We are swamped with undesired information on a daily basis. We unwittingly get on e-mail lists that bury us in offers of low interest rate loans and mortgages, Canadian pharmaceuticals and irrelevant consumer products. Somehow, despite the no-call list, we still get numerous calls from “charities” and others. Cold callers reach out for investment managers, insurance companies, alternative electrical service providers and those trying to get us to switch our ISP. And those are just the obvious spammers.
We constantly get spammed at work. Think about how that egalitarian “open door” policy works. It allows anyone to stick their head in and interrupt you at just about any time. If you decided to create some data around the subject, you could keep track of the number of interruptions per day or even per hour, and of each, ask the simple question “Was dealing with that more important than what I was doing when I was interrupted?” You just might discover that your co-workers are spamming you most of the time- and you are signing up for it.
In conjunction with the subject of spam, think about how it can cause you to become distracted or switch tasks. Then think about the number of times you take phone calls while working on something important; the number of times you stop to check e-mail, texts, etc. Much of the data you get is spam cloaked as something else. We are spamming ourselves! And it is constantly distracting
There is a lot of noise out there. Multiple voices are trying to get your attention. Out of all of them, producing a huge amount of static in your life, it is getting tougher and tougher to find the true signal, the information you really need to function effectively.
Everyone is always talking about widening bandwidth, being able to handle more tasks faster. Maybe we should be thinking about handling fewer tasks better and more efficiently. We are already a distracted society. Look around you as you drive. Other drivers are on the phone, texting or e-mailing, finding music, putting on makeup or eating. Research clearly shows that if you do two things at once, both suffer. That means your driving does suffer! That means that e-mailing while on the telephone creates a greater risk that you will say or write something you did not intend or something that can be misinterpreted.
Spam and multitasking are distracting. Clifford Nass, who is a scientist at Stanford University and one of the leaders in research on multitasking, has said that those who feel compelled to do two things at once are “suckers for irrelevancy.” In an interview with Ira Flatow of NPR, Nass said, “The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking….People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted….So they’re pretty much mental wrecks.”
Gloria Mark, professor at The University of California, Irvine, has noted the additional stress caused by switching rapidly between tasks. She says “I argue that when people are switching contexts every ten and one half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way they can achieve flow….This is really bad for innovation.”
As leaders, we have t own our own schedules and our time, not let others own it. That means limiting access at times. That means showing discipline in checking e-mails and taking calls. It means making it okay for our direct reports to do that too. Flooding people with a constant influx of data and expecting them to remain current to the moment while still managing important tasks that require concentration and full attention is a formula for failure. Is doing ten tasks poorly really better than doing three really well?
Smart and effective leaders should figure out how to limit the spam that gets in their way. They should find the signal amid the noise. They should limit distractions from others and from themselves. And they should think more about quality than quantity. This is not easy, and for some, maybe not even possible. But thinking about it and making an effort in these directions should lead to positive results. It takes courage to step back from the precipice.
Insanity is thinking the same thing over and over again and expecting different thoughts.
Common sense, as well as research, constantly demonstrates how much our thoughts affect our actions and subsequently affect our results. Research also reveals that most of our actions occur as a direct result of habits we have formed over the course of time.
Our habits result from years and years of conditioning. This conditioning becomes so entrenched into our subconscious, both positively and negatively, that our habits cause us to react and do things repetitively. Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD in biology and author of the controversial book, the Biology of Belief, has been researching the theory that 90 to 95% of our behaviors are a direct result of our subconscious thoughts.
Whether or not we buy into Dr. Lipton’s number of 90 to 95%, I strongly suspect that a significant portion of our thoughts come from our subconscious. That doesn’t necessarily make us clinically “insane.” It certainly can make us personally and professionally “insane.”
I am suggesting that we appreciate how we are dramatically affected by genetics, culture, environment, education, family, community, and work. It’s like water dripping on a rock. The day-to-day bombardment comes from all directions. Because life and business are so fast paced, our subconscious protects us and simultaneously limits us. It takes conscious, constant reflection to help us to identify how our conditioning and habits support and detract from our success in life and work.
In the book by Joel Olsen, The Slight Edge, Mr. Olsen suggestions “turning simple disciplines into massive results.” This takes conscious, deliberate effort to make lasting, sustainable, powerful changes. This book offers insights and ideas to help make simple, yet, highly impactful choices.
We have come to realize that the habit zone is the comfort zone, which ultimately can be the insanity zone. So, the results we achieve are not at all what we need to succeed. As 720thinkers, we continually use a multidimensional method and multi-lens tools to continually discover what contributes to “insanity” for individuals, organizations and communities. If you’re happy with your current results, than, your “insanity” is working for you. However, we would like to leave you with these two questions:
Are your results leading you where you want to be?
Are your results driving you “insane”?
