Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

Here I Am

with 2 comments

When I teach leadership to MBA students, on the first day of class we have a discussion regarding the necessity of managers to be able to multitask. Most of them are under the impression that to be a good manager you need to multitask throughout the day. My statement to them is that when you multitask what you are doing is a whole bunch of things poorly, rather than one thing well. (And the data supports that conclusion). Success comes about when you do one thing well and then move onto the next one.

Imagine if a surgeon was about to cut into your heart and right at that moment decided to review a menu and order takeout for lunch. If you were conscious you would likely pass out. Imagine if you were following your platoon leader carefully through a minefield and suddenly the platoon leader decided to play Candy Crush as they were picking out the mines to avoid. That leader would not have a leg to stand on to justify that behavior.  Or imagine if you were a manager, in your office, with a staff member sitting across from you. As you gave that person information and direction on what needed to be done, you decided to respond to a few emails as you talked. Even if you got the information transfer correct, the impression you would leave with that staff member is that what you were conveying was not all that important to you.

After hearing this, one of my students who already worked as a manager, decided to turn off his cell phone and to turn off his computer screen when he had a person in his office and were giving them direction. The results were dramatic. That staff member, who usually left very punctually at 5:00pm stayed late to finish the work. When asked about it the staff member stated that since the manager turned off their cell phone and computer screen that he thought what was being conveyed was really important so he paid extra attention and stayed until the work was done. What behavior patterns do you think would add up to more productivity, having each staff member put in the extra effort to get their respective work done, or you as a manager multitasking your way through the day?

There is a big difference between being present in a conversation and being fully present in that conversation. There is a big difference between being present in any situation and being fully present in that situation. When you are fully present in a situation you convey to others that you care about what is going on and it is important to you.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 7, 2018 at 5:02 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Wonderfully written blog. In the heyday of transactional analysis, we read in a book ‘What do you say after you say hello?’ a rhetorical question ‘Where is your mind when your body is here?’ to emphasize the need of mindfulness. Attention is certainly an issue. But I believe even with so much of distraction in the context of social media, it is possible to stick to the basics, and it is necessary.

    Amitabha Sengupta

    August 8, 2018 at 2:50 am

  2. Sage advice for your students and everyone else Jeff! Unfortunately, people get the concept but old habits die hard. It’s not until something bad happens when one is multitasking that the lesson sticks. I speak from personal experience, think before you hit the send button while multi-tasking and doing email.

    I like your notion of being fully present, important at work and more important in life.

    Dermott Whalen

    August 8, 2018 at 10:08 am


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