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Tips to Help Leaders Stay Focused
Episode 15828th September 2020 • American Lean Weekday: Leadership | Lean Culture & Intrapreneurship | Lean Methods | Industry 4.0 | Case Studies • Tom Reed: Lean Enthusiast & President of American Lean
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When you lead people, there a million opportunities to get distracted. Phone calls, responding to e-mail. Reading reports or deliverables from your employees. People asking questions or complaining to you. These tasks take a toll on staying focused on your work.

Tip 1- Stay out of email jail

A natural tendency is to respond to an e-mail the minute you receive it. But do you have to? Constantly scanning email or anything wears down your brain. The constant decision making required while reading e-mails consumes your time and glucose reserves that power your brain.

One of the best ways to reduce the influence of constantly reading e-mail is to set specific times of the day to check your e-mail and stick to it.

I worked with a controller of a brewery and in the signature of his email; he stated that he only checked e-mail at 10:00, 1:30, and 4:00. Here is a copy of his email signature.

Realize that when your boss sends you an email, he or she isn’t expecting an answer right away. I’m sure they don’t think you are sitting at your desk all day waiting for an email from them. If they do, you have bigger problems.

Most leaders that I know are fine with a 24 hour response time depending upon the nature of the email. If it’s urgent, I’m sure they will call.

Tip 2- Standardize the email subject line

When I was Vice President of Operations, I would get copied on email chains that would be five to ten layers deep. I didn’t have time to read all the previous e-mails, but sometimes I would have to get to the part number they had questions about.

As part of leaning out our communications, we developed a standard format for the subject line of emails. It contained the question or task first, then the part number in the subject line.

As an example- scrapped parts 143366. Status of order 1654343. This helped everyone immediately understand what the request was.

Your email communications follow the Pareto principle. Develop standard subject lines so you can remain focused and shorten your response time.

Tip 3- Delegate and say no

If you have an Executive Assistant, train them to scan your calendar, e-mail, and other distractions to allow you to focus on your key tasks. It isn’t hard to train them what’s important to you and allow that information to reach you.

If you don’t have an executive assistant, try saying no to many of the meeting requests that you receive. Many of them are status updates that you can send someone on your team to attend.

When you say no to something, it allows you to say yes to something else. Hopefully that something else is staying focused on your leadership responsibilities.

As always, it is an honor to serve you, and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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