One minute they’re with you and the next minute…squirrel!! For a moment the easily distracted might make you chuckle, but when the pressure’s on, or you really need something, that inability to pay attention for more than a millisecond, can become a real problem. What do you do if your boss can’t seem to focus? What do you do if it’s you who has a hard time paying attention for a moment? Both are critical challenges in a fast-paced workplace environment and both can raise questions about a leader’s value or professionalism. But, how do you know if that’s really the issue? Examine these possible answers to the opening question of today’s Monday Moment and see if they’re happening to you or – GASP – being done by you.
It’s Not How He’s Wired
Try as one might to be organized, neat, tidy, and able to speak concisely, for some, this is simply not a comfortable style of expression. When it comes to personalities and the concept of “wiring”, we all have multiple personalities and personas we’re able to adopt, yet authentically, we all have a dominant and secondary preference. Most commonly, these two are called our authentic personality or “how we’re wired”. In the case of a leader who appears incapable of focus, part of his natural behaviors, those that require the least amount of effort, include extroverted expression, external visual stimulation by sights, sounds, colors, and emotion, and engagement. If these are what’s done naturally, engaging in people, being seen by people, and being appreciated by people would be far more motivating and enticing than focusing on a slew of details for which no path to personal benefit can be found. It’s not a matter of intent, but a matter of motivated interest. Your boss may not be able to focus because it isn’t fun, easy, or seen as an effort worth making based on the perceived benefit from doing it. If this is you, change the focal point from a need to focus on details to a need to gain the interest, respect, or engagement of the person who brought you the details. If this is your boss, chunk the details into smaller, squirrel sized morsels and make it entertaining to look at them.
There are Far too Many Choices
We humans have a very predictable pattern to making choices, or at least that is thought to be the case. In sales, the belief is when faced with more than three choices, a prospect’s answer will be no. In time management, the correlating belief is when faced with more than three priority items, the answer will be to do nothing. The very personality seen to lack focus is the same one subject to easily being distracted. Give them too many choices and they’ll move on to something on which it is easier to make a quick decision. Perhaps your boss has too many choices before him and he is overwhelmed and thus, unable to focus on what you’re asking or doing. Verbally place blinders on the situation. Make it known how important your item is and you’ll have focus. Make it clear how little time and effort this decision will take and you’ll have a good chance at getting his attention. If you are the one with too many choices and too much going on, take a breath and run a tournament, much like you see in sports, to determine the next winning action items that gets your attention.
While in some ways, humans, leaders, and team members are quite predictable, it doesn’t make the behavior that is radically different from your own any less annoying. Whether you find your boss is not able to focus or seems weak or has explosive reactions or overanalyzes, the key to a healthy boss and employee relationship is learning more about your boss’s limitations and learning to live within them. Accept what he or she seems to do under stress or in any situation and then think through the way in which you’ll work with or around it. Spend less time being frustrated and accept that people have fascinating differences. It’s a rare occasion when a team member and boss do things, say things, and think things just like each other. Most would also say that rare occurrence takes away from creativity, innovation and real synergistic partnership. If your boss doesn’t focus on your details, learn to optimize her creative ideas and you handle the details. If your boss doesn’t focus on you, find a way to become more engaging. If you’re boss doesn’t focus on the job, step up and demonstrate leadership. The key is to become a better leader, even if you feel it needs to happen in spite of your boss’s habit patterns or behavior.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121. To learn more about the CORE Profile® or to complete the abbreviated, free, CORE Snapshot™, follow this link.