#THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Attention! I’ve been MUGGED!

Did that catch your attention? It’s actually true!

The incident got me thinking about the things that we do and don’t pay attention to. This Pause for Thought turns to the theme of perspective and the idea that, sometimes, perhaps we tend to notice what we are looking for.

A magnifying glass on the word focus

The mugging happened on my way home from a training day just before Christmas – outside my own front door, whilst my mind focussed on preparations for the festive season. 

This week I went to give a statement to the police about what happened.

I was struck by how (despite it being a relatively traumatic, memorable event) there was actually very little detail of the 15-second incident that I could afterwards recall.

This got me contemplating the theme of attention and the main areas of my training work:
  • What are the things that we do and don’t pay attention to as managers and leaders?
  • When working with people with dementia what do we focus on – the person or their behaviour?
  • When listening to others – do we pay attention to the words or the feelings underneath?

Managers/Leaders – What do you see?

Image of fire-fighters putting out flames
As busy managers, it can be easy for us to be swept along by the ever-increasing pace of change, reaching targets/deadlines, not least ‘fire-fighting?’

To quote Alan Lakein and Winston Churchill: 

“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

Time spent on focusing on the future, anticipating events, needs and change can help us to prevent crises.

As we work under increasing pressure, though, do we risk placing our attention on the doing and keeping up with deadlines at the risk of effective planning?

“Hey Boss, I’m Here… Look at Me”

Managing and leading staff and volunteers is one of the greatest privileges of the job – yet it also engenders great responsibility and poses its own challenges.

Whilst targets are important, if we fail to pay attention to our people, we do so at our peril – in order for staff to feel motivated, they need managers/leaders to recognise them as fellow human-beings, with their own aspirations, fears, desires needs and concerns.

Praise creates far more motivation and increased performance than negativity and criticism. 

Yet many staff I meet tell me how they feel unrecognised and devalued. That all their manager can tell them is: ‘do better,’ ‘work harder’ or, worse still, only discuss performance when things go wrong.

  • What do you spend most of your time focussing on? Is it what your people are doing well or what they need to be doing better?
  • Do you look out for those ‘small examples’ of how they are doing a great job, or do you mainly notice what they are doing wrong?
  • Do you pay attention to your people and how they are doing every day or just when you happen to have a 1:2:1 or supervision session?

Take this example:

You notice whilst passing a colleague that their desk is untidy, papers appearing disorganised. What is your first thought: ‘What a mess! They obviously can’t cope with the pressure and can’t think clearly.” 

Or do you think: “They must working on a tough project at the moment, that’s perhaps why their papers are in a mess?”

Focus on the Person with Dementia

Image of the Word Dementia above criss-crossing roads
In my experience, working with people with dementia is an incredible privilege, yet it inevitably brings challenges.

When a person with dementia becomes increasingly withdrawn it can be hard to engage them. It is perhaps easier for our attention to be drawn to those who are more ‘fun’ and ‘verbal’ or who have behaviours that we find difficult or challenging.

I saw such an example on a hospital ward where one very withdrawn lady was practically ignored whilst staff around her rushed about mainly paying attention to a male patient who was shouting and flirting with one of the nurses and ‘having a laugh.’

Of course, care staff work incredibly hard and can’t pay attention to everyone all of the time. Yet this incident made me realise how little attention this lady was receiving and the potential danger if this went on regularly for her.

Image of hand holding a sapling

Imagine a garden with beautiful plants and flowers – if the gardener ignores them, forgetting to feed and water the plants, eventually they will become overgrown with weeds and potentially wither and die.

What was wonderful in the above situation above was that a nurse came along, knelt down and held the hand of the lady with dementia, smiling. After a few moments the nurse returned to her other tasks.

The lady with dementia smiled to herself for the next ten minutes – unseen and unrealised by the nurse involved. 

Through just a few moments of attention given to this lady she had increased her sense of well-being long after the moment itself had passed.

Problem or Your Influence Over it: Where is your attention?

Some of you may have come across Stephen Covey’s model – circle of influence and circle of concern.
Basically, he suggests that if we focus on the concern, it gets bigger and bigger whilst our influence diminishes.

Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern
Circle of Influence-Circle of Concern

Image of Focus on Concern creating smaller influence
Focus on the Problem/Concern

For example, if I focus on the concern that I have only 2 more days to prepare my presentation for an important conference, the more stressed I become.

I just pay attention to the ticking clock and feel more and more out of control.

Image of Circle of Influence becoming bigger rather than concen
Focus on what we can Influence

Alternatively, if I focus on what I can influence I may feel more empowered:

“OK, not much time left, but if I ask Sue to research the latest statistics for me only, that will be one less thing for me to do. Oh, and if I delegate attending this afternoon’s meeting to Asad it will raise his profile and free up a few extra hours for me to edit my slides from last time…” And so on.

In other words, rather than pay attention to the problem, I’m now paying attending to potential solutions.

So where we place our attention can have a real impact on ourselves and others.

I’ve just paid attention to a few areas, there are many more – perhaps I’ll return to them in future blogs!

Luckily for me, when I was mugged I paid attention to running to the corner shop from which my muggers had followed me to check if they had been captured on CCTV.

Fortunately, they had, so the culprits will hopefully soon be getting a knock on their door signalling a visit from the police and their capture, so they can’t attack someone more vulnerable than me in the future.

So, to conclude, we can’t pay attention to everything

We just need to ask whether we are focusing on the important things.

Over to You – Release Your Potential

These are my thoughts and perspectives about focus and what we pay attention to. What are yours?

  • What have you learned as a manager/leader about paying attention (or not)?
  • What have you learned through caring for a person with dementia about paying attention?
  • What have you learned about yourself about paying attention?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, experiences and wisdom.

Staying Connected

Contact me for further information about how I can help you and/or your organisation around the themes raised in this blog at mike@mikephillipstraining.co.uk or visit my website at: www.mikephillipstraining.co.uk

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