Are You Leading While Distracted?

| | General Leadership
Are You Leading While Distracted?

The perils of driving while distracted are well known. Yet, consider there are also perils to leading while distracted. While those perils do not typically involve loss of life or limb, leading while distracted is dangerous to morale, progress, and ultimately your success.

Consider these 5 signs of leading while distracted.

Do you or did you ever…

1. Engage halfheartedly in a conversation you have no bandwidth for or interest in at the moment?

2. Listen to the conversation in your head instead of what the other person is saying, including that little voice that keeps repeating, “I hope they will be done soon”?

3. Get on a conference call and answer e-mails or engage in social media thinking that, since people can’t see you, they won’t know and it doesn’t really matter anyway?

4. Schedule a meeting and show up unprepared, or fail to prepare for someone else’s meeting and show up anyway? (NOTE: A really good reason is not a “free pass”)

5. Allow a conversation to be interrupted by an electronic device?

There is no “good” excuse for not giving someone your full attention!

We can justify these and other distracted behaviors with “everyone else does it” or “there just aren’t enough hours in a day” or “I’m trying my best.” Unfortunately, those reasons may get us off the hook in our own minds, but there is still a cost to the person/people on the other end.

The truth is that we have all done something like the things on this list. You can probably even think of things to add to the list. The point is not that we should feel bad about it. We can, however, be more awake, so we can be 100% responsible for the impact our actions have on others.

If you are thinking “but I’m not the leader” — think again. Any time people are counting on you is an opportunity to lead, even if it is simply by example. Furthermore, the extent to which you allow others to get away with these behaviors harms both your relationship with them and with yourself.

One way to assess the effectiveness of your leadership is by the impact you have on their sense of being valued. To that end, it is important to ask yourself:

Is the message you are sending through your actions or inaction the one you really want to send?’

… Does the way you interact leave people feeling unimportant or that they don’t matter, at least more than whatever or whoever may be taking your attention away?

… Or does the way you interact let them know you value them and what they have to say?

… Do you hold others accountable for giving you the respect of their full attention?

Leading while distracted seems to be an epidemic these days. Consider that your behavior, however, can be a potent antidote with an exponential impact on your leadership effectiveness.

TRY THIS! Take on a 21-day challenge to be fully present with those those you lead (and perhaps even with those you love). You won’t be perfect at it, but with a bit of practice it will absolutely make a difference for you and for others. If you accept this challenge please leave a comment, bookmark this page, and come back and share about your experience.




Enter A Comment

Darin Rowell   |   12 July 2017   |   Reply

Susan – Great piece! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately – both because of client needs and my own faults. One question that would suggest adding to your list is “What might our inability to focus be signaling?” I am finding that its often signaling resistance to address key issues and/or opportunities to say no to projects, etc.

Susan Mazza   |   12 July 2017   |   Reply

Thanks Darin, that’s a great question and excellent insight!

camille   |   12 July 2017   |   Reply

Great blog. I tweeted it! Nice work, Susan.

Susan Mazza   |   12 July 2017   |   Reply

Thanks Camille!

Jen Henderson   |   13 July 2017   |   Reply

21 day challenge, starts now.

Susan Mazza   |   13 July 2017   |   Reply

Awesome Jen! Do come back and share about your experience and insights.

Mindy McCorkle   |   24 July 2017   |   Reply

Wow, Susan, you called me out! (And many others, I suspect!) We’re all so distracted these days, and leaders especially have to be aware of how those distractions impact their ability to lead. thanks for the call-out!

Susan Mazza   |   24 July 2017   |   Reply

I called myself out, too 🙂 I’ve found sharing this with my family was a sure fire way to invite them to hold me accountable…and they are merciless!

Marie Clarke   |   17 November 2017   |   Reply

I agree you called me out as I do this so need to focus on a way to rectify this not so nice way to show up to meetings

Susan Mazza   |   17 November 2017   |   Reply

The first step in making changes for the better is “owning” where you are now. Thanks for “owning” leading while distracted here. And remember to go for progress, not perfection on this front!