Friday, August 28, 2009

So You Think You Can Multitask?

The idea that anyone can multitask effectively is one of the biggest lies foisted on American individuals and commerce. In the name of multitasking we forgo the sacred moments of intimacy, the joy of singular devotion to a project, and the uncluttered creativity of thinking. Efficiency becomes the new god in this mindset and all else falls under its dictatorial rule.

But aren't we being more efficient by multitasking? Not so fast.

A new study from the researchers at Stanford University confirms what many of us, who have been ignored by someone multitasking, already know; multitaskers, far from being efficient, are just multiplying the tasks they are doing badly. They are not completing any task or conversation to the best of their ability and multitasking makes them worse.

What Clifford Nass and other researchers discovered were three challenges that heavy multitaskers share. People who do a significant amount of multitasking can't seem to ignore irrelevant data to focus on what is important. They are more distracted than others. Surprisingly they also have a poorer ability to take in and organize information. Finally they had more of a difficulty switching from one task to another.

Of course the argument is that younger and younger generations are growing up multitasking and so they will be better at it. Again that is false. The research studied young men and women who use various electronic means simultaneously and have grown up with it.

Perhaps all of us need to push back on the notion that any individual can do two separate cognitive activities equally as well. And as we move toward greatness, we need to give ourselves the opportunities to savor and revel in sacred moments of intimacy, the joy of singular devotion to a project, and the uncluttered creativity of thinking.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walk Like A Winner

Are you sitting up straight? Are you standing erect? Sounds like some of the questions we were asked as children. Sometimes it was a command rather than a question. Yet over the past week I've found myself more aware than ever of my posture especially when things are difficult.

What started my consciousness was watching the PGA last week. I watched as Tiger Woods lost the lead and was walking down the center of one of the fairways. Even the commentator mentioned the confident way he held himself. You couldn't tell that he was losing. As a matter of fact you would have sworn that he was winning. What's with that?

Dr. Jim Loehr studied athletes winning and losing. He compared their posture and body language and discovered something different about the best. Those who were on the top of their sport comported themselves exactly the same whether they were winning or losing. They always walked like winners. What Dr. Loehr discovered is that our posture speaks volumes not only to others but to our own psyche as to our impending success or failure.

So, be honest. Do you walk like you are winning, or is your head always bowed? Pick your head up, walk like you are winning and watch the difference it will make in how you feel.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Grain of Salt

I write this flying back from Florida where I spoke at a leadership conference about focusing on strengths rather than on weaknesses to drive greater growth and success. The audience of 175 leaders interacted with me and each other, asking questions that only deepened their understanding. They laughed at the right spots, even applauded at a few and were vocally appreciative as they came up to me at the end of the almost four hour session. So what's bothering me? I want to know who, if any, will change their leadership style and why.
Change is not that easy. Listening to information, no matter how compelling, rarely engenders the motivation to change our behavior. Even if everyone in that room was convinced that this leadership style would help them dramatically (and I'm not that naïve) most will only retain a rapidly fading memory of our time together and will most likely forget me and the session in three days. But what about the precious few who, believing in the efficacy of a strengths-focused leadership model, read a little more, create some goals and start adopting new behaviors? What makes them different?
I'd like to offer a theory. These individuals are able to either lower the defense mechanisms we all put in place to defend our egos, or momentarily put their egos aside. Look at little children. They are sponges for learning. With little to defend they absorb everything around them. As we grow, we learn to defend what we've accepted as real and our openness to new ideas closes up until some of us get to the point when we stop learning.
Of course being totally open to new ideas creates other challenges. We might end up believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy. So, we do have to examine new ideas with a grain of salt. That being said, many of us use so much salt evaluating new ideas it is a wonder we don't die of sodium poisoning.
So what's the strategy? I don't know. If it were easy the world would be changing at a momentous pace because we'd all know how to identify and adopt new, helpful ideas and behaviors. I've found one strategy that works for me. When I learn a new idea or strategy that might help me develop as a speaker, leader, writer (I need lots of development) I don't tell anyone at first. I need time to analyze what I've heard, to sift through it and use my own grain of salt. That way, if I like and adopt the ideas, I'm more prepared to offer them to others in a cohesive way before they can bring on their shakers of salt.
175 leaders heard some new ideas this morning, ideas that could change their life or leadership for the better. How many will change? We will never know. But what about you and me? New thoughts, new ideas, new behaviors; what keeps you from embracing them and changing your life?