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Archive for August, 2009

“Multitasking is a myth” – Why your team isn’t delivering results!

August 24, 2009 1 comment

Lately, I’ve been bombarded with new clients facing challenges in better understanding the performance (or lack there of) issues they seem to be having with their teams. 9 out of the 10 cases I examined, on the surface at least, seem to be simple cases of focus & concentration on what’s important to drive results. This afternoon, as yet another client complained of the distracting chatter between colleagues in the background, I pointed them to a NYTimes.com article I read a few months ago entitled Ear Plugs to Lasers – The Science of Concentration.

In it, there are fabulous & easy to immediately implement words, or practices, of wisdom. Here’s my highlight (found close to the end of the article) ; She (Winifred Gallagher) recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption.

“Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.” She points to calculations that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime. “People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said.

Pretty simple common sense, no? Imagine your brain going through a reboot cycle for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day! So next time you walk around the office wondering why your teams are missing their targets, maybe it’s not that the targets aren’t realistic, but rather that between the “n” mobile phone text messages, Skype chatter/alerts, and endless dialogue about everything under the sun, no one is really focused on the most important task at hand. Asking themselves; what significant thing can I do in the next 90 minutes that will significantly impact my performance and attainment of objectives?

If your team isn’t delivering the performance you expect, and you’re confident that you’ve done everything right so far, then maybe it’s time to stop asking yourself what you’re doing wrong, and rather have your team ask themselves; “What am I doing right now? and What should I be doing differently to improve my performance? This last bit is part of a behavior kinetics research I’m doing whilst reading Performance: The Secrets of Successful Behaviour by Robin Stuart-Kotze.

And YES, watch this space this week as there will be at least 3 more blog articles, containing tools, tips, tricks & real world experiences regarding Accelerating,  Sustaining, and the dreaded Blocking of Performance.

Remember my favorite saying; “the execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of the thought”!

Don’t Cry.. Strategy as musical lyrics..

Some would say that what makes the processes I work with powerful is that they can become very visual, and therefore very simple & easy to understand by all levels within any organization, in any industry, and across every continent. Now that’s a powerful statement, and the only other mainstream universal language that I can imagine right now is love & music. Sound interesting? I guarantee you at least 5 key insights/learnings you can apply immediately as a result of reading this post!

This morning, on my way to my weekly one-day Interim COO assignment at a hyper growth internet start-up, my iPod was playing Seal’s Don’t Cry.. and I chuckled to myself walking up the street as the lyrics (below in bold italics) resounded in comparison to several situations that took place with several clients I worked with these past two weeks..

Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’ve run into so many leaders, corporate & entrepreneurs that just need to step outside of themselves and give more value to what they’ve accomplished, rather then beat themselves up for what still has yet to be accomplished. There’s an exercise I often give them; to journal, or write on a single sheet of paper, divided into two parts, what you’ve accomplished in the last 6 months, and what you set out to accomplish. The result is either the recognition of needed greater focus areas, or the celebration of what has actually been accomplished. Either way, it’s only a lesson to be learned, & reacted to/acted upon.

Those tears are for someone else. Where you’re at today, is simply the result of your actions to-date. Which means that recognizing where you are currently at, and understanding where you want to reach, is only a matter of doing more of, less of, or variations of, the actions you’ve done to-date. This is great news (!!), because it validates that you are most probably responsible for your current situation, either through direct or indirect actions, and your destiny is in your own hands, if you’ve left yourself enough time to realistically get there, and you’re willing to have the courage to act.

I hear your voice on the phone. I hear you feel so alone. Once you’ve reached out for help, you’re never alone again. So make sure the person you reach out to is more than just supportive, but also has the unique tools on-board to help you execute whatever brilliant strategies you devise, or insights that you have. Make sure they can give you practical examples from their previous history, or network, so that you can visualize how you will execute those strategies yourself. better yet, make sure they have the passion & drive to walk the journey and execute on your behalf at times.

When we were young. And truth was paramount. We were older then, And we lived our life without any doubt. Most of the hurdles that we place in front of ourselves, are either created by a lack of confidence or lack of knowledge. What happened to our creative spirit who knew we could be astronauts, presidents, circus performers, or anything else we could dream? Have we allowed the others fears creep into our lives? What habits have we formed influenced from others? Are we living our own plan, or are we on someone else’s journey? If you don’t have a plan of your own, you will surly become part of someone else’s plan! Why do the majority of us spend most of our lives chasing something, only to at a later stage realize we had the answer of simplicity already when we were younger?

