The Curse of Multitasking

Multitasking has long been praised as a great thing. Well, I say it’s a curse – and let me tell you why.

When you’re multitasking you are not really giving anything your full attention. And if nothing gets full attention, it’s not getting all of you. And are you at your best if you’re not tapping into all of you? I’d say no.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who recognises scenarios such as these:

Responding to emails while on a conference call – missing out on some key information that was shared at some point

Checking text messages while listening to what the children did at school – not really hearing how their day has been

Checking the phone while in meetings – sending the message to the other meeting participants that they are less important (even if not meaning to)

Working on a presentation and getting distracted by the pinging sound of an email in the inbox – going to check the email and losing trail of thought on the presentation, having to spend more time than needed on it

Sure, it’s good to be ABLE to multitask when needed – when a crisis hits, when a deadline looms – but to operate out of a multitasking mode all the time is to waste our capability away.

A more effective mode is to be 100% present in whatever we do, whomever we’re with. It may not work all the time, but any improvement is an improvement.

Try it out, it’s pretty cool – being 100% present.

Is it enough to be rational?

It’s time for a rethink! Now!

Rational competence and rational solutions are hailed in most organisations.

Yeah, so what? you may think. And you would be right; it may not be a bad thing in and of itself, but the social aspect of the work place; how well people understand each other, how people communicate and work together is even more important! And for too long this has been ignored by many companies and institutions. There are probably rational reasons for this, such as believing that it’s not important or that it’s hard to impact or control.

BUT it cannot be swept under the carpet. Organizations that wish to achieve the best possible results ignore this at their own risk.

Recent brain research shows that social contact is a bigger motivation factor that money or even physical needs (read more in Why Organizations Fail by David Rock). And this is of course not a new human phenomenon, it’s as old as the human race – but most organizational systems are structured in such a way that it doesn’t factor in these very human needs enough. Even though the systems, the infrastructure are created by people. It is as if we think that business is something purely rational….

Personally I’ve lost count of how many people I have met over the years whom expressed that they are expected to be rational at work, and pretty much nothing else. And at least as many who have shared their frustration with not feeling understood by others at work…..

With this in mind it is not so strange then that so many change initiatives fail (70%!). Rational thinking doesn’t work when the emotions are engaged through fear and concern during change. And if most of the change communication focus on the rational reasons for change (”surely people must understand that….”) then it’s probably not so strange that people resist change which makes the process slow and unwieldy and the chance of success is minimised.

Organisations that want to succeed now and maybe even more importantly in the long run, need to consider these very human aspects of business much more than they do today.

Hire/develop leaders with both rational and social/emotional competence
Develop/train employees in communication, self awareness and self leadership, empathy and co-operation
And use the infrastructure/organisational systems as a way to work effectively together, not just as a rational system
What do you say? It’s time for a rethink, isn’t it!

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

85% is down to leadership

Is that you?

Leadership is changing fast. And emotional intelligence is climbing to the top of desired leadership abilities. The ability to relate to others, to “get people”, to see people, to value others, to take care of how we impact others, to connect with people in such a way that they want to go that famous extra mile. Emotional intelligence is about being clever with people – ourselves and others.

Although, let’s face it, wasn’t great leadership always about emotional intelligence?

Don’t we all remember those leaders we’ve had (and I hope that you, like me, have had at least one!) who were about more than the job – more than the technical abilities, more than just a “goal achiever”. Someone who just made you want to go to work. Someone who made you see that work is fun.

When I first became a leader, some 24 years ago, there were no great attempts to try to help leaders be just that – people who lead. I might have learned the technicalities of the job as a manager, but I found it very difficult to deal with the difficult situations. A lot of is was gut instinct and either you had it or you didn’t.

Leadership development has come a long way since the early 90’s but sadly very few leadership development activities, even to this day, have the desired effect. Not because they are bad, but because they rarely change behaviours. And that’s what leadership comes down to, behaviours.

Or like Maya Angelou so eloquently said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

We all have emotional intelligence (in different ways) AND we can create more of it. It’s all about our behaviours and how they effect others.

Watch this space – emotional intelligence will continue to grow in importance. And that’s good, for people and for sustainable businesses.

Thoughts on Sustainability

Sunrise Ocean 01

Since early 2011, I’ve been studying for an MBA (Master of Business Administration). Interesting and exciting. And what makes the MBA particularly rewarding and exciting for me, is that it’s got an additional focus on “Leadership and Sustainability”.

Sustainability is a term that gets bandied around a lot at the moment. It’s a “hot” word, some would even call it trendy. At a conference recently I heard someone talk about “sustainababble” as a way of describing how much it is talked about (not necessarily done, if you see what I mean) Quite witty, I thought:-)

And most people seem to view sustainability differently to the next person. It’s such a big subject and there are many definitions.

If you look for “sustainable” in the Oxford dictionary online, the definition is: able to be maintained at a certain rate or level or able to be upheld or defended.

I love the idea of making something sustainable, making something last, particularly in a world of constant change. More specifically, to be able to change AND achieve sustainability.

The world is spinning faster and faster, technology evolves and we become more and more impatient – we want quick fixes, fast results, now, now, now.

But we need to learn to become more patient, to delay gratification, to think about impact, to look ahead, to not just think about here and now, but also about “what happens next”?

Sustainability in business, as I see it, is about seeing the bigger picture, it’s about running an organization in such away that it can be around for a long time, for the benefit of ALL it’s stakeholders. As most businesses exist to make money (because otherwise there would be no money to run the business!), this often becomes the main focus for an organization, to the detriment of the business and it’s stakeholders, thereby ultimately NOT making enough money. Very counterproductive.

What do I mean by that? Well, corporate sustainability is about managing all your resources in such a way that you will still have resources! The resources are made up by PEOPLE (employees, customers, suppliers – and all other stakeholders), PLANET (with a growing population, our resources can no longer be used recklessly as we have so far) and PROFITS (the finances to run the business).


No, it’s not. It’s complex. There are so many links and interactions between these resources, where actions in one area affects another, and on and on.


Oh, absolutely! There is so much we can do. We just need to get started. And know what to do, and how. Are you ready?

The challenges a leader faces

To be a leader can be both rewarding and frustrating. I remember becoming a leader of a team 22 years ago, my very first leadership role, with no leadership experience and very little understanding of what was expected of me. There are very few “born” leaders, if any! We can all do with some guidance, support, new knowledge and ongoing development to become great leaders. We can’t be expected to just know what to do, it’s not that simple.

There are a number of challenges that leaders may run into. How about

  • Unmotivated, unengaged team members
  • Conflicts within the team
  • People working too independently, in “silos”
  • People not sharing things with each other, creating overlap and re-work
  • Not knowing what to communicate and when and to whom!
  • Team members that don’t share info, often because they don’t know or trust each other
  • A team that’s not delivering as expected
  • A team that’s not well perceived by others

Over the years, Mandy and I have worked with leaders and teams to help them overcome leadership and team challenges, creating a work culture that is engaging, productive and where people really enjoy working. Our book “The Team Formula” is our formula for how to work with teams to overcome the challenges leaders face.
The book is released 4th March 2013. You can find more information about the book here on it’s own website.
Elisabet Hearn, co-author “The Team Formula”