Merge's Blog

A leadership lesson on staying focused (from cats)

As frequent readers of my blog and Mega Minutes know, my husband and I live in a house that is managed by two adorable furry felines.  And as all good leaders, they often demonstrate valuable lessons in leadership that I can’t resist sharing with all of you 🙂 .

Consider this example about staying focused and managing distractions – when we call the cats, they rarely come.  Instead, as my husband says, they “take a message and get back to us later”.  You see, our cats have their own agenda and they’re not hurried by external forces (such as us) insisting that they interrupt their day to fit our schedules.  So they get back to us … eventually … but at a time that better fits their needs.

Now I write this a little tongue-in-cheek, but it is nevertheless a leadership trait worth bearing in mind.  A ground-breaking study conducted by Gloria Mark in 2005 demonstrated that the average office worker spends only 11 minutes on any given task before s/he is interrupted, and to make things worse, it takes on average, 25 minutes to return to the initial task.  As a leader, you have a responsibility to stay focused strategically on the big picture and not get pulled off-track by the minutiae that can easily overtake your workday.  True, there will always be crises that will require your immediate attention, but these should be chosen deliberately and prudently.  Staying focused and managing distractions are critical to your and your department’s success, and the cat’s approach of “taking a message and getting back to the person later” may in fact be a very astute leadership lesson.  Bottom line, if you want your outflows to be more efficient and productive, then you’ll have to wrestle with the inflows.

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