When it comes to running your day, it’s easy to get swept up in distractions and tasks that don’t move you forward. The average person loses up to three hours each day due to interruptions from phone calls, email and coworkers, according to a study by CareerBuilder.
Research may show that cat videos make you happy and less stressed, but try explaining that at your next meeting. Leadership consultant Jones Loflin, author of Always Growing: How To Be a Strong(er) Leader In Any Season, calls distractions “weeds,” and says they can hold you back from being a productive and strong leader.
“We often think of a weed as nasty, prickly things we need to yank out, but weeds for leaders are different–weeds are plans out of place,” he says. “They prevent us from being more strategic in our thinking and more proactive in relationships, and they’re holding us back from carrying out our key components.”
Loflin shares six of the most common things that hold you back from success:
1. AN OVERLOADED SCHEDULE
One of the biggest weeds is simply being too busy, says Loflin. “You fill your schedule, and then are overwhelmed with everything you have to do,” he says.
While your mind wants you to get as much done as possible, it could derail you from what’s important. “Endorphins go off in your head when you get things done,” says Loflin. “That makes us tend to grab what’s quick and easy.”
Unfortunately, the things leaders need to do can’t be accomplished in five, 10 or even 30 minutes. “Their tasks are more complex, such as building relationships, strategizing, and researching trends,” says Loflin. “These are not things you simply check off, and when you default to the little things like email you lose focus on your most important opportunities.”
Instead, schedule your day for the important stuff, suggests Loflin. “How can you be forward focused and engaged in strategic, proactive conversations?” he says. “Instead of letting little things drain you from being fully focused, chunk them together and schedule a time each day or every few days to get them done–maybe an afternoon when there is not a lot going on.”
2. AN INABILITY TO EFFECTIVELY DELEGATE
Leaders often hold on to too much, says Loflin. “The buck often stops with them, and it’s difficult to let go,” he says. “Instead, begin to think, ‘What am I holding onto that will give someone else an opportunity to grow?’”
Shifting the motivation for delegating can help you through the process. “Giving employees stretch assignments gives them an opportunity to work on things that take them outside of their comfort zone and give them a better understanding of the company,” says Loflin. “When we hold on to too much, we deny our team members.”
If delegating is difficult, start small, suggests Loflin. “Transfer something that will save you 15 or 30 minutes a week,” he says. “Know what you are going to do with that time. Invest it in something that’s strategic, proactive and relationship building.”
3. NOT ENGAGING IN CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
When we get busy, we tend to get comfortable with our skill set, but we need to be a model of growth for our people, says Loflin. Make time to work on your soft skills, for example. Understand the latest research with the demographics of the consumers you serve.
“You can’t grow others if you don’t grow yourself,” says Loflin. “It’s critical for leaders to be strong in our changing workplace.”
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4. STEREOTYPING GENERATIONS
Believing generational stereotypes can hold you back from forming strong team relationships. If you take the time to dig deeper you’ll probably find that you’re not much different, says Loflin.
“Find an opportunity to get to know what motivates someone to deliver their best work,” he says. “If you don’t have conversations with the newest members of the workplace, you limit your ability to make them an effective part of your team.”
Loflin suggests “listening aggressively,” and making bridging statements, such as “Tell me more about that.” Or, “You sound passionate about this; where does that come from?”
“As you’re listening, identify something that connects with who you are and what your team is about,” he says. “Building bridges ignites employees to deliver their best work.”
5. FORGETTING TO CUT BACK
Just like you would prune a garden, look for areas in your business that can be cut back so you can grow forward, says Loflin.
“Often, we keep adding responsibilities to our own plates and expectations to others’, but we rarely take anything away” he says. “Team members can often tell a leader what needs to change, but the leader has to be willing to listen to uncomfortable suggestions. What isn’t a priority? What processes and procedures are cumbersome? How are people working together? Then look at what you can eliminate and streamline.”
6. PASSING OVER ACCOMPLISHMENTS
It’s easy to feel an overwhelming sense of never getting it all done, but in reality you never will, says Loflin. “There are always limits on resources, time, information, money, people, and skills,” he says. “But it’s important for leaders to take more opportunities to celebrate what is getting done versus beating yourself up for what’s not.”
Step back and ask yourself, ‘What did I grow today? Relationships? Opportunities? Results? “Reflect and get a sense of accomplishment, and do it as a team,” he says. “Too often leaders are the first to talk when things are not going well. Instead, look and acknowledge what is going well.”