Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Lyman Montgomery, CEO of Focused Driven Lifestyle Coaching. His company works with individuals and organizations to focus in the right areas by removing distractions, setting profitable priorities and achieving focused driven outcomes.  For more info: www.focuseddriven.com

SmallBizLady:  What is Focused Collaborations?

Lyman Montgomery:  It is being selective in finding partnerships, joint ventures, and a method of collaboration that allows for both partners to learn from and engage in professional dialogue and exchange of ideas.  This could be through masterminds, accountability groups, etc., the key is making sure both are treated with respect and given opportunities for both to benefit, not just financially.  In most collaborations, people are working together to get a deal closed, but they don’t like each other, and often one party may try to take the lead and outshine the other.

SmallBizLady:  Can give us an example of companies that have used Focused Collaboration as a tool?

Lyman Montgomery:  Yes, companies such as IBM used focused collaboration to build teams within their organization based on several key factors: diversity of location, age, and skills.  What they found was that focused collaboration was instrumental in fostering trust and transparency, and it empowered teams to take action regarding delegation, time management, and project management.  Another example is Gartner, Inc., who used a modified version of focused collaboration called DevOps toolset to facilitate continuous feedback and collaboration between different stakeholders.

SmallBizLady:  What do you see as the biggest problem facing small businesses today?

Lyman Montgomery:  According to the Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur Magazine, the number 1 issue facing business owners is their ability to focus.  In fact, a white paper written by Gensler notes, “Concentration requires a more individualized set of options than today’s standard playbook.  To enhance both collaboration and concentration, we are seeking to invent a workplace that provides a spectrum of individual choices of primary workspaces, supported by places to collaborate, socialize and learn.”  In other words, we need to redefine what we focus on to ensure it adds value to others in the workplace.

SmallBizLady:  You also mentioned that business owners need to stop complaining and start collaborating, why is this important?

Lyman Montgomery:  To give you a quick scenario, there may be a company which is struggling to attract FB followers, and have spent hundreds of dollars on e-courses and reading books, with little success.  It is suggested that they outsource this task; however, it was as if I hit them over the head with a baseball bat.  They had never thought about that.  Instead, they kept complaining, instead of looking at the better solution of them no longer unsuccessfully having to figure it out themselves or pay an expert to take care of it for them?  In the end, they agreed to outsource or collaborate with a young college student who was an expert on FB and social media.

SmallBizLady:  Do you foresee focused collaboration as a trend or fad in terms of its sustainability?

Lyman Montgomery:  The world is shifting from the information age.  A few decades ago, the goal was to provide individuals with information to make logical decisions. However, the problem now is that business owners are consumed with information, and this has caused many to become paralyzed with data or as we used to say in HR, “paralysis of analysis.”  Currently, society is shifting to a story-telling age, where companies who can tell the best story, often in sound bites will succeed.

SmallBizLady:  What in your opinion has caused the shortening of our attention span?

Lyman Montgomery:  Microsoft in 2016, did a study and concluded that the average American attention span with less than that of a goldfish about 5-7 seconds before we begin to shift our focus to something else.

Based on several research studies, it takes about 7 seconds to make a first impression and, about 7 minutes to listen to a conversation before your attention begins to drift.  Have you ever been talking to someone and after about 5 to 7 minutes, you begin to mentally drift?  This is due to your brain trying to decide if the information is relevant or useless.

This is why focus is so important because it helps us to stay engaged and direct our attention, which actually is the simplest definition of focus.  Other factors which have led to a shortening of our attention span are distractions and the endless options we have today.

SmallBizLady:  What are some of these “endless options and distractions that we are faced with today?

Lyman Montgomery:  There was a time when your choices of television channels were limited to ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS.  Today, we have hundreds, if not thousands of channels on our television. We also have 24-hour access to the Internet which didn’t exist 30 years ago and smartphones which can be viewed as a lazy society.  Due to this phenomenon, organizations deal with workplace distractions such as technology and interruptions.

SmallBizLady:  How has technology become a distraction in the workplace?

Lyman Montgomery:  Employees spend hours sending emails back and forth instead of walking across the hall and engaging in a meaningful conversation.  Or, employees are looking for an application or software to solve problems.  When people rely too heavy on technology, it can become a distraction.

Also, people feel compelled to check their social status, and what we know from scientific research is that whenever we get a “like,” “share,” or “comment” on Face Book, our brain rewards us with a release of dopamine into the blood system. Dopamine is a natural “feel good” hormone.  So, after a while, we begin to crave this release of dopamine, and it interferes with our ability to focus, which now becomes a distraction at work.

SmallBizLady:  What strategies would you recommend to help those dealing with distractions to regain their focus

Lyman Montgomery:  I recommend that a person dealing with distractions, first identify the type of distraction.  I have noticed four common types of distractions:

  1. Psychological – where something happened, perhaps some bad news, you are physically present, but mentally have checked out.
  2. People interruptions – where you have a hard time focusing on your work during to constant interruptions in your work environment.
  3. Process – where your current process or way of doing things is no longer working, and
  4. Product – where your spending more time trying to find a technology solution instead of communicating and collaborating with other to solve a problem.

Once you have identified the type of distraction you are facing, the next step is to develop a plan to deal with your distractions.

SmallBizLady:  If you operate a home-based business or work from home, what are some steps you can take to develop a plan?

Lyman Montgomery: Set boundaries by blocking off time on your calendar or set clear expectations when you can and cannot be disturbed.  Second, post your work hours on the door or your desk. Third, change your voice message to reflect that you will return calls at certain times during the day and how to reach you in the case of emergency.  Fourth, make sure you keep your work hours.  If the distractions continue, try a co-working space, or a spare office at a larger business where you can focus and not be distracted. The key is discovering what works best and sticking with it.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

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