Leadership Effectiveness | Stepshift

Leadership Effectiveness – One Important Thing At A Time!

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

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As a leader you will have many demands on your time. How, when and where you focus your attention has a huge impact on your own effectiveness and the results of your organisation. There is a strong temptation and expectation to deal with many things at once. Yet research from a variety of sources indicates that the most productive leader or manager is the one who focuses intently on one matter at a time.

The work of Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi indicates that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.

An article in the Harvard Business Review in March 2013 demonstrates that multitasking is ineffective. It contrasts the productivity of two workers – one of whom constantly changed focus with one whom changed focus relatively few times. The research on these workers (together with the aggregated data of thousands of participants) clearly indicates that the more people switch between tasks the less they achieve.

The work of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (see for example The Power of Full Engagement) suggest that highly effective people in all walks of life manage themselves through utilising periods of intense focus coupled with periods of deliberate rest and re-energising.

Stephen Covey draws an important distinction between urgent work and important work – reflecting that often because we are busy with “urgent” matters we neglect work which while not urgent is “important”. It is easy to believe that because we were busy with urgent work we were being effective.

I am sure that as you reflect on your most satisfying and effective days you will notice periods of intense concentration on one matter at a time. Days where you have been handling multiple activities at the same time are less successful and rewarding.

If you believe you could become a more effective leader by closely examining where, how and when you direct your attention get in touch.



Lynn Humphrey is a Partner at Stepshift, helping New Zealand business leaders to get the best from themselves and the people they lead through executive coaching, leadership development and business consulting.

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