How Leaders Can Avoid Shiny Objects, Black Holes, Fire Drills and Other Dangerous Distractions

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is managing time, a limited resource that has to be used with the utmost care and consideration.

As the saying goes, there are “only so many hours in a day“, and the leader must be able to stay focused on those tasks and activities that truly matter.

That task is complicated by the daily presence of many distractions that the leader must avoid, lest putting themselves (and their company) in jeopardy.

There are three distractions that are particularly dangerous:

The “Bright Shiny Object” –   It’s a new product, a new project, or a new partner that catches your eye.  It’s sounds really cool, and there’s probably a lot of buzz going on about it in the corridors, and probably even in the business pages. The problem is, it’s not really right for the company, or it’s a very long shot for success.  But it’s really cool!  So you devote a lot of time on it, at the expense of other, more viable and profitable things.

The “Black Hole” – The company has committed a lot of money to a particular project and you are trying to guide it to a successful conclusion.  Trouble is, about 25% of the way in it becomes pretty clear that things aren’t going well (and you are going to be over budget to boot), and you face a decision – pull the plug now (with all the resulting hand wringing and blame), or, ask for more money and trudge on.  You choose the latter, and enter the black hole – pressing dangerously on in the hope that somehow, someway it will get pulled out in the end.

The “Fire Drill” –   The phone rings, and it’s your boss.  He saw a blog post yesterday from an unhappy customer – it was a pretty ugly one, but when you dug into it the day before it appeared to be an isolated case that could be routinely handled by your customer service staff, since you had set up a protocol for cases exactly like this one.   Your boss looks at it differently – it’s a complete breakdown of customer service that needs an extensive review and accounting.   You then start the fire drill – two days of phone calls, e-mails, and meetings involving many members of your team, devoted to that single blog post.

These kind of distractions CAN be avoided.    It’s all a matter of leadership perspective – that ability to take a step back, and “see” the bigger picture.   It also requires something else that is even more essential –


The courage to put down a bright shiny object in the face of all that “coolness”.

The courage to stop a black hole project dead in its tracks and take the heat.

And, the courage to tell your boss you will not conduct a fire drill because of a single and isolated incident.

Perspective and courage are your best tools for time management – use them well, and wisely.

And one more thing – beware of that smartphone too; lots of bright shiny objects there.  Believe me, I know….  :-)

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