Car Tails and Other Distractions

A while back, my wife and I took a short road trip with the kids.In the two hours it took us to leave the house (yes, you read that right) we navigated through tears, whining, chores, and the equivalent of a WWF cage match.

And that didn’t even include the kids.

Most of these family excursions end up looking like a scene from National Lampoon’s vacation.The chaos drives us nuts, which leads to us yelling at the kids to stop screaming, kicking seats, hitting each other, touching the other person’s side of the seat, humming, breathing too loud or whatever else the other sibling is complaining about.

As Bill Cosby says, parents aren’t interested in justice.They just want quiet!

With rage bubbling just beneath the surface, we finally stopped for gas.I climbed out of the car to pump gas thankful for a few moments of relative quiet with nothing but the sound of cars rushing by coupled with the noxious fumes of idling diesels.It was wonderful.And I was secretly wishing I had two tanks that needed to be filled.

As I scanned the lot I noticed several other drivers that looked much like me.Tired, road weary souls with luggage piled high inside and outside their car.Then I noticed a commotion to my left as another vehicle started rocking and I could see an all too familiar scene of arms and hair flailing through the tinted windows.The dad quickly jumped into the driver’s seat, presumably to settle things down, put the car in gear and – thump – drove off with the fuel hose sticking out of his tank. His car now had a tail.

Lucky for him there were only about a thousand cars in the truck stop to notice.

It was then that I realized how easily this could happen.After all, gas pumps are equipped with quick disconnect hoses for just this reason.We get so focused on one aspect of the trip (peace and quiet) that we miss the whole reason for the journey (have a good time).And this focus can be all-consuming.Distracting.And dangerous.

But this happens in everyday life.We have our own agendas, we’re trying new things, and we miss the bigger purpose.In our organizations, this is most easily seen in our ineffective meetings.One of the greatest resource hogs in modern business, leading to unnecessary delays, rework, and misalignment.

We’ve written a whitepaper called “The Cure for the Common Meeting” that includes simple tips for regaining focus in your meetings and avoiding costly, embarrassing mistakes.Here are a few:

  1. Keep The Destination In Mind:Before crafting your agenda, simply ask, “What is the end product of this meeting?”Are you trying to identify the cause of a problem?Reach a decision?Plan an implementation?If this is not communicated clearly up front, people will get side-tracked.
  2. Create A Road Map:Once you have your destination in mind, it is much easier to see how to get there.You know what must be on the agenda, and what should be excluded.
  3. Plan for Distractions:This is the most overlooked on the list.Detours will happen and distractions arise.Knowing your ultimate destination will help you identify distractors, but you must have a plan for dealing with them in the moment.Post a “Parking lot” on the wall where you can publicly record issues that must be dealt with, but at a later date.And, if you must address an issue right away, get agreement from those present that there is enough time and information among those present to do so effectively, and set a time limit to get back on track.

In thirty-five years of working with clients, we’ve helped them transform their meetings from ineffective time-wasters into a productive means to achieve their ultimate objectives.If you are looking to eliminate distractions in your company, give us a call at (800) 386-5611. We’d love to lend a hand.








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