Not lack of confidence, but lack of knowledge, network or resources? Simple, those are strategy issues!

The most powerful exercise that makes an effective strategy, is the capability to dream and then articulate that dream. That’s what I find myself doing more and more these days, (1) extracting dreams and Visions of what success looks like for organizations, (2) tying this to a special and unique purpose (Mission) or Value Added Proposition, (3) establishing the ground rules or Core Values that will filter how to proceed, (4) finding the right articulation to fit the individual & culture of the organization, and then (5) rallying the troops around this Core Ideology, en-route to (6) setting the strategy necessary to manifest that initial dream (Vision).
Those memories,  They seem so long ago. What’s become of them? When you feel like me I want you to know. Don’t cry. You’re not alone. The simple fact is that every challenge or hurdle can be overcome! They simply are a byproduct of a lack of strategy, or the product of a limiting belief.

Today I dreamed, Of friends I had before. And I wonder why. The ones who care don’t call anymore. My feelings hurt. But you know I overcome the pain. And I’m stronger now, There can’t be a fire unless there’s a flame. It isn’t what happens to you that will derail your strategy, it how you allow it to affect you, or the strategy itself. Let’s keep this simple! A strategy, any strategy, from my perspective, is simply a series of actions or steps strung together to reach an outcome! Yep, it’s that simple!

I’ll give you a practical example.. My kids this morning wanted bread & orange juice to complement their breakfast dreams. My strategy was to walk out the door, down the street, right at the corner, safely cross the street, one more block to go, watch out for that “dog residue” someone didn’t pick-up, right into the local supermarket, isle one past the fruit toward the orange juice, now back toward the front of the store, feel the baguette that’s still warm from the bakery oven, pull out the right amount of change, smile at the girl at the counter, put groceries into bag, and reverse original course safely & quickly back home. That simple! All of these steps strung together was my strategy on how to execute on my kids’ vision of a great breakfast.

Limousines and sycophants, Don’t leave me now, Cause I’m afraid what you’ve done to me. Is now the wolf. In my bed, In my head. In my head.In my head. So you’re way off course! The mountain you’ve climbed has left you with an empty feeling? And experience tells me that the greatest hurdles are indeed self imposed, just like that “chatter” in our head. That what happens when your vision or dream isn’t aligned with a purpose. No worries, what have you learned? Back to step 1 outlined earlier, let’s get into visualization, dream mode, or any descriptive you want to give the process. And establish a strategy (series of steps) that is true to your inner core and aligned with your company/organization’s culture. Now the easy part.. put one foot in front of the other.. one step at a time.. half steps when you scared or unclear.. don’t forget to celebrate the micro wins at first, and as you gain momentum.. you’ll walk.. and eventually leap & run toward the outcome you always knew you & your team were capable of.

The challenges, we took were hard enough. They get harder now. Even when we think that we’ve had enough. Don’t feel alone, Cause it’s I you understand. I’m your sedative, Take a piece of me whenever you can. A few weeks ago I was watching the Coco Chanel movie with my wife and we were inspired by her comment of having acquired her strength. I think I recall an analogy to “a trout swimming up stream”. It was the constant & persistent struggle, the will & determination to not give up & succeed, it was the capability to dream and visualize what was upstream, past all of the danger & challenging currents, believe in herself and have others believe in her, and not settle for meritocracy… that had her eventually realize her dream (Vision). Or something like that! …Hey, it my blog post, so I can tell the story in the way I remember it 😉

If you’re an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a receptionist, janitor, or anything in-between, as a team, you can reach any objective you collectively can agree on to achieve. The vision in 9 out of 10 successful organizations comes from top-down, and when articulated in a manner that is conducive & understood by the company/organizations’ culture, the highly successful execution will always come from the bottom-up. And everyone will win in the process when the Strategic Alignment, Planning & Execution process are all aligned with the Core Ideology, as defined by each key-stakeholder. Because they are the one who execute!

That was a long post.. sorry about that.. hopefully worth the read.. but then again.. Seal’s “Don’t Cry” is still buzzing in my head, in my head, in my head.. 5 hours after that inspiring walk to work this morning. 🙂

Any thought? Those any of this resonate with you?