How to Reclaim Your Focused Attention

February 20th, 2015

Waste my time?  I am my biggest time waster, which I admit can be enjoyable.  Being productive all the time might make me a dull guy.  And, yes, there is more to life than “being productive.”  That being said, there are tricks that we have all learned to focus better on the task at hand.  My favorite is having turned off that little notice on the bottom of my screen that announces every email I get. I did that years ago and it really helped me.
What is your favorite distractor eliminator? And how well do you manage your time? (Yes, I know, we can’t manage time…we can only manage our activities).

If you’re like many people, your answer may not be completely positive. Perhaps you feel overloaded, and you often have to work late to hit your deadlines. Or maybe your days seem to go from one crisis to another, and that is stressful and demoralizing. While some people are able to easily get through the day with many achievements ticked off their list, others seem to accomplish very little. With so many tasks and distractions pulling us in so many directions, it takes focus to…well, focus!
Below are some helpful tips from Harvard Business Review on how to harness your attention span:

 

  1. Build Capacity.
    We can expand our attentive capacity through a commitment to practices such as meditation, journaling, time in nature, regular physical activity, and good sleep hygiene. All of these activities support our ability to direct our focus, filter out distractions, and manage our emotions, and we can often realize their benefits with a modest investment of time.While these activities are often enjoyable in themselves, they aren’t indulgences–they’re investments in our ability to operate at peak effectiveness. High-performing professionals often enjoy success early in their careers by virtue of their ability to forego activities like this–they cut back on sleep or go without exercise for extended periods of time. But while those sacrifices temporarily expand our capacity for throughput, they actually diminish our capacity for focused attention.2. Plug Leaks.
    Attention is finite, and our ability to focus in the moment is severely limited. Because distractions can fatally undermine effective leadership, it’s critical to avoid “attention leaks.” The functions on our phones and other devices that beep, blink and thrust red numbers in our faces are designed to capture our attention and create a sense of urgency… But how often are any of these interruptions truly urgent? Almost never. Turn them off.3. Limit Multi-tasking.
    Another attention-destroying practice is what we’ve come to call “multi-tasking,” an utterly misnamed concept. While insignificant tasks requiring minimal cognitive effort can be performed in parallel, the truly meaningful work through which most leaders add value–one-on-one conversations, facilitation or decision-making in meetings, and creative thought and ideation–require a much more intense level of focus. Multi-tasking in those environments inevitably results in significant inefficiencies as we switch contexts and lose focus before returning to a deeper level of thought.4. Create Space.
    Leaders typically face intense demands on their time (in part because everyone wants their attention), and if they’re not careful they can find themselves booked nonstop for days on end. It’s important to maintain some open space in the calendar, on a weekly or even daily basis, which allows for more creative thinking and helps replenish our stores of attention. This inevitably involves disappointing people, all of whom believe their issue is worthy of the leader’s time, but productive leaders realize that they can’t meet all of these requests and must ignore many of them. Here leaders require help from their senior team, family, and friends, and–perhaps most importantly–their executive assistants. People in these roles are uniquely positioned to help leaders protect open space on their calendars, and they’re uniquely positioned to undermine that process if they don’t understand this responsibility.

    A final thought:
    If you’re a leader sitting in a meeting that’s not worth your focused attention, then you’re serving a theatrical function. Sometimes this makes sense. There’s a place for organizational theater. But more often the whole organization is suffering because your most precious resource is being wasted. Let the people who organized the meeting know that you’ll attend in the future when you’re needed, excuse yourself, and get on with your day. And if it’s your meeting, then you may well be wasting everyone’s time and attention–they may all be there in a theatrical function because they’re deferring to your authority. Have a candid conversation with a trusted ally, and get some feedback on the utility of your meetings.

-George Alwon

Making A More Meaningful Connection

January 26th, 2015

There’s a work conference that I’ve been attending for over a decade now. I’ve made long-time friends and colleagues there with whom I keep in regular touch. Many of us do the same work, consulting and selling similar products, and over the years we’ve formed “master mind groups,” where we meet every month virtually to encourage each other and discuss big ideas, as well as to stay up to date on our personal lives. We’ve grown to deeply care for and trust one another.

