Have you ever noticed how much we learn from our children? I am reminded regularly that while the flow of wisdom and insight theoretically travels from the older to the younger generation, in reality there is plenty of learning to be done in both directions. A case in point – my son has ADD and as a teenager buried under a significant daily workload and homework, he has really struggled to develop coping mechanisms to compensate for a short attention span, and to learn how to focus.
This week, before school, we were laughing about “the butterflies” in his life – those interesting things that come along and distract him while he is trying to get his work done. It might be the sound of the ice cream truck traveling the street outside his window, or it could be a 3-D puzzle sitting on the edge of his desk. The “butterflies” take many forms, but universally they have the same impact. His concentration and productivity are derailed in a nanosecond as a beautiful colorful butterfly catches his attention and becomes his new focus.
Later that same morning, I was working with a client and her executive management team to refine the action plan required to ensure the organization meets its critical goals for the fourth quarter of this year. The CEO had been making terrific progress on key revenue, profitability and operational goals, when a significant new opportunity had arisen that required a tremendous amount of her personal dedication and effort to bring the opportunity to fruition. As we worked through the ramifications of this new opportunity, I found myself wondering: is this a butterfly? Is it worth chasing this “once in a lifetime” opportunity which falls far outside this organization’s core service offering, at the risk of losing focus on critical 2009 goals?
So I asked my client – have you ever heard about the challenges of chasing butterflies? As I relayed the story of my son, faces lit up around the table. That’s it, they said, we’re distracted from our core purpose and we are at risk when we do that. We agreed that chasing butterflies can be fun and productive – not always risky – but that for now, we needed to return to the critical goals that were going to ensure that 2010 will be everything we plan for it to be.
by Lesley Boucher