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The Hazards of Distraction

Do you remember a time when you would pick up the phone to address a business concern? If there’s a problem with a supplier or partner, are you more likely to send an email?

I received two email messages like this recently. The concerns were significant enough for me to reflect deeply on what went wrong.

“We’re concerned about the communications in our business relationship.”

“Are you aware of what happened? Let’s schedule a time to discuss and resolve.”

My conclusion? Distracted leadership. It's disturbing because I am the leader.

My response? To pick up the phone and address the concern. Seek to understand where I was wrong and may have offended. Drop my guard and be open to learning how I can do better.

This approach isn’t just good business, it’s biblical wisdom:

  • “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1 NLT
  • “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be counted among the wise.” Proverbs 15: 31 NLT
  • “Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, humility precedes honor.” Proverbs 15:33 NLT

Be Focused

You and I need to be focused leaders. We must practice clarity in our communications.

We cannot risk the hazards of distraction: the tendency to drift off course when our eyes are focused on minutiae, or to miss details when we are too focused on the big picture.

We can appear to be distracted and arrogant when we allow our responsibilities to take priority over our relationships.

The effectiveness of your leadership diminishes when your focus is on programs and performance over people. Results matter, but effective leaders will empower the people with whom they work to achieve anticipated results.

Respond with Love

Caught in the middle of a toxic email conversation between a new client and the individual who referred him to me, I felt the sting of distracted leadership. The new client accused the individual of unprofessional treatment of a team member; the individual shifted blame to the client’s team member.

It wouldn’t have made any difference to me except the parties referred to me as both a “vendor,” and “some guy.” As a design consultant and expert in my field, those words stung.

The individual’s words were demeaning; the new client’s words were uninformed.

What is most bothersome was that neither individual considered how their message would be received by anybody else included in the conversation, and the lack of decorum each displayed.

We all know individuals who exhibit this type of behavior. Maybe you're one of them. Every time you speak or write something, it creates an impression of your leadership:

  • The quality of your leadership is magnified by the clarity of your communications.
  • The integrity of your leadership is enriched by the truth of your communications.
  • The legacy of your leadership is measured by the impact of your communications.

How would you have responded to the email I received? My pride and ego prompted me to respond with anger. With the words from Proverbs 15 in my heart, my mind reminded me to respond with grace:

  • “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking…” Proverbs 15:28 NLT.
  • “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!” Proverbs 15:23 NLT

This insight from Scott Sauls sums up what I’m thinking: 

“What matters more to us—that we successfully put others in their place, or that we are known to love well?… It is because of this reality–that God has no anger or outrage left for us but only a smile earned for us by another–that we Christians should be the least offended and least offensive people in the world.”

Choose Wisely

As a leader, you have two platforms from which to lead and respond: pride or humility:

  • Pride will lead you down a path that damages relationships and destroys your reputation.
  • Humility will lead you to honor and respect.

Upon what platform will you base your leadership and relationships?

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