If an individual or business in this twenty first century is not positioned to get out in front, they may not be positioning themselves at all. As 720thinkers, we have come to know that the individual or the company that stands out in front of the pack is the one that is proactive, daring and adventurous. They take active roles in seeking new opportunities and new projects, challenge the status quo, offer solutions and suggestions, volunteer for the difficult or even seemingly mundane tasks or projects that can change the course of a business, career, community or industry.
A junior associate had this practice. She allowed months of to go by as she waited for responses from her boss to unanswered emails.
Her pattern was as follows:
Her boss was senior executive. Believe it or not, both associate and exec were in the same building, not different states, countries or time zones. When she finally picked up the phone and called her boss, a face-to-face meeting was set.
Unfortunately, the senior level had been waiting for the young employee to ask for face-to-face meetings whenever she needed help, was offering solutions to problems, or taking advantage of the opportunities for change that abounded in the organization. After all, she had been hired as one of the brightest and the best. Over the course of those months, the boss started reassigning her duties and responsibilities to other employees.
I’ll bet you guessed this outcome of that meeting. The junior associate was not just of good graces with her boss because she didn’t get in front of the situation, she was out of a job.
The lesson can apply to any individual or business.
If you want to be noticed by organizations, communities, or industries, stop waiting to get noticed and get out in front. If not, you just might be out of a job, a client, a big contract. Need we say more.
As 720thinkers, we have a question for you. What can you do that will help you or your business stop waiting and get out in front?
Intentions don’t always lead the way to success. I have come to know that my beliefs are what really lead to success.
Mario Andretti once said, “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” If I could interpret this quote, I would believe that Mr. Andretti also appreciated that concept.
For me “desire” is an intention. I want to lead a successful organization, and yet, all those little voices in my head say, “You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. People don’t really like you.” And this list could and does go on and on. So what happens with my intentions? Nothing!
On the other hand, when I focus on my beliefs, success follows. Here are some of my beliefs:
This too is just a short list, but for me, oh so motivating. I’ve added and am working on a new belief – I am committed to excellence – doing my best every day.
Thank you Mr. Andretti for inspiring me to switch from an intention that I desire (want) success to a belief that I am committed to achieving success.
I leave you with these questions –
The weather is finally beginning to cooperate. It is actually looking a lot like summer. That means golf, tennis, or escape to the shore or the mountains for long weekends. It may even mean taking an extended two or three week vacation. Sounds like great fun. The willingness to take time from work to avail oneself of the great weather varies from leader to leader, owner to owner. The two biggest factors are the mindset of the leader and the perceived mindset of those reporting to the leader.
Some leaders take full advantage of their time off, without giving a thought to how others may perceive it. They are confident in their power and authority and do not care how others react. They have achieved a certain level in their career, and with that achievement comes the “right” to take time when they want it. They expect others to carry on in their absence
Others feel the same way about having the right and freedom to take time, but still give thought to the impact on others. They have a higher degree of emotional intelligence and understand what others may be feeling. They understand that it is natural for workers to be jealous of the greater freedom that leaders have, and to perhaps let down in their efforts when the leader is not around. They understand that this does not make the workers bad people or bad employees- it makes them normal. So preparations must be made. People must be given notice so they can plan accordingly. A boss going away should not spring it on the troops the day before he goes. There should be planning, meetings, accountabilities should be set, and the desired level of communication should be created. The leaders who prepare the troops, look at situations through multiple lenses, not just their own and are much more 720thinkers.
If a leader is planning on playing golf every Thursday during the summer, rather than hiding it from his team, he should make it clear that this is his plan. That way the team can plan around that schedule. And the boss can avoid multiple cell phone calls on Thursdays. And of course, the boss must be “present” when he is present. He needs to be engaged. He needs to perform. He needs to hold folks accountable. If he is perceived as being a good boss doing a good job, the workers will not resent his absence when he plays golf. The more he shirks his responsibilities, the more Thursday golf is just part of a feeling of negativity workers may develop.
It comes down to the psyche of the leader vs. the psyche of those being led. If there is mutual trust, there should be no problem with the leader taking time away from the business to enjoy herself. Unfortunately, mutual trust is only one of four possible scenarios.
Take a simple cube divided into four boxes. The vertical side is “Reason to worry” (another way of talking about the employee attitude), with the top boxes being “high” and the bottom boxes being “low.” The more the employees resent the boss taking time, the higher the reason to worry. The horizontal side is “Amount of worry” (the leader’s attitude), with the left side being “low” and the right side being “high.” Obviously, the higher the “reason to worry”, the more work the boss needs to do on the company culture and the employee engagement. Also, the boss may need to increase his “amount of worry” to gain an understanding of why employees feel the way they do.
If a boss or leader wants to enjoy a guilt free summer knowing work will be done and done well in her absence, she needs to develop a high level of mutual trust in the organization. This can be hard work that takes place year round, not just before golf season. Company culture is key to success and trust is key to culture. If workers know a leader is holding up her end and being accountable to them, they should have no problem with her taking time off. If workers feel a leader is bailing on them without regard to their needs or the needs of the company, there will be no trust, no engagement and no longevity. Enjoy the summer after building up to it in a successful manner.