Distracted: Lack of Focus and Attention is Making our Lives Worse

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Numerous PSAs inform us that distracted driving is bad, something we all know, yet continue to practice. It’s hard for us to sit through even a half-hour TV show without checking our phones numerous times. The embarrassingly messed up  Best Picture Award announcement at the 2017 Academy Awards was blamed on an accountant distracted by a tweet.  Children whose parents pay more attention to their mobile phones are acting out to get the attention they need.  We’re failing at paying attention in ways that are inevitably making our lives worse.

Too many of us believe in the fallacy that multitasking makes us more productive and effective. We know better, but we’ve all become experts at distracting ourselves. It’s hard to sit quietly and wait for an appointment, accompanied by nothing but our own thoughts, without checking our phones. When I’m on a deadline, or working on a client or writing project I do manage to shut everything else out. I need to. I know that the results are far better when my total attention is focused. I don’t take calls or look at texts; I don’t stop to check social media sites. I just write. Sometimes I even disconnect from wifi so I’m not tempted to take a little break. It works.

Over the weekend, there was a popup, sudden, severe storm that caused a power surge at my home. The modem failed and since Saturday, our home has been internet-free while we wait for the replacement to be shipped and installed.

It’s been surprisingly freeing.

Work has happened just in the office or at meetings. Entertainment is in interaction with one another or reading books. It’s so tempting to continue internet-free at home for longer, to see if we can resume better habits of paying attention, of focusing on one another or on the tasks at hand. I keep seeing evidence of distraction hurting people around me. I think it’s important to take stock of how distracted we are, and how much we’re allowing distraction to happen, before we lose what matters to us.

Hal Movius on Negotiation, Conflict Resolution in the Workplace in Fast Company

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Hal Movius ResolveNegotiation expert Hal Movius published a book, Resolve: Negotiating Life’s Conflicts with Greater Confidence  and has immediately gained nationwide attention. Hal’s book comes at a time when anxiety is high, and relationships, in and out of the workplace have another layer of potential for conflict. This week, Hal teaches us how to turn confrontation at work into productivity. From the article:

“People who think of themselves as pretty cooperative tend to avoid or give in when they’re up against more powerful counterparts at work. But the fact is that using confrontation in these situations isn’t about getting aggressive or being pushy. Do it right, and it becomes a subtle technique for prodding your counterpart back to the table. With a little resolve and a willingness to wade into conflict rather than shrink from it, you can actually build more collaborative partnerships than you’d otherwise think.”

I’m learning a lot from Resolve and from Hal’s work. Learning techniques for successful negotiation and perhaps more importantly, building one’s confidence to deal with work issues is something just about everyone needs.

How to Talk about the Election as a Brand

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know you’re thinking you know what I’m going to say . . . that I’m going to say, “Just. Don’t.” but that would make for a very short post, and isn’t, in fact, what I’m thinking at all. (You don’t know me!)
For many brands, the election and its aftermath are totally irrelevant and they should, in fact, not try to leverage the news cycle and trending topics. BAD IDEA; don’t do this.

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You Probably Aren’t Just Fine

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Robyn Jackson, Civility Expert

Guest post by Robyn Jackson, the owner of The Civility School, providing training and education for professionals interested in polishing their interactions as a critical part of attaining business goals.

The 2016 presidential election and its brutal build-up have brought about a surge in the business of Civility. Leaders of organizations are calling with SOS cries for help in “civilizing” their employees, their students, and themselves. They want to know if I offer a magic pill (no), a good fairy wand (no), or a lifetime guarantee (no). What I do offer, however, is something pretty darn magical, good, and guaranteed to work IF you practice it.

Your business is probably doing just fine. Your employees probably get along just fine. And your clients and customers might just say that your service is just fine as well. But if you’ve heard me speak, you’d know that “just fine” is not just fine at all. I digress, but will return to that in a moment.

Your business and its representatives deserve to be compelling, not just fine, and believe it or not, focusing on civil engagement and its practices have the power to do just that. The changes can be subtle, but they pack a punch. Back to the word fine, for example. I would immediately take that one little word out of your company’s word bank. No one would answer a howdy-do with fine,
And fine would not be the answer when rating the quality of an experience or product. Modern society, in which I would include generations of thirteen-year-old girls, has taken this word and twisted it around to sound un-fine, adolescent, and NOT compelling.

Words and their magic (for good or bad) are only a part of what professional civility entails. Learning, practicing, and being mindful of the evolving nature of facial expression, body language, gestures, cultural expectations, gender issues, and other areas of human regard will make you and your company go way beyond JUST FINE. You will be exceptional, compelling, and yes, civil.

Public Relations and the Non-Compete Agreement

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I’ve had one non-compete agreement in my career — at the first PR firm I joined in the mid-1990s. I made less than $24,000 a year. It was a hard-core agreement but even as I signed it, our HR person said that it “didn’t really mean anything.”

The interesting thing about the agreement was that it didn’t say I couldn’t go work for a client — it said I couldn’t go work for another PR firm. Within two years I broke the agreement when another firm lured me away with the promise of a bigger paycheck. The first firm threatened to go after me. Their lawyers contacted and threatened the lawyers of the PR firm I joined. I was assured by my lawyer (father) that the agreement wouldn’t hold up — that you simply can’t deny people the right to make a living in their field. The matter was ultimately settled behind the scenes and I had to agree to work on certain clients and not others, details of which I barely remember.

But it was stressful, for sure.

News today that President Obama is urging a ban on non-compete agreements thrills me.It’s how it should be, and employers should simply offer fair wages and a great workplace if they want their people to stay. The next firm I worked for didn’t have a non-compete of any kind. (Good; I would not have signed one.) They sometimes lost employees to clients but you know — that turned out so well for them. The firm continued to have the client with a friend and former colleague now on the inside. It was an incredibly, accidentally ingenious move, founded by a firm that had enough confidence in the quality of the service they offered, and in the loyalty of the people they employed. It often was the case that corporate or nonprofit life was a better fit than agency life for the employees who left, and the firm was better for it, ultimately.

My advice? Don’t sign a stinking non-compete. And if you’re in one now and thinking of breaking it, I believe you have a good shot of getting through it unscathed.