The power of detachment

By: Leif Babin,

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I have so many tasks on my plate, I don’t even know where to start. It’s a common complaint we hear all the time from leaders. Whether you are trying to manage a multitude of problems, or you just simply don’t know what to do next, the answer is the same: DETACH.

How Do You Handle Multiple Problems at the Same Time?

When you try to tackle many different problems simultaneously, what happens? You end up failing at all of them. Instead, you must implement the 3rd Law of Combat:

Prioritize and Execute.

You have to figure out what the highest priority task is and focus your efforts and resources there, and then move on to the next priority, then the next one. In order to determine what the highest priority should be, you have to detach.

Change Your Perspective

When you detach—when you pull yourself out of the details, it gives you a better perspective on the strategic goals and what is most important. It becomes much easier to see the highest priority tasks on which to focus your effort. Detaching enables you to see the holes in the plan, where you need to vector resources to support the team, and what are the likely contingencies for which you should prepare.

Detachment is a Superpower

When you learn to detach, especially amid high pressure situations, enabling you to remain calm, and focus efforts on the highest priority task, you have reached the pinnacle of leadership. The ability to detach and analyze problems without getting rattled is a superpower that will enable you to lead, even when others are freaking out or falling apart. As a result, the people around you will look to you to lead when they are feeling overwhelmed, to the benefit of your team and your mission. That’s what good leadership looks like.

Real-World example:

“I’m not sure what to do in this situation,” said the department leader. He was struggling on how to proceed on a complex new strategic initiative for the company to which he was assigned as lead.

“Whenever you don’t know what you should do, the answer is always the same: Detach,” I responded. “Pull yourself out of the details and take a step back. On the battlefield, multiple problems often happen at the same time, and it can be overwhelming. If I’m looking through the sights of my weapon, it is very hard to see what to do. But the moment I come off my weapon, point it toward the sky, take a step back and detach, the strategic priorities become clear, and I can much more easily prioritize and execute.”

“Makes sense,” the department leader replied. He followed our advice, detached, and was able to focus his team on the highest priority effort.

For Action:

This week, analyze the areas in your work and home life where you get overwhelmed, frustrated, and maybe you sometimes get emotional or even lose your cool. Think through how to best remain calm in these situations, detach, and focus on the strategic goal so you can better Prioritize and Execute. Embrace these situations as training opportunities to learn to detach and remain focused on the highest priority problem or task, even while under pressure.

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