How Structure and Focus Support Great Leadership

In this hectic world where we are swamped by emails and our attention can be going in 10 directions at once, the importance of some structure has never been so critical!

Harvard Business Review discusses a neurological phenomenon called  ‘Attention Deficit Trait’.*  Marked by distractibility, impatience and inner frenzy it prevents individuals from making smart decisions, clarifying priorities and managing time. It apparently can leave highly successful executives paralyzed in a state of not knowing which direction to go in and underachievement.  It’s bought on by exploding demands on our time and attention; as too much data floods our brain and we lose the ability to solve problems.

At the same time Cyril Peupion an organisational coach has written a great little book called ‘Work Smarter: Live Better’ which addresses the key steps to getting organized with your filing, emails and time management but then goes further to ensure that what is being done daily is intrinsically aligned to your KPi’s, departmental objectives and your overall business or corporate vision. Interestingly he also mentions the two biggest time wasters being firstly procrastination and secondly a lack of focus.

So what is this word focus and how do you do it?

Focus is your ability to solely concentrate on one task at a time, to block our procrastinations or interruptions and be in flow and concentration to put a solid piece of time into a specific task. It takes work and a real conscious awareness to focus.


  • Take yourself away from others, in a meeting room, or cafe
  • Be honest about what distracts you
  • If you need to get up then be disciplined and reward yourself every half an hour
  • Make sure you have everything you need before you sit down including a drink

In my coaching working with senior executives, general managers and business owners I see many of the traits of a lack of structure and focus.  What I observe is the detrimental impact this is having to them being ahead of their game and kicking the goals they really want to achieve.  One of the first things I do is help them recognize how motivated they are by structure and the need to develop more of this to benefit them.  We start slowly until they start seeing the benefits. It’s great to see the excitement as they achieve more and we increase this until it feels right to them.

I see clients who get so distracted they end up with 7 unfinished emails at the end of the day, and who hasn’t done that – I know I have often ended up with at least three!  I have a client who constantly has an inbox with 1800 emails in it.  I had noticed he wasn’t very good at responding to emails, so in finding this out, I understood.  When I asked him how he felt sitting at his desk, he said he didn’t like it as he looked at all his emails, did the first couple of ones that were urgent and then left his desk to do something else as the list was so overwhelming.

Several of my clients are high on procrastinating and some of this is due to the fact that they do not have any structure in their days. No plan for regular staff meetings, client visits, or time allocated to completing tasks.  So they often respond to what ever comes their way as opposed to be proactively tackling the jobs that are strategically important to their overall goals.

I also see a lack of boundaries in managing their phone. Either phone calls or texts interrupting them in meetings which means they are not present to the meeting they are attending which can give off a bad vibe to others attending. Also clients being so responsive to their phone calls that their personal life is being compromised.

So what’s the psychological impact of not being organised?

The famous saying’ a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind’, is so true yet it is not just the physical space around us on our desk, it is our emails, our soft filing, the amount of documents that we have sitting on our desktop – if you have a Mac – that you see each time you open your computer.  All of this can leave us feeling stressed and disorganized and behind our game plan.

Ask yourself – What do I think or feel when I am not organised?  What impact does this have on my stress levels?

How would it be for me to be really organised, what different could this make to the productivity of my day?

Am I ready to make some changes, am I still thinking about it or am I ready for action?



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