Distractions are a great challenge for everyone and depending upon your personality you will deal with it in very different ways. Some people focused personalities will always stop what they are doing and give their full attention to helping the person in front of them, even taking on their problems. These people can find that they never complete their own tasks and everybody else does.
Other task focused personalities make it very hard for people to interrupt them and provide very little help to their colleagues. The result of this is that their team will be de-motivated and unsupported by a manager who doesn’t listen.
So what is the answer?
Plan & Anticipate
As you plan your day and week ahead, anticipate which tasks will need your undivided attention without interruption. Book appointments with yourself to dedicate the time to particular tasks and decide how you will ring fence this time. This may involve your personal assistant or team members protecting you from outside interruptions whether they are calls or visitors. Consider working from home if you know you will have the discipline to focus.
Delegate All Or Part Of The Task
Sometimes it may be more effective to share the task with somebody who has the capacity or is less likely to be distracted. It might also be easier to protect them from interruption or send them to a meeting room where they are not visible to others.
Listen & Explain
As a manager it may be your role to be available all the time to support the team and people from other departments. In this situation you may need to conduct a form of ‘triage’ used in hospital ‘Accident and Emergency’ departments. Listen first and decide whether you need to offer help now or later. In this way you can mitigate the impact on the work of not helping somebody immediately.
Give The Monkeys Back!
In his book, The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey, Ken Blanchard suggests that when colleagues bring you problems, it’s like they have a monkey on their back which they are trying to give you! Are you the manager that is always taking on people’s monkeys (or problems)? Ken Blanchard’s advice is that as managers we need to resist taking the monkey and saying to your employee, ‘You can keep the monkey and let me know how you are going to look after it’. In other words, I want you to think for yourself first and consider the options you have for dealing with this. Then come back to me when you have thought of various alternatives. You know the saying ‘Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!’, so use it.
Revisit Your Key Objectives
Remind yourself what you are there for. What are you being paid to achieve? How does your activity match your objectives? What are you distracting yourself? If it’s developing your people to provide greater capacity in the future then, this is worthwhile but consider how much responsibility they are taking for handling their own work.
Distractions are a common problem for many managers. Plan ahead and develop a strategy that will help you to face these distractions head on whilst still providing support to your colleagues. In the end you will much more productive.
Senior Management Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training