The Attention Deficit of Management and Leadership

One of my coach colleagues recently commented on what he thought was a lack of attention to my brand, and that maybe I needed to consider how the “Comfort Break” posters aka “Toilet Posters” would affect peoples’ perception of me and my business.

Maybe he was right, but ultimately the message I have to share with my healthcare colleagues I believe is important, should they happen to hear.  The most difficult challenge in working with healthcare professionals appears to be somehow getting their attention.   Some of you may already know, I was advised not to write a book for nurses’ as they didn’t have time to read. It was suggested that I should stick what I had to say to the toilet wall. Hence, the creation of the Comfort Break poster.

What strikes me about all of this, is that people frequently complain to me that they are not being listened to. It would seem to me that the mode of delivery of our message is important but actually getting the attention of those our message is intended for could perhaps be the key to enabling them to listen. If someone is in the middle of fighting a fire, what could possibly be important enough to distract them from this heroic endeavour?

Fire fighting is a term used frequently in large organisations, along with the “burning platform” to describe reactionary day-to-day management practices. What could we learn from a real fire fighter? Importantly, they put their own well-being and that of their teams first. This maybe an alien concept for many of us committed to putting out imaginary fires, but an intention that could change the way we experience our work and life should we stop believing that they are mutually exclusive.

So, back to the poster debate. If you have something important to say, don’t get bogged down by dogma – say it anyway you can. If people don’t hear you, find another way to say it but keep saying what you would like to be heard.

What’s the worst that can happen? Someone might just tell you to bog off!  A wonderful invitation to take a moment…

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The Management of Miracles

Someone commented to me recently that they had no idea how I thought of something to write about every week in order to create a blog. They would not know where to start or what to say. It occurred to me that usually, I had no idea what I was going to write about until my laptop was positioned in front of me. It was the intention of writing that actually determined whether I was going to be able to write something or not.

What struck me about this, was the way this played out in day-to-day work and how this ability to set intention was actually key to getting things done. This was regardless of the perceived organization’s cultural and infrastructure problems that often are blamed for keeping us from achieving our goals.

I noticed recently some things that seemed important to me were not set as intentions. They were important but actually, I hadn’t set an intention to start the work and give time to these aspirations, they weren’t a priority. This I see played out in the work place, the need to prioritise the most important tasks and line them up with intention. The art of not being distracted from that intention, this is the art of being unstuck. The simplicity of this approach creates such a shift in performance at a personal and team level that the results can seem almost miraculous. The formula:

Priorities + Intention – Rhetoric = Miracle

If you refuse to believe in miracles, the translation for this is, how to get the job done regardless of the size of the task, especially when everyone thinks the goal is impossible to achieve (miracle grades being minor, moderate and major).   What would your intention be today if failure wasn’t an option?

Leadership Catch 22

In conversation recently, someone asked me how it was possible to improve the performance of their team. That certain people in particular just didn’t seem to ‘get’ what was required from them, they were frustrated that nothing seemed to be making a difference. I was instantly reminded of a Leonardo da Vinci quote:

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”

It’s a useful analogy with nurses caring for unconscious patients. The patients who are alert require less care than the patients who are semi-conscious, they require help to wake and become independent. Then there are the patients who are in a deep coma, who show no signs of waking. These patients require a lot of care and attention whilst we wait patiently for them to wake. Many do wake but a small number do not.

In essence, leadership courses are often full of awake and engaged professionals, self-selecting the personal work required for transformational leadership. What about the people who we perceive just don’t ‘get’ it?

The common approach to ‘change management’ that seems familiar to us represents an outside in strategy. Someone comes along and instructs you to do something differently, because they are in a position of power, change just happens – this is a short-term strategy. It works for a while but when they stop asking they stop getting.   Transformation is an inside out approach to how we work with people and businesses that builds effective long-term sustainable change.  Transformation is about shifting something internally, whether sub-consciously or consciously, that changes how the workforce approaches a solution. Change happens because it is intrinsically motivated. This results in a sustainable shift in how the workforce approaches their day-to-day business and their interactions with other members of the team and clients. There is ownership and responsibility. More importantly the workforce experiences a sense of accomplishment associated with achievement. This is missing when we ‘impose’ change on individuals or businesses.

The catch 22 is that transformation requires time, commitment, investment and faith in people. This is the hallmark of leadership. It requires the care and attention that we give to unconscious patients, we can’t just tell them that waking up would be in their best interests, they are just not going to hear you. What we do know is, that when people open their eyes, they really get to see what awake looks like. Life, as we know, gets to be so much better with your eyes open.

 “Common sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses”

Leonardo da Vinci