This is the story of a musician, lost in New York city, who asks a passer-by:
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
To which the passer-by answers:
“Practice, practice, practice.”
Investing time to learn and practice is something anyone can do. But do you focus 100% of your attention on it?
It’s not always easy to structure the madness and focus better on your leadership journey. Being unclear on your direction of travel, or simply having a lack of focus, can really slow down your progress. Not to mention the devastating impact on your motivation (as you feel like you’re never getting anywhere).
But what if you could get to know all these distractions? What if you could clear your mind and stop them disrupting your consistency?
Let’s see how you can give up toxic distractions that undermine your leadership.
Tunnel vision v. strategy
No one enjoys having a lack of direction. How often do you get trapped in the granularity of the day-to-day, dealing with tasks as they come up and losing sight of the big picture?
What should you do? Clear your mind for strategy.
Do you have a direction of travel for the long term? Can you link each and every initiative to your main goals?
Tunnel vision belongs to a fixed mind. A great leader is able to define a strategy, and stick to it.
Jack of all trades v. discipline
There’s a saying: “jack of all trades, master of none”. As work becomes more complex, leaders need to increase their ability to deal with all sorts of unexpected situations. It’s tempting to try to become great at everything, but truth is, you muscle your way to success by picking your battles.
What should you do? Improve your self-discipline. Do you take on one thing after another? Can you focus on one or two areas only, until you reach a decent level of expertise? Are you aware of your limitations (another form of self-discipline) and delegate to compensate?
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Sweating the small stuff v. delegation
Been in the hands of a micro-manager before? Isn’t it frustrating and counter-productive? Worse, it damages confidence. A leader is the gatekeeper of a strong vision, and being lost in the details can disconnect you from your wider intention in no time.
What should you do? Take a deep breath and delegate safely. When work is fast-paced and complex, you need to trust your team. Remember that collaboration is the answer to blind spots in decision-making!
Pay attention to the levels of delegation you need to know to lead well. Start with simple tasks, where the impact of “failure” is limited. And use checkpoints to restore your confidence.
Criticism v. constructive feedback
Feedback is the most difficult area of leadership. It needs to be clear, constructive, and honest. And you may still face a negative response if your team members feel you’re criticising instead of giving them cues to move forward.
What should you do? Clear your mind for positive thoughts. When something doesn’t go as planned, can you reframe and promote positivity in the workplace? For instance, can you avoid “fix this” and replace with “what are your top 3 solutions for this problem”?
All great leaders are one thing in common: their language is overly positive.
Ego v. humility
Ivory tower syndrome is a real thing. As soon as you climb up the ladder, with more responsibilities (and memories of how hard it was to get there), it’s tempting to display feelings of superiority.
What should you do? Clear your mind and develop modest leadership. For instance, Rasmus Hougaard and Jaqueline Carter advocate for 3 mental qualities to be a strong leader: Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion.
Behind each leader, there’s a team working hard and dealing with the small stuff. Modest leadership increases team success. Make it a priority to recognise their hard work, and see your success as a byproduct of their good work.
Leadership starts with you. It’s easy to get distracted when the responsibilities of the job get heavy, the team become demanding, and the complexity of the job increases.
The first step in learning to manage distractions is to spot them as they appear. With enough space to respond with a meaningful action, you can focus your mind in a positive way to lead.
The second part of the series will cover the toxic distractions that directly impact your behaviour, and what to do to reclaim a positive attitude. See you soon!
What do you find distracting as a leader? Share with us in the comments!