Driven to Distraction – Why Your Staff May Be Underperforming

Justin Byrne

Distraction (2)

​Driven to Distraction – Why Your Staff May Be Underperforming

Are you easily distracted?

Since time began, leaders have been looking for ways to keep their teams focused, on-task and productive. In light of so many people now working from home, ‘distraction’ is a word that’s being used a lot: “I’m more distracted by external things whilst working from home”; “I find it easier to focus at home, without the distractions of my co-workers around me”.

So, what do you get distracted by? Could it be your phone? An email or social media notification? Your dog?

All of the above?

With our teams back in the office and, in truth, seeming more motivated than ever, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. It led me to pondering distraction in a different way; why is it that when your team is buzzing with motivation, they’re less easily distracted?

Why is it that when everyone is in that mindset of really trying to push it, those outside factors carry less weight?

And so, I came to a realisation.

The phone, dog, Facebook, all of that stuff – those aren’t distractions. Those are simply the solution to distraction. The smartphone isn’t the distraction; the distraction is the thing that has led the individual to seek out their phone, as a way to avoid whatever it is they’re unwilling, unable or afraid to face. It comes from something way deeper, far more internal.

Here are some real examples of distractions which may be afflicting your team and leading to less than stellar performance:

1. Unsurety about what they should actually be doing.

If your staff aren’t 100% sure of what how to do their job, this could lead to a reluctance to do… Well, anything. The uncertainty and lack of understanding of their role is what leads an employee to seek out something else to focus on.

The obvious solution to this would be to offer clear and concise direction to your workforce; but, in the likelihood that you feel as though you’ve already done so, the more important factor here is communication. Foster an environment in which your employees feel comfortable and confident enough to ask for help, and be sure to offer it regularly in any case.

2. A disconnect between the day-to-day job and long-term goals.

When your employees lose sight of their goals – whether it be their own (career, earnings, personal aspirations) or the company’s (revenue targets, long-term growth goals) – they’re more likely to become distracted. When there’s no longer a goal to reach for, a place to aim, it can become difficult for them to translate their day-to-day activity into that – or any – purpose. Hence leaving them open to seek out distractions instead.

To help mitigate this, have regular catch up meetings with your staff – not performance reviews or anything quite so formal necessarily, but just a check in to ensure they’re still feeling focused and motivated. Don’t assume that everyone knows, no less is engaged and working towards the same thing – it’s your job as the manager or business leader to reinforce and keep them connected with their own goals and those of the team.

3. Professionally put? Feeling unchallenged. Simply put? Boredom.

Distraction can be derived from many places and, unfortunately, boredom is one of them. If an employee of yours isn’t finding the enjoyment in what they’re doing, naturally they’re going to look elsewhere for stimulation. The same can be said for a lack of challenge; it all comes down to keep the brain engaged and working at something.

Challenge and enjoyment in equal measure make for a focused workforce, and one whose minds are too busy to search for miscellaneous things to waste time on.

The honest truth is, we all become distracted from time to time – and, whilst there’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the activities which make up your job every now and then, there needs to be an understanding between what defines ‘taking a break’ and what is actually just the brain looking for a way out; a way to avoid doing what we should be. As a business leader, have a think about the things mentioned above and how they might be affecting your workforce; distraction has a direct link with productivity, or a lack thereof, so implementing some of these practices these into your team’s mindset may pay dividends.

When do you feel at your most distractable? Awareness is the first key to overcoming; whether your team are now home workers or in the office, being driven to distraction can take its toll on performance. For more management tips, have a look at the other articles published by me on LinkedIn – I love a discussion, so get in touch by leaving a comment. And, of course, to talk anything recruitment related, get in touch with the Certus team today.