Do you think your employees are paying attention? Think again. According to a study by the Information Overload Group, $588 billion is lost every year in U.S. business alone because of interruptions. Further, in a study of 2,000 participants, Think Money found that employees on average lose a total of 759 hours (31 days) in productivity due to distractions. 

Today's leaders are combating an unprecedented number of competing priorities and distractions within the workforce. Childcare, eldercare, second jobs and social media are just a few obligations and choices that employees squeeze into their work days. Plus, with the fascination of fake news, employees can't take their eyes off the news feeds.

How can leaders help employees make the most of their time while at work? In her new book "Attention Pays," leadership and productivity expert Neen James outlines  8 strategies that all companies can implement to keep employees laser focused on the priorities and outcomes that really matter, and cultivate an environment where productivity thrives. 

  1. Monitor objectives. As the leader, it's your job to establish and track measurable objectives. They may be quarterly, monthly or weekly, but they must be quantifiable. The SMART Goals model helps many employees stay focused on the measurable outcome:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive. 
  2. Break down goals into chunks and tasks. Even SMART goals can be overwhelming. By chunking them into small tasks, employees can check off each step they take towards the ultimate outcome. 
  3. Review progress. This is crucial in ensuring team members are advancing towards their goals. Almost all of my CEO clients now schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with their direct reports, with very specific agendas that focus on goal-achievement. The partner of a large wealth management firm does 5-minute huddles throughout the day during their busy season to make himself available to his junior partners as they onboard new clients. 
  4. Stay connected. Whether it's using traditional methods such as MBWA (Management By Walking Around) or technology-driven solutions, leaders can't delegate their touchpoints. Especially in today's organizations which are becoming non-hierarchical, the workforce at all levels wants connection to the C-suite.
  5. Empower your people. Micromanagement is the quickest way to impede productivity. It conveys a lack of confidence and a sense of mistrust. Provide your management team with the tools to take ownership for their outcomes. Servant leaders know that the highest-performing organizations flip the traditional org chart upside down, with the CEO in a supporting position that is dedicated to equipping the organization with everything it needs to succeed.
  6. Leverage and develop team member strengths. Continuous development of employees must be a top priority for today's organizations. In addition, there are so many tools available to assess an individual's strengths. These help leaders assemble the highest performing teams based on individual contributions. 
  7. Remember that perfection is the enemy of progress. Know when good enough is good enough. "Be willing to acknowledge that some client requests are unreasonable, some deadlines are not achievable, and some requests are just ridiculous," says James. As a leader, you may need to give others permission to move on. 
  8. Fail fast. This may be the most important strategy of all. In my own journey, I have tried so many things that didn't work. Being able to emotionally cut the cord from what's not working empowers us to invest our attention in people and initiatives that have the highest potential.

Peak productivity is possible when the commitment to attention and intention comes from the top. When the leadership team is laser-focused on results, and is committed to helping its employees set measurable objectives, the entire company reaps the benefits of a more efficient, effective, and happier environment. 

Published on: May 2, 2018
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