Distraction Is Disrespectful: 5 Ways To Stay Focused

On Thanksgiving evening, Ray Lewis the infamous and injured middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens was asked if he and his team were distracted with the probability of his rare absence from the field. He confidently replied, “No, distraction on the field is disrespectful to your team. We need to know we can count on anyone at anytime.”

The concept of distraction usually focuses on how we adapt to what is happening in the environment – “hopefully it doesn’t disrupt us too much so everyone can get back to work,” “let’s try to keep distractions to a minimum,” or “he’s easily distracted.” Mr. Lewis points the locus of control right where it should be for any leader – personal responsibility for straying from a task at hand and potentially disrupting an entire team’s performance.

Distraction is ultimately a choice, however difficult to ignore at the time, and here’s what you can do about it as a leader:

  • Convey a philosophy to your team that each person, including you, is accountable for being distracted. It is not a foreign force outside of you. It takes your action to give up your focus and attention to a team effort.
  • Because distraction can occur in any environment, predict the possibility and how you will respond as a team. In one setting a team member said he was very concerned about his daughter’s health, and created an interim leadership option if he was called back to the hospital for an extended time. His focus improved as a result and the team increased their respect for him.
  • Check your environment for distraction-enhancers and discuss them with your team. Technology can be a culprit, but other times something as simple as ambient noise can be modified to increase focus and productivity.
  • In a case of distraction it is worthwhile to consider issues of commitment by a team member to their role on the team. Sometimes people are simply in the wrong role, other times they should not be on the bus. Distraction is then a symptom.
  • Lastly, do not overdo the analysis of distraction. Yes, you look at any breakdown and understand what has happened, but you want to get back on track and not overvalue the power of distraction, if you believe your strategy makes sense in the first place. If everyone appears distracted it’s probably not distraction, but something askew within the strategy or plan itself.

Embracing your culture with a sense of personal accountability is one of the best ways to deal with distraction, but distraction can be one of the toughest tests because it is easy to place the blame on the environment.

Thanksgiving evening, Ray Lewis was a cheerleader on the sideline as someone else took his role as middle linebacker. His attention was on his team, he deftly deflected questions about his feelings and he drew everyone’s attention to the contest. The Ravens played very well.