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Distractions vs. Symptoms

Re-posted with permission from Next Element USA. OCTOBER 3, 2018 BY NATE REGIER IN COMPASSIONATE ACCOUNTABILITYLEADERSHIPLEADERSHIP COACHINGTEAM LEADERS 

I like to think I’m good at multitasking, but I’m not. Especially when it comes to how I devote my attention. The joke around my house is that I can only pay attention to one thing at a time. Our family can be watching TV together and I am so focused on the show that I tune out all the distractions. The “distractions” are usually my wife and daughter talking about what’s going on in their lives. Sometimes I even get frustrated with them for interrupting the show we are trying to watch. Consequently I don’t know what my daughter is doing at school and she seems to go to mom first with questions. But I do remember all the details of the TV show!

All these things getting in my way!

Do you ever focus so much on the task at hand that you miss important things going on around you? As a leader, do you ever push so hard to meet a goal that life passes you by or your employees are burning out right under your nose? I bet you viewed those pesky life situations and employee complaints as interruptions, right? You might have even viewed your own body’s complaints (sleep problems, heartburn, tension headaches and back pain) as distractions.

When does a distraction become a symptom of a bigger problem? How do we know we are pushing too hard, missing the forrest for the trees, or creating more damage in our effort to push through?

The dangers of being too persistent

This is a common problem facing people who are high in Persistence, one of the three Compassion Skills. Dedicated, goal-oriented, and responsible people live to deliver. Like everything in life, there’s a time for persistence, and a time for the other two Compassion skills, Openness and Resourcefulness. It turns out that humans aren’t built to rely exclusively on one skill at the expense of the others. Doing this results in strained relationships and health, and a reduced capacity for healthy conflict, change, and innovation.

Keep moving to stay healthy

Every skill has it’s time and place, and transition to the next skill is ultimately needed to stay healthy. Our research and experience over ten years of testing shows a particular best order for using the three Compassion Skills. Moving from Persistence to Openness requires the choice to Stop and Listen.

Stop doing, and listen to your body, soul, and heart. Stop pushing and tune in to your employees. How are they coping? How are they holding up?

Stopping and listening will reveal when a distraction has become a symptom. It will reveal a treasure-trove of important information about what’s really going on, and how you can make adjustments to support, adapt, sustain, and improve.

Next time you get frustrated by distractions, stop and listen to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of another problem that requires your attention.


Corinne McDevitt