In my last blog, I wrote about a smattering of scientific studies related to focus, attention, productivity, persistence, and creativity. My journey was to understand what we are learning about how the mind works that might inform how we can better coach and use business teams, particularly on project work. In this blog I will discuss five strategies to help improve team focus. That said, these strategies are as applicable to families as they are to businesses.
5 strategies to help improve team focus
1. Spend more work time on activities that focus less on technology.
For many businesspeople, much of the workday is spend at a computer screen. And I am no exception on that. In addition to running my two companies, I shop online, manage my finances online, read books on my phone or Kindle, and too often, I talk with my friends and families through a screen. And yet, we all know that too much technology is hard on brain functioning.
When you work on projects, take advantage of brainstorming sessions to think about risks, lessons learned, and better ways of accomplishing specific tasks. Take advantage of lunch breaks to get away from your screens and chat with your work friends. You might be surprised at how valuable time spent just talking with your team can be as you seek to improve team focus.
2. Work, as a team, in green spaces.
One of the cool benefits of the pandemic has been the rush to spend more time outside. We see restaurants creating seating options in the streets of big cities. We see Google experimenting with incorporating green space in workplace designs. There is just no reason why knowledge workers need to get stuck in a cubicle for eight hours a day. Not only can it help your team to get outside but it will help the health of everyone on the team.
Few businesses have the luxury of being able to spend billions to experiment with outdoor office spaces. And many businesses operate where the weather would never offset the costs of that investment.
But many of us could take our laptops to the park on a pretty afternoon and work there. Can the whole team do that? Or is that important? Some teams collaborate more on a constant basis than others.
3. Designate blocks of time in the day for deep work so that individuals can focus.
I’ve heard the complaints about too many meetings and to some extent they are valid. Teams need to find a balance between meetings and work time. And since much of the work that we do in offices today is intense, and requires deep thought, we need to find ways to get that done without the distractions of email, chats, texts, social media, and other interruptions.
Encourage your teams to identify the blocks of time when they will be unavailable so that they can focus intently. If need be, explain to clients that multitasking is taking a toll on performance, and you need the folks on your teams to have time for deep thought.
Teams need to find a balance between meetings and work time. We need to find ways to get things done without the distractions of email, chats, texts, social media, and other interruptions. #teamwork #leadership #team #projectmanagement…
4. Reduce the number of areas of focus.
Too many teams are working on so many things that they just can’t focus. Do team leaders understand how important it is to improve team focus? I know that being busy can increases focus. Yet, at some point, people hit a wall and the work overload reduces focus. Exhaustion sets in and people get distracted by the tasks on their lists and can no longer prioritize work effectively.
Additionally, when the workload gets too high, existing work slows or stops in favor of the new. When internal projects are routinely cancelled midway through and replaced by something else, it is demoralizing for teams. When software code enhancements are written but not deployed, the programmers scratch their heads. And, when procedure manuals are rewritten but never effectively introduced to the team, people are inconsistent in their processes. It can be tempting to think that you can do it all, but you can’t.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business advocates the use of a thematic goal to serve as the organization’s single focus. A thematic goal is achievable in a defined time frame and shared across the entire organization. Clarity and full executive support are key.
Paul O’Neill understood the value of focus when he took over Alcoa in 1987. He baffled investors by choosing to focus exclusively on worker safety, even though their safety record wasn’t bad and their financial performance needed some work. He understood that the people in the trenches would rally around worker safety, more than improving financial results. And he understood that to eliminate worker accidents, you must dissect every process, thus ultimately improving financial results.
5. Create a culture of fun.
I’m not suggesting that work will ever be as much fun as a whitewater kayaking trip through class five rapids, or a game of tennis. But we can create a culture of fun for our teams.
Teams need safe places to experiment, fail, learn, and celebrate accomplishments. And project leaders need to spend more time building relationships and less time reworking schedules.
Tony Hsieh was known for creating a culture of fun. If you’d like to read more about his experience in creating Zappos, check out my book review on Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.
What are you doing to improve team focus? Can you share some strategies in the comments?
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Teams need safe places to experiment, fail, learn, and celebrate accomplishments. And project leaders need to spend more time building relationships and less time reworking schedules. #teamwork #leadership #team #projectmanagement…