When Distractions Are a Good Thing

When we speak about success, leadership, the workplace and other goal oriented parts of our lives we typically think of distractions as bad. How to avoid all those things that lead our attention away from responsibility and personal betterment have been a large part of the conversation of success. But what if distractions weren’t all bad—which seems to be the popular narrative about distractions in America.

According to an article in Psychology Today distractions can very much be a good thing in many situations. The article suggests that distractions are one of our primary coping mechanisms for dealing with physical pain. Not only that, but also mental pain such as anxiety. In children, pre-surgery anxiety is very common. In one study, three groups of children were studied for pre-surgery anxiety. There were three groups: one was given an anxiety medication; one group was given nothing; one group were given video games to play. The study found the video game group to have the least amount of measurable anxiety. Another study found that adult patients given video games to play experienced 50% less pain during wound cleanings.

But clearly distractions are also bad at time. How can we tell the difference? Dr. Jane MacGonigal has written extensively on the subject of distraction and she suggests that we simply ask ourselves whether we are using the object of distraction as an escape from our lives or are we using it to enhance our lives?

In the workplace, in a group as the leader, is a particular person or group using a distraction as a means to avoid uncomfortable conversation, to avoid boring or challenging work, to disengage from useful problem solving? Maybe it’s OK for your employee to play Words with Friends for fifteen minutes to ease their anxiety about please an important client. Maybe some off-topic conversation at a creative meeting is just want the group needs to relax and be able to share the ideas they think might be good, but are afraid of.

PsychologyToday.com

How to Act Like a Leader When You Aren’t in Charge

When traveling the road of life, we won’t always be the one in charge or be put into a labeled leadership role; however, that doesn’t mean that exemplifying leadership qualities isn’t important. So, how can one act like a leader when they aren’t leading?

First always be a clear communicator. Leaders don’t talk behind people’s backs, they don’t complain behind closed doors. They never say yes when they mean no. Leaders speak what they believe and they stick to their guns, unless presented with good reasons to change their outlook. Good leaders are always flexible as well. Teams function best when everyone is giving an opportunity to be a specialist. Let the other team members shine when it comes to what they are best at. Weigh your teammate’s abilities and perspectives equally.

Another two-sided coin of demonstrating your leader-like qualities is to not let people walk all over you. Make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to help someone, but don’t let them take advantage of you either. The best leaders bring others with them on their ride towards success—this is how success works share it, but take your credit when it’s due. Likewise, if something is your mistake, don’t be afraid to own! If you are under a good leader, they will understand, and the team will be there to help make the best of the situation. When you are acting like a leader, a mistake must be owned by the person who made it, but the team will want to help them.

Finally, don’t put up with bullies—whether it is someone trying to dominate a conversation or marginalize a co-worker, stand up for what is right. You’ll be surprised how quickly most people are to rally behind the morally-upstanding person who speaks out first.

James C. Humes: The Man Behind the Words of Five Presidents

“Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.”

James C. Humes is most famously known as a presidential speechwriter. He has served as a communications advisor to major U.S. corporations, including IBM and DuPont. He is the author of twenty-three other books.

Humes wrote speeches for presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Dwight Eisenhower. Before his speechwriting career, he represented the U.S. State Department in lectures on American government all over the world. He has served as a communications advisor to major U.S. corporations, including IBM and DuPont. Mr. Humes is a well known author, most famously for Confessions of a White House Ghost Writer (Regnery Publishing) and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Churchill: Speaker of the Century.

One of the last living Americans to have met Sir Winston Churchill in person, Mr. Humes has played Sir Churchill on stage and at numerous events. Mr. Humes lives in Pueblo, Colorado.

As James Humes once said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” If you want to be a leader, you must be a presenter that connects with the audience and delivers a memorable message.

5 Questions Good Leaders Ask

What can you control?
This question shifts the focus from focusing on that which is beyond the protégé’s control and onto what someone can actually do about the situation the find themselves stuck in. One might not be able to change an unfair policy immediately, but they may be able to find short-term answers to help themselves deal with it while they work on longer-term solutions.

What obstacles are facing you?
Protégés may be not want to share the challenges they find troubling, or may not have really thought them through. Asking about them directly allows the mentor to explore the challenges with which the protégé is struggling, and discuss the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in addressing them.

In three to five years how do you want to change?
Since the business world changes at such a fast pace today, focusing on a shorter window still allows enough time for creative, aspirational thinking without the distraction of how different the workplace might be at that time. The answers may reveal how the protégé wants to grow, or fundamental changes they need to make to achieve their goals.

What is the outcome you want?
If the protégé is facing a complicated situation, that is often the best question you can ask to help them lift their head up and start to look at the situation from an entirely new angle.

What does success look like to you?
Asking what success looks like can refer to long-term goals and planning. However, when applied to a specific situation, it can help determine what the immediate priorities are for a project or situation.

Obsession: Pat Riley

Patrick James Riley, born in1945, is an American professional basketball executive, and also a former coach as well as a player in the National Basketball Association. He has been the team president of the Miami Heat since 1995 as well as head coach in two separate tenures.

Know as one of the elite few among NBA coaches, Riley has served as the head coach of five championship teams. He won four with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime era in the 1980s. And also one with the Miami Heat in 2006.

In 1996, he was named one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history. He played for the Lakers’ championship team in 1972 as well. Riley won the 2012 and 2013 NBA championships with the Heat as their team president. He also received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBA Coaches Association.

Riley has been quoted as saying that, “To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.” Clearly, his healthy obsession with the game lead him to become one of the great leaders in NBA history.

He was named NBA Coach of the Year three times. He was head coach of an NBA All-Star Game team nine times. Amazingly, he is the first North American sports figure to win a championship as a player, assistant coach, head coach, and as an executive.

 

Education is the mother of leadership

Wendell Lewis Willkie: an American, a lawyer and corporate executive, and the 1940 Republican nominee for President. Willkie appealed to many delegates as the Republican field’s only interventionist. Even when the U.S. remained neutral prior to Pearl Harbor, he favored greater U.S. involvement in World War II. The goal, to support Britain and other Allies. His Democratic opponent Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the 1940 election with about 55% of the popular vote. Roosevelt took the electoral college vote by large margin.

After  Pearl Harbor, Willkie offered his full support to Roosevelt. Willkie’s mission was to be Roosevelt’s personal representative. After leaving the U.S. on August 26, Willkie’s first stop was in North Africa. Willkie met General Montgomery and toured the front at El Alamein. In Beirut, he stayed with General de Gaulle. In Jerusalem, Willkie met with Jews and Arabs. He also told the British rulers of Palestine that both peoples should be brought into the government.

Willkie later noted that the conflict there was so ancient, it was unrealistic to think that it could “be solved by good will and simple honesty”.

Willkie had been moved to add the Soviet Union to his itinerary when three Western reporters there urged him by telegram to do so There, he met with Stalin, and upon his return he advocated more liberal Lend-Lease terms for the USSR.

“He was a born leader and he stepped to leadership at just the moment when the world needed him.” Allan Nevins, historian, wrote of Willkie.

Even though Mr. Willkie never reached the presidency, his legacy is perhaps more important than any specific title in that his name will always be remembered as part of American history.

During his 1940 campaign, Willkie had pledged to integrate the civil service and armed forces, and proudly pointed to what he deemed the strongest civil rights plank in history in the Republican platform. He also promised to end racial segregation in Washington, D.C.

Shortly before his death, Willkie told a friend, “If I could write my own epitaph and if I had to choose between saying, ‘Here lies an unimportant President’, or, ‘Here lies one who contributed to saving freedom at a moment of great peril’, I would prefer the latter.”