'Executive Attention Span Disorder' Is Real. Do You Have It?

Stories from an executive cat herder - Part 2: Please focus


I have to thank Grant Sutton as he was the original person I had heard of EASD from - I'm sure there are many acronyms that fit this (share them as well!)

I am not sure what is worse. Having to be herded, or herding. Either way, both scenarios are incredibly frustrating. It's often said that brilliant leaders sometimes have the inability to focus. I know, I have worked with some of them. They are great idea people, but before you know it they are on lap 10 while the rest of the team is on lap two.

After sitting with a friend of mine last week, we laughed when we talked about different types of leadership. For the sake of her anonymity, I'll keep her anonymous until she reads this and gives me the bat signal to release her identity.

She told me that the thing about great leaders is that they are like speedboats, they go quickly, get to where they need to go, but the problem is they leave everyone else behind and cannot figure out why people can't keep up in their kayaks. Typically, those taking care of the floating bodies in the wake are the Gatekeepers.

It's no secret that at one point in our careers we have interacted with these people. They drive us bananas. Sometimes we just need 10-15 minutes of clear direction and that seems like too much. They can't make a weekly meeting. They tell us we are doing 'great' with no indication of what great is.

The defense, on the flip-side, is that the leaders say they will be fine with the end decision. However, in practice, they usually use some derivative of the Seagull Management method. For the record, everyone hates this method.

Over the past 15 years, I have worked with and heard stories about leaders that can't focus and give attention to their teams. Here are some of my personal favorites after polling my network:

- The leader that wants to be loved no matter what and can't make a decision.

- The nice guy/gal who won't ever correct, mentor, or coach behavior of the many Sacred Cows

- The friend and foe - The boss that's great to you in person but talks smack behind your back

- The guy that hates meetings, so he doesn't show up, but then slows down the process to give his input after the fact

- The guy who loves the glory but hates the work

- The one that you have to redirect every 5 minutes

- The visionary that can't execute

- The executor that people hate

- The guy that would rather have great culture than anything else

- The boss that thinks he's one of you.. that is until he gets on his private plane and heads to Ibiza

It's often said that brilliant leaders sometimes have the inability to focus. They have a gatekeeper that focuses them, or they do what great leaders often do. They hire a team smarter than them and let them do their jobs.

The biggest takeaway is that leaders need to focus. It does NOT have to take place in the form of a two-hour update meeting. Small bursts of time can create lasting impacts. You might remember, The One Minute Manager, where meetings take place as follows:

1. One-minute goals

2. One-minute praisings

3. One-minute reprimands.

In fact, more and more companies are doing away with traditional performance reviews in order to adapt to more agile methods. These updates can be done quickly, simply, and in an open format. A good friend & mentor Jerry Rollins first put the concept of different formats of meetings on my radar a few years ago.

He flat out told me that the updates shouldn't happen in my office. I should walk around the block. I should take someone to coffee. I should find out what the employee likes- and create a comfortable environment- and it should be simple.

What did we do, what are we trying to do, and are we on the path to doing it?

There are a gaggle of productivity tools out there to make meetings more meaningful and save time. My personal favorite is Less Meeting. It creates an agenda, with a timer, and an ability to track actions, follow-ups, and keeps the conversation on track. (No, they aren't paying me!)

The end result: 10-15 minutes of focus a day beats a two-hour meeting any day.



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