Squirrels, shiny bunnies, kitten bombs, Facebook – whatever you want to call it, distractions are everywhere. There are the day-to-day distractions that get in the way of your tasks and responsibilities. Social media, a new show on Hulu, and mundane chores all distract you from the things you know you should be doing in order to effectively manage your life or meet your goals.
While this type of distraction can be a serious issue for some of us, today’s article is going to focus on the larger version of this problem. Individuals getting distracted is one thing. Entire organizations that get distracted is a completely different problem.
When an individual is distracted it leads to anything from messy houses to jeopardizing their job. However, it can be much more devastating when a business or organization becomes distracted. It can lead to profit loss, bankruptcy or even total failure of the business/organization.
For a business or organization, this happens when the leadership loses focus on the mission, vision or purpose. Leaders become distracted in many ways. It could be a flattering offer that comes their way, pressure from partners or other community leaders, or a need to prove something. This article will look at:
- How to identify organizational distractions
- Strategies for keeping your business on track
Identifying Organizational Distractions
As a leader, you might not even realize when a shiny bunny is headed right for you. You’re going along, doing what you believe is best for your business. By being on the lookout for these distractions, you can save your organization money, time and heartache.
- Too Good to Be True: We all know that if something sounds too good to be true – it probably is. As leaders, whose focus is on growing revenue or impact, it can be tempting to chase after this squirrel. A new project, partnership, or endeavor might sound like a fast track to growth.
- You Need to Justify: If you find yourself justifying why something is a good idea, it is an indicator that you need to look more closely at your decision. Anytime it’s not completely obvious how a decision connects to your mission/vision/purpose, you might be pursuing a distraction.
- Secrets or Hiding Things: Keeping secrets or telling different “stories” to different groups of people should be cause for reflection. This is an indicator that you are hiding something, or that you are moving in a direction that is not consistent with your core focus.
- Outside Pressure: Leaders from other businesses, agencies, or entities will always have an ulterior reason for wanting to partner with you. Even if they give you 100 reasons why they believe it would be a good move for your business, they still are pursuing the partnership for their own gain.
To be clear, there are definitely times when new business opportunities make sense. This article is not meant to prevent growth and innovation. Rather, it’s meant to keep you from losing your focus on what is most important to your organization. Being aware of what these distractions look like is the first step. Next we’ll look at how to deal with and minimize distractions.
Maintaining Your Focus
- Know Your Vision
The first step in maintaining your focus and minimizing distractions is to know your vision. This article goes into detail about the importance of having a crystal clear vision. Without it, you are much more susceptible to distractions. When your mission/vision/purpose are foggy, leaders grasp at straws. When we don’t know where we are going, we welcome (and sometimes even look for) distractions.
- Communication & Trust
In tandem with your vision comes building up your communication and trust. This involves sharing your mission/vision/purpose over and over, solidifying the importance and ensuring all staff, volunteers and stakeholders understand. In addition, creating open and honest communication systems builds up trust.
- Ask Questions
Building trust among your team members is key to this next step, which is to ask questions. Big decisions should not be made in a vacuum. Get input from those you trust, and who also trust you enough to be honest. Brutally honest if necessary. Ask tough questions about who has the most to gain, what is the downside, and how the opportunity might change the focus, culture, and direction of your business.
- Be Completely Honest
In order to make the best possible decisions for your company, you must be 100% honest with yourself about your motivation. Otherwise, ego can easily get in the way of taking action in the best interest of the organization. Making decisions that make you look good is obviously a goal, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. If your own self advancement is the primary factor behind a new endeavor, you need to be able to step back and objectively look at how it will impact the business.
- Strategy Screens
Creating strategy screens can be very effective in keeping your business on track. A strategy screen is a list of questions or criteria against which you can test potential new opportunities. By working with your board, stakeholders or leadership team to create a list of 5 to 8 criteria, you can proactively protect yourself from distractions.
- Operational Plans
Solid operational plans will keep you moving in the right direction. This includes annual goals, quarterly action steps, accountability, and regular measurements. By establishing goals designed to move you towards your mission or vision, breaking them down, assigning accountability and regularly measuring your progress, you stay on track. This structure can serve as an insurance policy protecting you from distractions.
As leaders, you are constantly faced with opportunities and decisions to make. You absolutely do not want to be risk adverse or your business may become stagnant. However, at the same time, you want to focus your energy on opportunities that will help you meet your business goals. By being able to quickly identify organizational distractions you will be able keep the shiny bunnies at bay.
Need help creating your vision, communication system, strategy screens or organizational plans? Email me at email@example.com to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call to find out how to lock out the squirrels!
Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits, small businesses and leaders.