Pay Attention to Attention

The reality is that as your management career progresses, your management style will change. The styles of supervisors are different to those adopted by middle managers who have primarily people concerns, and these are different from high-end middle managers and senior managers who have strong results emphases. These are different again to the skill requirements of general and executive managers who have few direct people management concerns but carry an enormous responsibility for results. The success of whole businesses, regions or sites rides on their ability.

I notice that many of the managers at the middle management and senior management levels have low appreciation for the different working, management and thinking styles required for the next steps in their career. Most assume it will be “more of the same”.

Recently, I have been working increasingly with managers who do not yet see management as their career. They remain attached to their technical speciality and pride themselves in their technical ability but do not place the same attachment and pride on their management prowess. I always feel a little sad for them. The journey into management is an exciting one where you learn much much more about others and about yourself (sometimes more than you ever wanted to know!), and where wisdom is a treasured attribute that can make the difference between success and failure of an organisation.

Static Knowledge is Great

Often, as a manager and leader you have access to a range of assessments and profiling tool – these provide you with a great deal of static information about yourself and your behavioural and working style patterns. You probably know your MBTI type, whether you are a Starter or a Finisher, prefer data driven learning over kinaesthetic learning and so forth. This sort of information is great in beginning to understand yourself and understand differences in others, and gives you some insight into how to modify your approaches when working with different individuals or different circumstances.

You may also have been lucky enough to attend leadership and management courses, and maybe even a multi-day leadership development course. These are invaluable and provide you with insights and skills necessary for your day to day operation.

But often it is static information – that is, you receive the data or information, tools or techniques, you may reflect on it somewhat and plan some changes, and then it is back to work. You know that, right? The hardest part of any learning is how to implement it at work.

Dynamic Knowledge is Better

I am very interested in much more dynamic and personal approaches to growing as a leader and as a person. These approaches require a daily focus but the rewards are huge. What if I said that you  will become more focused, more persistent, more vital and more energetic? What if I told you that your ability to adapt to circumstances and environments would improve? What is the secret? It is Paying Attention to Attention. There are many techniques for doing this, but let’s start with a very simple one.

Paying Attention to Attention

Our mind is a tricky little beast. It wanders all over the place. If you begin paying attention to its workings it will give you great dynamic information about your styles, biases and preferences. It will teach you how you think and what triggers emotions, for example the triggers or situations that make you feel frustrated, angry, alone, great, powerful, effective. Once you have this understanding you can use it to modify your approach to either change ineffective behavioural patterns or to use your strengths even more effectively.

Begin paying attention to attention by setting aside 5 minutes before you leave the office, or before you go to bed, to reflect on your Attention during the day and to make some notes. There is not need for a long journal – just some notes as reminders and as a record of your journey. “Found myself angry today when Shelly changed the plans for the benefit. Why did I personalise it to that extent? Noticed that I use thoughts of the upcoming weekend as a release from the pressure we are facing each day at the moment.” “I found today that I could control my reaction to circumstances where I usually show my frustration with the team. I understand that process of the mind much better now. Today I managed to remain calm and address the situation.”

Too hard to do this every day? Yes, it does take a lot of willpower in the beginning to do this each day. But no more that the discipline of planning projects, keeping your staff informed, maintaining great customer relationships.

Good luck! Let me know how you go.

Can we help?

If you would like us to help you understand these approaches, give us a call.

Indra Process and Performance Consulting

All articles that appear on Indra Process and Performance Consulting’s blog are copyright  Indra Process and Performance Consulting 2008.

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