I always find it more fun and engaging to build relationships with people who are open and willing to be a multi-dimensional resource to other business folk, as well as to their community, and who add extra value to their clients and friends in order to succeed together.

With any group or event we join, there are always a few people there who only want to mingle with those they see “value” in, while ignoring others. Or there is the infamous business card ninja, who throws their business card at everyone around them.  That is no way to truly connect with people.

That’s why a Forbes article on forging real connections struck me. Below are their valuable tips.
Regardless of status or fame, people are people. And the 7 pillars of making a connection with another person are always the same.

  1. Be genuine. The only connections that work will be the ones that you truly care about; the world will see through anything short of that. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the person with whom you’re trying to connect, then stop trying.
  2. Provide massive help. Even the biggest and most powerful people in the world have something they’d like help with. Too many people never reach out to those above them due to the fear that they wouldn’t be able to offer anything in return. But you have more to offer than you realize: write an article or blog post about them, share their project with your community, offer to spread their message through a video interview with them. Give real thought to who you could connect them with to benefit their goals. If it turns out you can’t be that helpful, the gesture alone will stand out.
  3. Pay ridiculous attention. It’s nearly impossible to genuinely offer help if you don’t pay attention — I mean real attention, not just to what business they started or what sport they like! Do your research by reading blog posts, books and articles about the connection beforehand. Learn about their backgrounds and passions. Invest genuine time in learning what really matters to them and how you can help.
  4. Connect with people close to them. Most job openings are filled through networking and referrals, and making connections is no different. You automatically arrive with credibility when referred to someone you want to meet by a mutual friend. For example, I recently wanted to meet a best-selling author, and it turned out we had the same personal trainer. In reality, that fact means nothing, but in the world of social dynamics, it’s gold! Spend more time connecting with your current network of friends and colleagues and see where it leads.
  5. Persistence wins most battles. If you can’t get a direct referral, simply click send on that email or leave a message after the beep. But do not stop there, as most the world tends to. The first attempt is just the very beginning. Realize that the first try may get you nowhere, but the fifth or the tenth tries are the ones that start to yield results. An unreturned email or voicemail doesn’t mean they don’t want to connect with you. It’s your job to be persistent! I sometimes get hundreds of requests in a day from readers who want to connect, but only about 2 percent ever follow up. Don’t be in a hurry, but don’t be invisible either.
  6. Make real friends. Think about how you’ve made the friends you have. That’s all this is. You only make friends with people you genuinely want in your life. The same rule should go for bigger-name connections. Don’t over-think it. Be human, be helpful and most humans will happily be human in return, regardless of who they are.
  7. Remain unforgettable. All of the above are simple — yet sadly underused — ways of standing out. Send birthday cards. Mail your favorite book with a signed personal note from you on the inside flap. Send them your family Christmas card. Be genuinely helpful. You’d be surprised how the simplest things actually never get done. Being memorable isn’t as hard as some think!More great info on this topic! Forbes– Networking Is Not Working: The Secret to Making Meaningful Connections

A Simpler Kind of Giving

December 11th, 2014

Happy Holidays! ‘Tis the season for giving! As a child, I remember getting a red Schwinn two-wheel bicycle. Within no time, I was riding it around Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with no hands on the bars! It was a joyful time. It is wonderful to receive, and in a way, it is easier to receive than to give. To receive a gift, a compliment, or encouragement is something that one just accepts and enjoys. That is what I did. It is fun and gratifying to receive, but to give…that takes consciousness, effort and creativity. I’m sure that in your holiday season (whichever one that involves gifts), you’ll be asked to give, repeatedly. Today, the little ones will have long lists of toys, accessories and tech gadgets that they hope to receive. Our co-workers may surprise us with gifts, and our peers will ask that we donate to worthy causes and charities. You’ll do so much giving that it may become overwhelming! Yet, I too ask you to give, and in fact, I urge you to give more and more frequently!

