Newsletter: Staying Focused in Changing Times

Do you feel it? It’s there in your office—a distractedness and a drain of productivity. Many employees, yours included, are distracted by the onslaught of daily political reports, economic news, the housing and mortgage crises, and time consuming office conversations about the proceeding topics in addition to “typical” concerns that are a part of their lives. Given the grim outlook of the future painted by the media, employees tend to create catastrophes real or imagined tailored to their own situations. Next, anxiety arises, both a rational type of anxiety and an out-of-control, unproductive, irrational type of anxiety.

If the truth were known, we as managers and leaders, certainly are not immune to these distracters that occupy more time than we can spare and more emotion and energy than we’d like to admit.

Step One: What’s the Source of Your Anxiety?

Understanding the source and type of your own anxiety and the anxiety of others is important. Naturally, in the face of economic crisis, anxiety will occur, and it should. Rational anxiety is a reasonable response to events in our lives and pushes us forward to make adjustments in strategy and actions to adapt to changing circumstances. But, unchecked, anxiety can degrade to an irrational state and can paralyze us resulting in a snowballing response of inaction and subsequently greater fear.

Questions to ask yourself to rein anxiety back into its rightful dimension in your life follow: “What is the worst thing that could happen in this situation? Is the occurrence of this worst thing unlikely, likely or certain? Is there anything that is more likely to happen instead? If this worst thing did happen, how could you respond?

Step Two: Recalibrate and Refocus

Getting back on focus is the goal both for yourself and your employees. In addition to getting yourself completely on track, you’ll be assisting those that you lead. Here are some tips for getting back on track.

Recalibrate your activities by spending time and effort on items that are within your control or items that you can influence both in your personal life and also within your business life. Prioritizing your time on items within your control or influence enables you to proactively move ahead toward your goals and your success.

Many of us spend too much time occupied with situations that are beyond our control rather than focusing on the issues that are within our control. So, carefully define what is outside and what is within your control. What is outside of your control? The list of issues outside of your control includes world and national markets, financial crises, politics of all sorts, bailouts, housing prices, unemployment rates, etc. (Unless you have 100 billion lying around) Issues that are within your control include your attitude toward leading others, your level of determination and persistence, your outlook about your job, and your acceptance of the reality of your changing environment and ability to make necessary adjustments in a positive manner. Employees on your team and your peers will likely follow your lead when you make it a habit to act upon items you can control or influence.

Step Three: Proactively Strategize

Given the changes in our economy, in financial markets, GNP and consumer and business expenditures, your company will likely need to reexamine your strategy to be able to weather potential changes in business. Whether you are responsible for the strategy, or whether it comes from the top echelon of your company, be prepared to both give constructive feedback/critique and to implement the plan within your span of control. Leaders who can read the business environment and proactively react to crises are by far most beneficial to the company and shine far brighter than their peers.

Additionally, encourage those you lead to adjust their focus similarly. Communicate carefully and honestly changes in direction and strategy to help employees transition quickly and smoothly. In this way, you’ve enabled each one to sidestep irrational anxiety and to determine a proactive response to the changing work environment.