All of this activity brings excitement, but also big concerns for leaders about productivity and focus. What should you do to address these things this week? As leaders, we can’t remove the distractions – the events will still occur. Our job instead is to do what we can to recognize and take advantage of the situation however we can (and yes, there are opportunities inside of the concerns – read on).
I suggest the GAME approach to maintaining focus and productivity in the face of the hoops and the hoopla. Let me explain.
G – Gauge the real level of interest.
A – Acknowledge the potential distraction.
M – Motivate employees by maintaining high expectations through this time.
E – Enjoy the opportunity to connect with your employees.
Let’s look at each of these strategies in a bit more depth.
Gauge the real level of interest. Don’t assume that everyone is interested or distracted! While some people are positively mad about the madness, many have no clue or don’t care at all about brackets and college fight songs. So start by not over-reacting to your initial concerns. Taking a “Henny-Penny the-sky-is-falling” approach will surely overstate the situation. Are some people talking about the pairings and their brackets? Sure. Are there people working on their brackets at their desks? Possibly. Yet when you realize that it might not be everyone, it will help you put your concerns into perspective.
Acknowledge the potential distraction. Share your concerns with your staff. Let them know that you know the tournament is exciting, and while you want them to enjoy it and talk about it, productivity is still important. Tell people it is natural and fine to be excited, and that you hope some of that excitement can “rub off” onto the work. As a young professional, my boss suggested/demanded I literally stay away from work to watch my beloved Boilermakers in a first round NCAA Tournament Game. Working on the west coast, the game was in the morning. His suggestion was to stay home, watch the game and come in as soon as the game was over. His only other request? Call in with halftime and final scores. How motivated and productive was I when I came to work that day, and into the future? I hope you know the answer (Go Boilers!). Not only that, but I still tell that story now more than 20 years later. Today, it is easier – they can watch at their desks or on their phones!
Motivate employees by maintaining high expectations through this time. While you should acknowledge any productivity concerns you have, you can also take a different approach. Consider mentioning and acknowledging the distraction, and then refocusing attention on an immediate goal. If people have a short-term, highly motivating goal or another important task to work on, their focus will be gently shifted away from a complete focus on the hype of the games. Putting that goal or challenge in front of them can be an extremely powerful thing to do! You will likely generate even more focus if you can somehow creatively tie the achievement of the goal to some down time for the big game. For example: If we get this shipment out by noon, anyone who wants to can take a long lunch to watch the games. Of course – if people aren’t interested in the event, they can take a long lunch too if they choose, or possibly leave a little early at the end of the day.
Enjoy the opportunity to connect with your employees. If you are like me and are a fan too, use this as a way to connect with your team (your work team that is). Have a pre-game celebration. If you can, put a TV on, showing the games during a break or the late afternoon. Be involved in any of the other activities surrounding the event, including filling out a bracket if asked – even if you don’t know much about it. As a leader, this may be an outstanding opportunity for you to build rapport and trust within your organization and deepen relationships with your employees.
While these tournament games aren’t the only sporting events that capture the attention of people at work, it is different because, especially the first week, there are games played during the work day, and can cause some concerns.
As a leader, if you apply the ideas in this article, you can get yourself and your team into the GAME – and enjoy the games and have a productive and fun week.