People are setting new goals or resolutions for the year, and it’s energizing to think about the possibilities and opportunities. However, talking about the distractions that can seriously derail our goals or priorities is not very popular.
One leader I was coaching told me he had four top priorities for the new year. He tried to dodge my question when I asked if any of those had been on last year’s list or the year before. Eventually, he divulged that he and his team had gotten distracted doing other projects and never worked on those areas of the operation. Surprisingly, he felt the potential impact on results could be significant but continued to get sidetracked anyway.
Getting distracted is common, but it’s risky. Distractions can prevent us from giving full attention to what could produce incredible outcomes.
Here are five distractions to avoid.
- Busyness. Some busyness is probably self-imposed, taking on too much because of ambitions or anxiety. It’s wise to schedule a little time each week to work on what can return the best results in the future. Avoid using the cliche, “I’m too busy,” as an excuse to kick critical priorities to the sidelines. Prevent busyness from thwarting your most important work.
- Feedback. Viewing employees who give positive feedback as team players but viewing those with opposing views as counterproductive is detrimental to your team. I heard a business owner say, “Negative views are a distraction to the rest of us so keep it to yourself.” The distraction comes when a leader depends on positive feedback and omits opinions they don’t like.
The belief that the team is better off when everyone is always positive is naive. Decades of evidence from group decision-making studies show that a work atmosphere where agreement and disagreement are both welcomed produces better decisions and results than when people feel pressured to side with management insincerely. It would be best to create an environment where the very best feedback, positive or negative, can potentially influence your plans.
- Slogans or programs. Management errs when they turn an excellent initiative, such as improving organizational culture or customer experience, into a slogan or program of the year. One client attempted to use prizes, themed banners, coffee mugs and T-shirts to excite employees about a culture change, but it didn’t produce the desired impact because serious change endeavors require planning, hard work and sufficient time – not promotions. Besides, when the initial hype wears off from such programs, it can cause employees to take future changes less seriously. It’s essentially a waste of resources that could focus on producing real change.
- Familiarity. Familiarity makes things too comfy, making it easier to avoid what we don’t understand or aren’t comfortable doing. A CEO client of mine had avoided for years committing the resources to strengthen a weak operational area in the company because he was uncomfortable and didn’t understand it. When the consequences of not making the improvements grew, he finally acted, but it cost his company untold lost opportunities. Seek outside expert help or assign the unfamiliar tasks to a team and ask for their recommendations after studying the need.
- Shaping opinions. I’m not impressed with a leader who must prove they are the most intelligent person in the room. You can hear it in their tone and lack of asking questions to understand others’ views truly. One CEO I coached liked to dominate and subtly shape the conversation back around to his preferences or ideas, “But in my opinion,” “My feeling is,” and “I’ve found the best way to do this.” He was so motivated to prove his way was the right course of action that few people on his leadership team spoke up freely. His distraction to influence others to his views limited what his team would offer.
Distractions are inevitable. Notice the distractions that tend to sidetrack your progress, manage them and make this your best year ever.
Consultant, professional speaker and author Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and MarkHolmesGroup.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.