Part 2: Power and attention

By SkyeTeam on May 20, 2014

Posted by SkyeTeam | May 20, 2014Part 2: Power and attention“A primary task of leadership is to direct attention.”  So says Daniel Goleman in his latest book, Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence.  We’ve talked about the three elements of attention: focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the outer world.  That’s what to focus on.  Now let’s look at the depth or intensity of our focus – the how.  This is important, so don’t try to multi-task while you read this.  I’ll be brief.Apparently, if we hold more power than another person, we are less likely to give them our full attention.  They are less powerful, therefore less important, less valuable, and worth less of our attention.  This is not a conscious act most of the time.  I see this as both good news and bad.  It’s good because we’re not all awful people, thank goodness.  It’s bad because we don’t know we’re doing it.Goleman cites a number of studies on this phenomenon, observing that, “we focus on the people we value the most.” And sadly, we tend to assign more value to people with more power, and maybe more money, etc.  To be clear, this is not a universal issue, but it happens enough to be studied at length, so it must be somewhat prevalent.“We focus on the people we value the most – Daniel Goleman #quoteClick To Tweet.”Interestingly, people with equal power, money, and/or status at a lower level tend to be very tuned into others with the same status.  As Goleman notes, “poor people are particularly attentive to other people and their needs.”  They care about each other and help each other.  On the other end of the spectrum, people of means can afford to hire the help they need; they can afford to be less aware of, and less attentive to, the needs of others.   Well, that’s a drag.When we link this to the workplace, guess what happens?  That’s correct:  higher-ranking people pay less attention to lower-ranking people.  This translates to slower response time to email, shorter and less personalized face-to-face interactions.So, what to do?  Just pay attention.  Notice whether you’re paying attention in a different way depending on who you’re talking to.  Be present.  Care.  Because, as Goleman reminds us, “the more you care about someone the more attention you pay – and the more attention you pay, the more you care.”Related Articles Share1
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