Before you stop reading, let me explain what I mean.

I offer you these non-material, inexpensive and creative options you can give during holiday seasons, and year round:

TIME: In our busy lives, nothing is more valuable than the time you spend with family and loved ones. Reserve a small chunk of your schedule to spend with those you love and, better yet, with those who need you. Be intentional about catching up over coffee or enjoying a few hours in a park or playground. Offer to help someone at work who is struggling to figure something out. Trust me, they will appreciate it and will remember that moment for a long, long time.

COMPLIMENTS: On my way home recently, someone said I looked “very dapper.” We don’t compliment people enough anymore, and I think we should. It made my day. A genuine and thoughtful compliment, even to a stranger, will evoke joy and positivity.

GUIDANCE & ADVICE: It is easy to surround yourself with successful people and ignore others who are struggling or just starting their careers, forgetting that we had to start from somewhere too. To this day, I talk with people who call and want to know about the consulting profession, all because someone else (Eleanor Upton) did that for me early on. Offering advice to someone who needs it will not just be beneficial to the other party, but it will allow you to share your wisdom and to analyze your own past and present journey.

Now by no means am I advocating for you to be a Scrooge. If you’re able to donate to charities, you should, and if you can manage to give toys and tech to youngsters and friends alike, do it! Make them happy. These ideas are meant to make sure that you don’t exhaust your mind or wallet trying to come up with nice things to give. And..if you still need a tangible gift idea, here’s a link to Raleigh Consulting Group’s Dr. Rob Ferguson book on Making Conflict Work. This is a practical gift of both knowledge and advice for the folks at your office. Season’s greetings,

5 Pitfalls That Make Workplace Conflicts Worse

November 17th, 2014

“Be kind, respect others, and be grateful.” My colleague, Marshall Brain ( http://www.howstuffworks.com/ ) was telling a group of us about how, if we all did three of those things, the world would be a much better place. I love his advice because it is so simple, straightforward and makes sense. And it is easy to do. Well, maybe not always. If so, we wouldn’t have as much bad conflict in the world as we do.For most of my consulting career, we have worked trying to resolve conflict in companies and between people. Some conflict is healthy. It can generate energy and push people past boundaries. Most of the time, however, unresolved conflicts lead to real trouble. As you know from our recent newsletters, my partner, Dr. Rob Ferguson, has just co-authored and published a book entitled Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement. Below is a valuable excerpt on avoiding conflict pitfalls.Avoiding the 5 Pitfalls of Conflict:

1. Treating all conflicts as the same. Our research has identified seven distinct conflict situations, depending on how cooperative or competitive the parties are, who has more or less power, and how much they need each other to achieve their goals. The seven situations are Compassionate Responsibility, Command and Control, Cooperative Dependence, Unhappy Tolerance, Independence, Partnership, and Enemy Territory. Each situation requires a different approach, and diagnosing the situation correctly leads to the most effective strategy..

2. Ignoring power differences. Most leaders (and consultants) overlook the full significance of how power differences affect conflict. Whether you have more power than the other party, or less, it takes additional skills to get to the real issues and achieve your goals. If you have less power, you risk overstepping your bounds or inviting abuse. If you have more power, you risk eliciting dishonesty or sabotage from your supervisee. Ignoring power differences, and lacking a strategy for them, can render standard conflict resolution methods ineffective.

3. Abusing the power you have. Read any page of any history book and you see how monarchs, generals and presidents abuse power. But so do supervisors, middle managers, and team leads. You only need a little power to abuse it –– and thus make yourself less effective in conflict. Some of the most common power traps include: “The Bulletproof Trap” (you make conflicts worse by thinking you are invincible), the “Not-Seeing-the-Trees-for-the-Forest Trap” (you appear insensitive to your underlings by ignoring details because you only see the “big picture”), and the “Screw the Rules Trap” (you bend or break rules because after all, you’re special –– you’re the leader! This sets the stage for minor or major rebellions).

