How Women Rise – From radar distraction to the focused flow (Habit #12)

Who knows the scenario of getting lost in the world wide web? The search for that new book from Simon Sinek on Amazon becomes a cart of four additional must-have-reads. The inquiry on a conference ends with endless reads on the speakers. The visit of random social media scrolls ends up in checking out the latest release of a new online shop, and on it goes. Serendipity finds you, is around each corner, or you are the lucky winner of finally finding something you had searched for forever. Serendipity costs you three hours that you will never get back – ever.

Although both genders might fall lost in the world wide web – their reasons for getting lost, may differentiate. The radar of distraction for women is more finely tuned than men’s’, based on research found by neuroscientists, who distinguished gender differences in cognition, emotional control, and even neurological disorders. To simplify the critical result of gender differences: women’s attention mostly operates like a radar that scans the environment through a transmitting and receiving antenna that pays attention to every tiny little thing that goes on. Men’s emphasis, on the contrary, acts more like a pair of binoculars that selectively focus on information in sequence and concentrates on what is right in front of them. Both attention streams are above and beyond valuable and can serve as strengths for each gender. Being attuned to the details of relationships and to what people are feeling enables women to excel at motivating others and inspiring morale. Being able to concentrate all the attention on one single challenge enables men to stay rationale and in their solution process. These differences in attention streams can also become a weakness. Women get lost in all the distractions while men miss the influence factors of a situation. What is important to determine is when we need to pay attention to the radar.

Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith write about the shadow side of the radar and how it affects professional women in their bestseller ‘How Women Rise’, which discusses the habit of “Letting your radar distract you” with the case study of Taylor. She is an executive coach from the US, whose radar helps her to be in-tune with her clients in one-on-one-coaching sessions but degrades her capacity to compartmentalize perceptions when she is talking in front of larger groups. Her ability to keep track of all reactions in the audience makes it hard for her to keep up and concentrate on what she is doing, she starts to overthink her actions and loses her ability to perform. In the book, Sally and Marshall describe how Taylor shares a presentation to 50 potential corporate clients and loses her audience when her radar distracts her. Her radar picks up two people who are visibly skeptical and dissatisfied with the talk Taylor is giving and she allows herself to get carried away tending to individual needs at the expense of making sure the wider group received an engaging experience from her.


If you recognize yourself in the habit of letting your radar distract you because of a similar professional engagement, you may have learned, that it diminished your performance and created a feeling of unease, that may have led to a lowered confidence.

Moving from radar distraction to focused flow means to pay attention to a red alarm light when it flashes and simultaneously maintain your ability to keep your focus on what you are aiming to achieve. When driving a car, you pay attention to warning signals in your vehicle when they flash and don’t check if the dashboard is working while you are on the highway. And like a regular car check can prevent warning signals appearing, you can avoid your radar from distracting you if you are mindful of the following three tips “The Running Gear”.

Tip No.1 – Feel the flow

When you think back to a time when you were focused, do you remember the feeling where everything just worked, and you felt harmony or fulfillment? If you experienced that feeling, you were in the flow. The flow can look very different for individuals, from a sense of enjoying the moment to floating through the day with one successful intervention after the other. Being in the flow also means not to get distracted because external impacts don’t interfere with what you are doing.

To feel the flow, you want to do two things: set yourself goals for the day that have your full attention and observe your process.

Remember: Set your goals for the day that have your full attention means to make sure that your goals correspond with your abilities and make you feel good. When a goal makes you feel good, you concentrate on the task in front of you as if nothing else matters or requires your attention, and all of your energy is with your job. Just like a kid that focuses on a game or a footballer that prepares for the penalty kick.

When you observe your process, you monitor your progress and adapt when something is not working. You control the tasks and the jobs don’t control you. By capturing your progress, the positive feeling ignites a fire that keeps you going. Even if things don’t work how you had planned, you can appreciate the fact that you have had an experience that will help you come closer to your goal.

Tip No. 2 – Practice self-nudging

Losing discipline, in Germany, we call it to defeat the ‘inner pigdog’, which is the lazy voice inside our head, which leads to us losing our discipline. James Clear has written a book called “Atomic Habits” in which he describes how to change your habits and get 1% better every day. His process includes four laws to consider and steps to take to create the desired shift. All we need is a little self-nudging through creating an environment in which we can improve our discipline or self-control, which James Clear calls the third law of creating a good habit: make it easy and prime your environment.

To practice self-nudging, you want to do two things: remind yourself of your endeavour and ask others to tell you of your endeavor. Take a piece of paper and think of three ways you can remind yourself to stay focused and nominate three buddies who will support your effort.

Tip No. 3 – Celebrate success

Every time you stay focused on a task at hand it is a success. Say it, share it, and pay it forward. A “very well done” to yourself may be challenging to believe in, to make sure you hear the praise, share the success with your three buddies so that they can celebrate your achievement with you. While you are at it, you may want to also show your gratitude to people who supported you along the way with a little thank you note.

The Running Gear is your tool to move from radar distraction to a focused flow and an essential element to ensure success is constant propulsion and stimulation. Touch base with your running gear by downloading the cheat sheet below the article for you to practice. Because your practice makes your flow permanent! Godspeed!

The Ameliorate Group, Learning Partner with Women@Work, is leadership and corporate coaching consultancy offering a range of bite-sized learning solutions to long-term development programs incorporating executive coaching to achieve organizational goals. The Ameliorate Group aims to superpower your teams and individual capability beyond what you thought was possible.

The first ‘How Woman Rise” program is available across the Middle East through The Ameliorate Group powered by Sally Helgesen. Creating more inclusive workplaces of the future through raising awareness of the habits that hold women back from being more successful in their careers. Encouraging both genders to engage in dialogue and co-creation of solutions and strategies to help women rise at work and in business.


CHEAT SHEET for “The Running Gear”

1.     Feel the flow Set yourself goals for the day that have your full attention Observe your process
Goal No.1



Yes           No

Goal No.2



Yes           No

Goal No.3



Yes           No

2.     Practice self-nudging Remind yourself of your endeavor Ask others to remind you of your endeavor
Phone Alarm Person 1
Person 2
Person 3
3.     Celebrate success Say it Share it and pay it forward
I did well when I focused on[describe your achievement] Remember how we spoke about [xyz] I did well when I focused on [describe your achievement]
I kept focused when distractions were present [describe your achievement] You gave me that advice [xyz] and when distractions were present [describe your achievement]
I finished what I wanted [describe your achievement] Thank you for [xyz] because [describe your achievement] and that is why I have something for you.