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Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

Leadership is all the rage. If you want to be a better leader, there’s a whole genre of books out there to tell you how to do it. Thousands of web articles have been written on the topic. Entire organizations have arisen with the purpose of training people how to become more effective leaders. No one ever stops to ask why we would even want to be leaders. The assumption as that it’s something we should strive for–that leading is better than following.

But is following really all that bad? We don’t see many books or articles written on “followership.” Not many people are interested in becoming better followers. The very notion strikes at our sense of autonomy and self-respect. Why would we want to learn how to follow people? What good would that do us? Well, I’m glad you asked…

1. Following Helps You Learn More

Followers are learners. The more you follow, the more knowledge you gain. As a leader, you may begin to think you’ve got it all figured out. Following brings you back down to reality and enables you to continually teach yourself new things.

Followers use social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a news feed to gather information rather than as a broadcast platform to promote their ideas. Followers go to networking events to collect business cards and learn about other industries rather than going to distribute business cards and promote themselves.

Followers are students. They’re always looking for an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to teach. And, as we all know, knowledge is power.

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2. Following Gets You Mentors

When you focus exclusively on being a leader, you miss the opportunities to learn from other leaders. Adopting the posture of a follower allows you to find a special guide that will teach you how to navigate life.

Mentors have the power to inspire us to become better human beings. If you ask many of the great thinkers, creators, or leaders what they attribute their success to, they will probably mention a mentor who showed them the way.

When you declare yourself a follower, you open up the door for a mentor to take you under his or her wing. There are always people out there willing to show you the way; you just have to be enough of a follower to let them.

3. Following Fuels Your Creativity

Creative people aren’t so much creative as they are resourceful. The most innovative people will freely admit that they’ve simply built on the insights that came before them.

Creative people borrow. Painters follow the techniques of other painters. Writers follow the literary devices of other writers. Superman, our most iconic of superheros, was fashioned from the creators’ obsession with the pulp fiction and detective stories of their childhood.

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If you aren’t following other people and ideas in your field, you simply will have no fodder for your creativity. Inspiration doesn’t arise from a vacuum. It comes from other creative people making things that they too borrowed from other people. If you aren’t following, you aren’t creating.

4. Following Engages You with the Community

Leaders can become detached from their communities. You don’t engage much with other people when you are on the high horse or in the ivory tower. Interaction happens on the ground level.

When you are a follower, you interact with other followers. Being part of the “fan club” is less about being a “fan” than it is about being in the “club.” You share ideas with people and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Following makes people like you. It says to those gathered around, “Hey, I’m one of you.” When you follow, you become part of a community of followers. And we’re social creatures. The community is everything.

5. Following Increases Your Accountability

When you follow a certain set of ideas, values, or rules, you become accountable to those concepts. Whether it’s a religious group, a political group, a professional group, or a social group, you take on responsibility when you become a member of the tribe.

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When people are counting on you, you become more disciplined. You manage your time and tasks more effectively. You become less lazy and more motivated. There’s nothing quite like somebody watching you to convince you to get stuff done.

Following makes you responsible. If you want to continue to be accepted in the community of followers, you’ve got to contribute. You’ve got to be dependable. And, as you become more accountable to others, you will also become more accountable to yourself.

6. Following Enables You to Adapt

Many times, leaders will persist in a certain direction even when it doesn’t make sense. They feel like they are tied to the decisions they’ve made and changing their minds will make them look weak.

As a follower, you always have an out. If necessary, you can always abandon the cause in favor of more noble ones. You can always pivot into a more profitable direction. No one is looking at you, so you can more easily make a change.

Following enables you to be nimble. It gives you the flexibility to dodge obstacles and travel down a series of paths that make the most sense. When you are following, you choose what you follow. Leaders don’t always have that luxury.

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7. Following Makes You a Leader

The best leaders start out as followers. You become a leader, not by asserting your authority, but rather by spending a lifetime following the right things. Leaders are people who have mastered all of the things mentioned above: learning, being mentored, fueling their creativity, participating in the community, increasing their accountability, and being willing to adapt.

Leaders are people who have mastered followership. They have paid their dues and now people see them as someone worth following. Followers are leaders in the making.

As you can probably gather, I am not suggesting that you blindly follow whichever person, organization, or idea that you stumble across. “Blind” following never did anyone any good. But, if you follow with intention–with the desire to grow and better yourself as a person, the results will blow you away.

The key is to follow the right things. And when you can develop the wisdom to know the difference, following will change your life.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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