Don’t Let Distraction Cost You the Race
Updated: Sep 3
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
“Stay focused, stay focused,” said the measured, unhurried voice of the race engineer.
“IT’S GOING TO COST US THE RACE!!!” yelled Sebastian Vettel in reply, at the wheel of his Ferrari SH70H.
Vettel is a favorite of Formula 1 fans, a four-time world champion. He had won a rare pole position in the qualifying session for the 2019 Montreal Grand Prix. All he needed was to get a clean start and guide the rocket on wheels to stay ahead of his Mercedes nemesis and the rest of the pack. He was leading in the 61st lap, with ten laps to go.
“Copy that, copy that,” replied the voice in his headset.
“I HAD NOWHERE ELSE TO GO! WHERE DID HE EXPECT ME TO GO? I HAD NO PLACE ELSE TO GO. A FIVE-SECOND TIME PENALTY IS UNFAIR!” decried Vettel, still managing to maintain his lead.
“Stay focused, stay focused,” repeated the race engineer, in a calm tone that defied the unimaginable stresses of keeping control of a machine traveling 285 km/hour.
“I am focused,” said Vettel, who was no longer shouting.
“Copy that. Stay focused,” said the engineer.
Vettel had lost control of the Ferrari for a split second in a high-speed corner, and his maneuver to regain control and maintain first place illegally blocked a rival’s car, costing him a five-second penalty. Vettel was first to cross the finish line, but the penalty cost him the race.
Much credit to Vettel’s finish must be given to the race engineer’s voice in his ear. Wouldn’t it be great to have a little voice in our ear reminding us to stay focused when we find it difficult to concentrate and stay on task?
In Part 2 of my book Humanity at Work, entitled “Know the Course, Stay the Course,” I discuss a critical aspect of a leader’s work: how to create meaningful work for yourself and others. I urge you to assess your ability to prioritize and delegate, and then share easily applicable best practices. I then turn the spotlight on Assumption Mutual Life’s Uber-efficient vice president Rachelle Gagnon, who shares leadership habits that have served her well over her impressive career.
And speaking of focus, it falls victim to multitasking and distractions that rob us and our organizations of the creativity, energy and problem-solving proficiency we so desperately strive for. I have advice as to how to get rid of these workplace ills.
I also tell the remarkable true story of how a young supervisor in a fish-processing plant adopted the practices of a Walmart greeter to astounding results. Simply done and very effective.
Limiting distraction is becoming one of our most critical workplace capabilities. Our devices and fast-paced work environments throw a lot at us to derail, sidetrack and divert our initiatives. I don’t doubt there are times when you feel like Sebastian at the wheel of a race car just trying to stay on course.
No wonder an August 2020 Harvard Business Review article forecasts a new breed of coaches within organizations to systematically reduce distractions and enhance people’s skills in managing and eliminating distractions. In addition to the rise of Distraction Prevention Coaches, other notable new HR roles of the near future include Chief Purpose Planners, Directors of Wellbeing, and Employee Enablement coaches. Exciting stuff!
We’ll take a peek at Part 3 of Humanity at Work in the next newsletter, where our attention will turn to awakening the leader within your people. Stay focused!
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