The attention span of people in society nowadays is approximately 8.25 seconds. Which means by the time you’re done reading this sentence chances are you’ve already decided if you want to move on. How does that translate for people in the workplace? Same problem. The difference is people at work are impacted by two key forces always in play – internal and external expectations. The internal expectations come in the form of desiring a paycheck, making meaningful connections with people, and contributing to the goals of the organizations, to name a few. External expectation come in the form of administrative pressure, customer/client demands, or a pantheon of circumstances beyond your control which nevertheless effect your production. These expectations overcome the attention span problems. Let me show you why.
David v. Goliath
I spent a majority of my adult work life engaged in combat against being beaten down by external demands and expectations on my performance, and the internal expectations I had for myself for the rapid upward advance of my career I wanted to see happen. I was the “go-to” guy for every problem, every situation, every time. I worked hard to become a master of my craft, obtain advanced training and education, and created relationships all across different areas to help me be viewed as the subject matter expert…for everything. What a joke. If you’re not already shaking your head at what a complete fear of man insecurity looks like, then let me give you permission to do so right now. I lived and worked like Goliath until about 2014. I domineered my battlefield, belittled the competition, and truly believed I stood head and shoulders above my peers. How could that be, you ask? Well, I had decided to follow the example of hard-charging veteran supervisors who were so legendary the officers would beg people to not have them respond. They were the ultimate authority in their universe. Command staff left them alone, their peers did everything they could to curry their favor, and officers simply feared them at all times.
Then in 2014 I saw the impact I could have if I followed a different example in different ways. Two significant events occurred at this time. First, I had a few encounters with people on the street where I had taken time to listen, show empathy for what was going on in their lives, and had come to a resolution with them not involving a use-of-force or any punitive consequences at all leaving them better off than when I first arrived. Second, I had the privilege to be invited to attend a coveted leadership school spanning over a three-month period for command staff and a few first-line supervisors like me. Both experiences exposed me to the challenge I had now justifying how I was “leading” and what I saw as a response from people when I first cared for them, and then what happened when I was intertwined with Agency heads who were true Courageous Leaders that I could now have as a better example.
The results were incredible. I shook off the institutional inbreeding demanding a way of leading that was antiquated and started living as David, who with a bag full of smooth, polished principles founded in caring nobility was able to slay the Goliath I had created previously. This was dramatic and noticed. I started being looked at as someone who was a servant-leader capable of handling anything that was thrown at me on the job while retaining the control and poise to bring people from wherever they were at to a better place by the time I had left. This was the result I had been craving. The biggest impact wasn’t seen on the job, however, but lived out at home.
My oldest is an adult and related that through the years he watched as I was putting myself in positions and places to be intentional in relationships with others to serve them. He remarked he learned a great deal about how to be a man who handles his responsibilities through my work ethic. Also, he focused on highlighting to me that my servant-leader heart is something he is modeling his life after. Lastly, my son explained that he admires the core concept of integrity that he has consistently watched me display in my life. He said he could always count on my “yes as yes, and my no as no.”
My youngest is in High School and explained that my example has helped him ground his foundational belief in his faith and as a man securely. He indicated he has watched as I lead people and show them respect, and that has sparked in him the same desire in the way he interacts with people. Further, he told me he has seen my example doing work well even when it’s hard and costs my “free time”, and why that’s critical for how he is going to approach his work life someday.
Lastly, my wife of over 25 years related she sleeps securely each night knowing her husband is a man of unmovable principles dedicated to serving others and protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. She continues to support me as I advocate for a complete surrender of chasing personal glory and watches with admiration my pursuit of helping others identify and achieve their own goals.
The Ten-Second Impact
I started by relating the attention span of people if left to their own devices was 8.25 seconds for a topic. Instagram and Snapchat illustrate this perfectly. But when someone’s core values or principles are engaged and stimulated with dopamine and oxytocin released, those same people are now bought in and craving the connection that comes with that encounter. It’s why as a leader at any level if you understand the concept of Courageous Nobility as a driver for leadership, you will connect people with their value systems, and they will work for you barefoot across fire for free if you protect and lead them well. And we all can think of those leaders who did/do just that in your career. If you are looking to lead and influence people, I offer a simple and difficult challenge.
Represent truth in character, morality, and with principles of sound policing that allow someone to stay true to advocating the right course of action even under political pressure, media scrutiny, or the risk to career advancement. And do so in under ten seconds. That’s right, ten seconds is all you need to open a doorway that other people will be compelled to walk through to learn more. Here’s what I mean. Don’t waste time trying to resume’ someone or prove to them that you are the leader they should trust. They already know about you in some way and, frankly, have some preconceived notions on the kind of person you are. Instead, ask two powerful questions when talking with people beyond surface level problem solving. First, “What’s the toughest thing you’re working through right now?” And give them the time and space they need to answer. Second, “How can I be a part of your solution?” Again, listen well here. Those two questions show the other person you are willing to start a relationship based on investing in the tough times. They will rightly see you as an advocate, helper, and truth-teller in a society where rarely is that displayed. That’s the simple part. The difficult part of the challenge comes as you absolutely cannot drop the ball when it comes to following through with what is being of asked of you once the other person responds. This builds, trust, confidence in your competency, and cements them as someone you will be able to direct and influence because of the noble empathy you displayed.
Your example in life affects others in a ripple way. You may never know the impact you had in the life of someone ten years down the road. Lead well today to build the next great leader following your example tomorrow!
The expectation of your example sometimes will be the only thing a person has to hold on to when their world is falling apart.
You become the lighthouse in the darkest times showing others how to go safely through their day. As this creates traction, watch and see what happens when your challenge from me lived out starts being transmitted from one person to another. Be prepared for what happens when you are vulnerable and transparent with another person. Both of you will combat internal and external expectations and create a bond of trust and security with each other. Your family will be your closest and most intimate supporters. Give yourself to serving your spouse, kids, parents. Be exhausted as your head hits the pillow each night for the right reasons and not due to the misplaced, disingenuous display of fear mongering leadership to people who only see your value as a way to elevate their own careers.
Become the example of a leader people pledge their lives to and not just their jobs. It’s been said that soldiers go to war for their country, but they give their lives for the person next to them. Go to war with your ambition and give it a back seat, and gain victory being a life-giver for your family and team and watch entire sections of the community turn and follow!
Sergeant Daukas is committed to the principles of Courageous Leadership and is the lead instructor for the foundational principle of Courageous Nobility. You can listen to Jeff discuss this vital principle on a recent Courageous Leadership Podcast. He has over 20 years in law-enforcement working through patrol, investigations, and special operations both at the line level and as a supervisor. Through the last 20 years, Jeff has embraced his passion instructing officers and civilians through the nobility of policing. He is a certified FranklinCovey Nobility of Policing instructor, as well as a certified instructor for the Blue Courage curriculum. Jeff holds a master’s degree in criminal justice with a focus on terrorism and homeland security and teaches in that discipline at the college level. He is a graduate of the FBI-LEEDA Supervisor Leadership Institute program consistently implementing servant-leadership into training the next generation of law-enforcement professionals in both courageous leadership and followership.