sentence structure and language.  A great way to improve your presentation skills is to take a writing class.  

I do think that the leader I mentioned has some great ideas.  I’ll just wait for the book.

-- Steven Iwersen

 


Six Key Words That Improve A Leaders Influence

IMG_0638The words you use influence the quality of your leadership.  Every single day we are engaged in an exchange of vocabulary.  Somehow the expressions we use forward our cause and produce favorable results.  The words that we hear are just as important, giving us a glimpse into others intentions and understanding.

Words are vital to a leader.  Strong, visionary, disruptive, encouraging, cautionary, and even the unspoken.  The words help us to lead. 

I want to suggest some words that you might not speak aloud, but should keep in mind as you relfect on your responsibility as a leader and the example that you set.  These are words that will enhance your influence and effectiveness.

Activity - a state of action.  A leader is action oriented.

Congruity - consistent and suitable to the priority. A leader is intentional in their actions.

Industry - steady attention to business. A leader is aware of the opportunities and dangers.

Alacrity  - promptness in response, cheerful readiness or prompt, brisk. A leader is responsive.

Priority - most important consideration.  A leader keeps focused on what matters most.

Futurity - future state or time (a future event). A leader thinks ahead.

Does your day to day activity reflect these key words?  Would the people you lead be able to claim that you are a person of these words?

What words would you add to the list that could make for better leadership?