Failed Focus: Crushing Consequences to Your Credibility

How the Shiny Light destroys relationship and our Leadership Cred

Posted Dec 24, 2013


The Shiny Light steals our attention and can ruin relationships

Shiny Light steals our attention and focus!

Failed Focus: Crushing Consequences to Your Credibility 

How the Shiny Light destroys relationship and our Leadership Cred

What percent of time do you think you operate on automatic from your habits?

Research tells us that it is 95% of the time. What are you missing out on when you are doing things on autopilot every day? Often what this failed focus leads to ignoring the important people and relationships we have. These can be direct reports, significant others, spouses or partners or your children. Most of your failed focus is unintentional yet the consequences can be crushing for your leadership credibility and family trust.

Leaders underperform, parents selectively listen and we follow routinized and constricted steps versus being open to new experiences. We are bombarded with distractions to what and who are truly most important for us to focus on.

How you manage your attention is critical, it is the fuel that allows you be emotional intelligent and effective at work and home. Dr. Dan Goleman in his new book Focus:The Hidden Driver of Excellence, states that we far too often have “continuous partial attention, a mental blurriness induced by the overload of information." Hear a recent interview with Dr. Goleman discussing his book, 

We are constantly being distracted and seduced by the shiny light that grabs and steals our attention. We become less empathic and engaged in our relationships as these relationships stay a dull beam in the background  to bring forward at a later date. This unconscious prioritization pays a price to the people who count on you.

Consequences: The Five I’s

What are the consequences of being on automatic and being grabbed by the ever present shiny light if you are a leader or parent. These consequences as we know are usually unintentional but can erode your credibility. Here is how that can happen.

1. Ignored: The people most important to give our attention to fade to the background, while the fire to put out or task to accomlish is figure or front stage. The important conversation, feedback or acknowledgement gets postponed until a better time presents itself.

Consequence: Am I really important to you? Do I matter?

2. Impeded growth and development: You demonstrate your emotional intelligence and leadership in moments of interaction. This automatic focus impedes opportunities for learning, connection, coaching, teaching and sharing. Solving the problem takes precedent over developing the person.

Consequence: I could do this if you helped me? Do you care about my growth?

3. Insulted: Your direct reports and family can feel unappreciated and unimportant. What you are focusing on demonstrates what is important to you. These important people can feel less than the object of your distraction.

Consequence: I am not important to you. Can I really depend on you to be there for me?

4. & 5. Injured and indignant: Repeated experiences of being ignored and insulted can lead to feeling injured on a personal level. This social rejection shows up in the brain just as pain, like pain of a physical injury. These emotions can fester to where these key stakeholders in your life feel indignant, angry, and resentful. Once injured in this way they could become more distant and protective from being injured once again. Their radar is activated and they can search and find other slights, injustices and injuries from you. What they focus on is their reality for those moments.

Consequence: I can’t trust you not to hurt me again. I am keeping my distance.

Although these consequences are usually unintentional, becoming more aware of your unintended consequences can help you make better choices on what and how to use your focus.

Emotional Audit: To get more control of your focus, attention and relationships, ask yourself the Five Emotional Audit questions.

These are strategic in nature and can bring volition and executive functioning back to you when on automatic. Ask yourself the questions and wait 3-5 seconds for your answer. The more you do the audit, patterns for questions 1, 2 and 4 will emerge. This self-knowledge will help you get better decisions and results. When you are triggered you know to take a deep breath and count to ten. Now add asking these five questions to get you off automatic thinking and give you better focus, choice and better decisions. The emotional audit is a mindfulness exercise to bring you a "here and now" focus.

Emotional Audit questions:

  1. What am I thinking?
  2. What am I feeling?
  3. What do I want in this situation?
  4. How am I getting in my own way?
  5. What do I need to do differently now?

If you stay on automatic you stay average. Disciplined focus can help you be exceptional.


 Relly Nadler, Psy.D., MCC for free tools and resources.