Are you focusing on the most important things right now?
Or are you distracted, stressed, or in panic mode as so many leaders are?
As the pandemic continues, I’m seeing many leaders either get sidetracked or get hyper-focused on changing what is no longer working.
But the majority, I notice, are getting sidetracked.
PHOTO BY BRAD NEATHERY ON UNSPLASH
Cognitive Tunneling. This is a neuroscience-based term for how our focus narrows during times of elevated stress, resulting in blinding us to things in our environment that you would normally perceive. We’ve all had the experience of saying to ourselves “how did I miss that?!” Well, it’s because we were looking somewhere else.
What You Focus On You Become
Once I was called in to help a CEO get back on track. His (public company) stock price had crashed, and he was in a panic. He had locked himself in his office and was feverishly writing ad copy for print. Wait a sec—writing copy for ads that wouldn’t even run for weeks? How was that going to help the stock recover now? I’m all for polishing up the ad messaging, but in the middle of a crisis? This, friends, is an example of cognitive tunneling. The CEO’s absence was causing the sales team to panic, analysts needed to be reassured, customers too, and the employees needed to be led.
But he wasn’t interested in rallying the troops, talking to customers or analysts, or even getting back on track. The company continued to flail until the Board gave him the boot.
How To Get Back On Track Now
When we’re mired in cognitive tunneling we’ve “zoomed in,” or reduced our focus to a narrow scope. Here’s how to shift it and look into your blind spots:
1: Zoom Out. Imagine you’re hovering high above your organization, you’re at 30,000 feet. See all departments or divisions of your firm below you. Feel where they are. Is Sales below and to your right? Marketing below and ahead? Where is product development? Client Care? R&D? Operations? Finance? You get the idea. Once you can feel and see where everything is in your mind’s eye, you’re ready for step 2.
2: Selectively Zoom In. Feel which department or division needs your attention most. Some clients have experienced this as seeing or feeling a “hot spot”. Let’s say it’s product development. Shift your focus there and gradually reduce your elevation to be about 50%. What does this department need? A new pandemic-ready set of products or services? An innovation incubator? Some new perspectives from the Sales team? Deeper connection with Marketing? Now zoom in 50% closer. Who specifically could help drive this shift? Time for names of individuals either in this department or outside of it
3: Enroll The Team In A Group Start, Stop, Continue and HVA/LVA. Now it’s time to involve the team. Gather everyone up. What do we need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Once you have all your lists, it’s time to rank what are High Value-Added Activities and Low Value-Added Activities.
4: Repeat! Go back to step 1 and zoom out, then selectively zoom in on the next department, then on to step 3. Continue until all relevant departments have been addressed.
5: Answer These Questions. See which of the below (thanks to Power Path) will help you manage your time/stress/energy better:
What is my priority today? Why is it a priority?
Does it make me happy or satisfied? Is it an important step or responsibility towards an authentic goal?
What can wait until tomorrow?
What can I delegate?
Where am I distracted?
What am I doing for myself today for self-care?
What is unnecessary?
Where am I being pressured and is it my responsibility? Where is the pressure coming from? Within or from the outside?
What am I avoiding and why?
What am I afraid of?
What do I still need to complete, eliminate or clear out that is either a distraction or no longer serves me?
Do I feel balanced? What is not being fed?
What practices have I done today to help in my balance of inner and outer life?
Where have I wasted time?
What can I do today to bring joy and beauty into my life?
One of our clients used the above process within a month of the pandemic starting. They decided to create a robust offering of pandemic-sensitive services. They launched them within 45-60 days and lagging revenue on existing services has been bolstered as a result. It’s never too late to start!
What do you need to focus on right now?