4. Neglecting the power you have. When you find yourself in lower power in a conflict, you may fall into different traps. These include the “Keep your Head Down Trap” (you keep your aspirations so low you don’t even try to find better solutions), the “Powerlessness Corrupts Trap” (you succumb to cynicism or rage toward those in authority, turning to apathy or sabotage), and the “Victim Status Trap” (you wallow in a sense of oppression and victimhood, which ironically can lead to a sense of superiority and refusal to negotiate).

5. Misunderstanding power. Don’t make conflict worse by acting passively. Even if you are less powerful than the person with whom you disagree, it doesn’t mean you have no power. Less power does not equal powerless. There are always informal ways to influence managers and leaders above you in the organization. And these methods do not show up on the org chart. They include actions such as appealing to the others’ interests, eliciting cooperation, creating positive relations with superiors, fostering reciprocity, rational persuasion, increasing their dependence on you, and more.

And remember. Keep it simple too. “Be kind, respect others, and be grateful.” One can never go wrong with that advice.

To learn more, visit makingconflictwork.com, or order “Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement” by Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson.

 

DISC Certification Available 

September 7th, 2014

Contact George Alwon at alwon@raleighconsulting.com for additional info.

How you will benefit from this program:

  • Improve your ability to grow in your position and within your company
  • Understand styles that allow you to avoid the pitfalls of misconceptions, miscommunication and misunderstandings
  • Streamline the recruitment and hiring process
  • Understand and facilitate the growth of your executive and management teams better
  • Increase your Emotional Intelligence
  • Create more positive relationships with vendors
  • Serve customers better
  • Adapt your style of communication and management to maximize work relationships
  • Resolve team and individual conflicts more effectively

New SBI Issue 

September 7th, 2014

There are many perspectives of what 2012 holds for the Triangle. The prevailing view seems to see some economic growth and improvement in employment. This issue of Small Business Insight of the Triangle contains profiles on the focus, talent and entrepreneurial spirit that define our successful local businesses.

Click to read the NEWEST issue of Small Business Insight of the Triangle.

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New SBI Issue 

September 7th, 2014

The second issue of Small Business Insight is available now, featuring key business owners in the Triangle and five great area restaurants that are perfect for your next business lunch.

For updates on SBI of the Triangle visit facebook.com/SBI.Triangle and click on LIKE.

RCG Collaborates with Growing Leaders Seminar for Teens 

September 7th, 2014

As part of RCG’s commitment to community service, George Alwon, Donna Hall and Sarah Van will be facilitators at a two-day program on August 4th and 5th entitled Growing Leaders Seminar, intended for teens ages 13-18.

This dynamic, highly participative seminar will focus on skills development in communication, leadership and team building. It will be held at the Lake Johnson Community Center and will include team activities like boating and drumming. We encourage you to consider this program if you have teens aged 13-18 and would appreciate it if you would forward this information to others who might be interested.

For more details and contact and registration info: http://9twentyfour.com/growingleaders.

Magazine Launch 

September 7th, 2014

small business insight of the triangle magazine cover 

We’re excited to announce the premier issue of SBI of the TriangleSmall Business Insight of the Triangle is a new bi-monthly online magazine based on the key concept of being for business owners, written by business owners. Building on the success of Small Business Insight of Hampton Roads, Raleigh Consulting Group is pleased to work with Bill Davis of Team Nimbus NC, to help bring this venture to the Triangle.

The magazine will serve as a forum for heightened learning and communication as we capture the voice of small business through featured articles and company profiles. Our first issue highlights 14 Triangle area businesses honored in Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies in America. We hope you’ll take some time to check out the first issue of SBI of the Triangle, and tell us what you think!

For updates on SBI of the Triangle visit facebook.com/SBI.Triangle and click on LIKE.

We’re Now On Facebook 

September 7th, 2014

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Follow us on facebook for regular RCG updates as well as useful business tips, videos and articles.