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  • Karen Gregory


Today I’m reminded about how difficult it is to accomplish a task or even maintain any concentration with constant interruptions. Usually it’s pretty calm around here and getting things checked off my to do list is generally uneventful. By the end of the day the most urgent tasks are complete and I’m ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. What makes today different? Puppy sitting, of course!

I’ve been accompanied by a 6 month old teddy bear puppy named Lucky for the last 4 hours and “unlucky” for me have only accomplished about one hours worth of work!

Lucky was anxious to be involved in a phone call I was on by bringing me the squeakiest toy he could find and proceeding to squeak it incessantly until I could wrestle it away from him and distract him with a non-squeak toy. He’s also demonstrating his opinion of how my working is getting in the way of his playtime by breaking my concentration with his verbal commands [barking] for my attention. His saving grace for these interruptions is his undeniable cuteness.

Lucky is reminding me of some valuable leadership lessons. Instead of letting interruptions cause irritation, make the interruption an opportunity. An opportunity to grow yourself and grow others. Stick with me here.

This pup is no different than the newest member of your team - excited to be part of the organization. New people are constant interruptions. They need to know what they are responsible for, they need training on it, they need reminding, they need guidance, they need resources, and they need your attention to get those needs met.

Lucky is also no different than your more seasoned team members. Anxious and willing to demonstrate an opinion on policies, procedures and processes. It is through being receptive to that communication that organizations move from one level to the next. These interruptions are where your next best idea comes from!

As leaders when we experience interruptions, and especially when we feel we experience too many interruptions, that we pause before reacting poorly and take it as our cue to pay attention. What exactly are our employees trying to tell us? What message have we been missing? Interruptions are a plea for attention in some way. It can mean our employees need additional training, maybe they aren’t fully understanding what is expected of them. An interruption can indicate the employee has suspended their work looking for clarification from you.

When you are faced with more than normal interruptions let it raise a red flag to you. Are you spending enough quality time with your employees? How often do you remind them they are an important piece of the puzzle in your department/organization? When was the last time you challenged them? Or when was the last time you gave them recognition for completing a task that was difficult for them? Have you shown appreciation for employees that take classes to improve themselves, which ultimately benefits the organization? On the flip side of this – are interruptions caused by poor behavior (or allowing poor behavior)? Do you need to be more firm on how new ideas should come your way? Do you need to remind your team of the appropriate way to bring up complaints (tip: the appropriate way is by bringing you at least two solutions with the problem)?

With all the responsibilities you have in leadership, do not forget your most important duty. That is your duty to your people. Interruptions may be an indication you’ve fallen a bit behind in that duty. It may be time to step out of your office and rouse the team. Share some highlights from your last staff meeting, show them the progress you’ve made as a team, thank them for their hard work. There’s nothing that will reinvigorate the passion in them than the support of their leader.

Luckily interruptions aren’t always a negative thing. Sometimes they are your next opportunity to lead.

At this very moment Lucky is laying quietly nearby. Apparently he’s found his comfort zone. Time for me to cause the interruption. (Completely passive-aggressive and you know we don’t advocate that behavior.) If you know anything about LIA Training, then you know we’re not fans of staying in a comfort zone. Time to rouse the pup.


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