I heard recently heard author Brant Hansen share a riddle and immediately knew it was the perfect introduction to this topic, so I’m borrowing it. The answer is extremely important for you as a leader to be successful working with others. Are you ready to solve it?  Here goes.

  • It’s extremely valuable
  • You and every person on earth has it to give
  • Others are interested in getting yours
  • I’m hoping I now have yours
  • It is so valuable even God wants it from you

Do you know the answer?

Here it is:

Attention

Why is attention so valuable and important?

Let’s start with what attention is. I believe it is when we regard someone or something as interesting or important. Who doesn’t want to be considered interesting or important by you? We all crave that. Here’s is a list of synonyms or descriptors of attention.

attentivenessconcentrationintentness
awarenessfixationnotice
concentrate on hearinghang on someone’s wordsrecognition

Wouldn’t you like to feel someone is “hanging on your words” or is “concentrating on what you have to say”? Yes!

Attention is valuable because we don’t have an unlimited quantity to give, which means getting your attention is rare. And others don’t just want your attention, they want your undivided attention, your total focus, no distractions, all of you.

Success as a leader comes from knowing what or who to give your attention to, as well as what not to.

The challenge you face is twofold:

  1. Everyone wants your attention, only when they want it, and
  2. Too much of it has the opposite effect, it can smother.

It can be a lose-lose proposition for you if you aren’t careful. I know this because I’ve failed at this equation many times. Here are my thoughts on where to give your attention, in priority order.

  1. Your direct reports – Your success is determined by their success. Therefore, give them time when they need it, always squeezing them in when they need you. If you feel they “need” you too often, coach them on it. You value their work when you give them your time.

1(a)    Your family – Everyone talks about work life balance as if it was equal. It’s not and never will be. You’re being paid to be a leader, which is why your team gets your attention first. Your family needs to be a close 1(a). Give attention to family issues when needed, your work will survive without you. Give work attention when needed, your family will be okay. The balance comes in knowing where your attention is required without having to be told. Listening well will help you in this.

  1. Critical decisions – You are responsible for all the decisions your team make. You can’t pay attention to all of them, that’s called micromanagement. Focus on those most critical to the success of your area of responsibility. There are many important decisions, but few critical ones. Let go of important, focus on critical. As a leader you have every right to ask a lot of questions and pay close attention to those critical decisions and make certain the right one is made.
  2. Who you report to – Learn to be attentive to what’s important to the person you report to. I’ve managed this relationship well and poorly in my career. Trust me, beyond the standard, “I don’t like to be surprised”, every leader has certain things they value. Give those attention. If you can’t figure them out, ask. If they constantly change, find a new leader to report to.

When you’re with someone give them your full attention. Put the phone away, hold all calls and focus 100% on what they are telling you. Giving attention is a valuable gift, use it well.

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; Proverbs 4:20-21

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