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Monday, November 22, 2010

Help me...I’m Multi-Tasking Multi Tasks!

If you are near to my age, or as Florence Dusty might say, a “baker of my generation”,  multi-tasking has a distinct meaning.  When you hear someone say they are multi-tasking, you think of a list of several “to-do’s” that you focus on today.  Or multi-tasking might also mean doing two things at once, such as Florence baking muffins and doing laundry at the same time.  The other day at my desk, I was on the phone, and with my headset on, I was able to pack my briefcase and walk to my car.  Yes, that was multi-tasking too.
Multi tasking takes on several skills applied simultaneously. but admittedly drains the ability to focus.  If I am really listening to my caller, am I remembering everything I needed to put into my briefcase?  Or if my briefcase gets organized well, am I actually listening to my caller?
This older generation of mine grew up in a pretty focused, single dimension world.  Today’s leaders developed their craft in a world of singular focus, working face to face with customers and employees, creating quiet time to read thick documents, while staffers helped with administrative tasks such as dictation, meeting set up, filing, answering phones, and guarding the door.  It made my doing more than one task at the same time a bit easier.  As I left a meeting, my secretary would hand me the file for my next appointment, and brief me on a phone call she fielded, while reminding me of my lunch appointment downstairs.  As she recited these 6-7 updates, I was glancing at the file summary note and walking at the same time.  Yessss, That was multi tasking refined.  I was like a well oiled machine, until Becky took a day off.  Then I was lost and multi tasking came to a halt.  Actually, single tasking became difficult too.
I was visiting a client a few months ago and touring their beautiful new headquarters.  As I left his office and walked away from the executive suite, his secretary reminded him of his lunch appointment and told him of an important message in his voice mail box.  He bristled a bit and when the elevator doors closed, he grumbled something about “so much to do”.
When the doors opened, we were on the second floor.  He chuckled and said “welcome to the experiment”.  This “experiment” was a floor designed completely by the employees.  There were no private offices.  The only private rooms were in the center core.  They were labeled with names of people, places, and things, and organized either traditionally, or quite eclectically for small private discussions, or larger group gatherings.  There were a few very small workstations scattered through out the floor.  But the remainder of the floor was furnished with couches, bag chairs, benches, and heavy wooden tables. And yes, there was a pool table and a ping pong table too.  Some areas were lit brightly and lively with a large screen tv, and others were tucked away with warmer colors and quiet music.  Instead of the old bun coffee maker next to the refrigerator, there was a professional quality espresso press, and a mini juice bar.  
But I was more taken back by the employees themselves.  Working alone, or working in small groups, the floor was really alive.  I first watched a younger woman sitting in a comfortable lounge chair, with her ear buds tucked in, watching the large screen television, and chatting away with a friend while clicking away on her laptop.  At a nearby table, three people were engaged in a conversation while focused on their laptop screens, sipping good latte’s.  In one of the quiet areas it looked as if one person was actually napping.  In an inner core room, two young children were working on what appeared to be home work from their grade school.  Employees were coming and going.  But it was alive.  My friend explained this floor was designed by employees who pledged that if they could design a workspace fitting their culture, they would be more effective, happier, and engaged.  He said the early results were very exciting.  
I don’t know how they do it he said, but that first younger woman is one of our accounts payable employees.  While listening to itunes, and watching TMZ, she was auditing a payables ledger with her partner from compliance.  The three Latte sippers, were also video linked to a few branch offices, conducting a training session.  Yes, one person was napping, because he had come into work after a good evening out with friends, and it made better sense to get some work done rather than drive home and back again a few hours later.  Now he was catching up prior to a presentation.  The grade schoolers were studying until mom an dad could leave work.  It was easier than going to day care, and mom and dad were right there on the same floor, working but able to check in on their kids.  
“Somehow”, he said, “this whole thing works.  I can’t seem to do two things at once without my privacy and a secretary, but they are able to thrive while multi-tasking multi tasks.  These are among our most successful and highest potential employees”.
Managing this type of workforce, and world of work requires a new set of skills for today’s Rare Leader™.  The fact is, younger workers who will carry the success you have envisioned work differently than you do.  They have been developed, and have found the ability to adapt with technology and relationships to do more things at the same time.  Juggling several things at once actually drives them to more productivity.  While this new machine can work effectively under new updated conditions, it still requires leadership.  
The Rare Leader™ of this workforce of today’s generation must accept and promote a Tolerance for Ambiguity.  The Rare Leader™ shows others the ability to handle stress, disappointment, roadblocks, and frustrations at the same time as juggling lots of balls while maintaining focus.  She can view micro and macro and how these details fit into the big picture.  But most of all, this Rare Leader™ can instill this into their Team.
  1. Who do you know that can multi-task multi tasks?
  2. What do you do to help you understand today’s multi taskers?
  3. Where can you observe and learn this style of ambiguity?
  4. When can you begin to add more “balls in the air”?
  5. How will you begin to move from Florence Dusty’s generation to the more ambiguous generation of “multi tasking multi tasks”?
If you want to learn more about the Rare Leader™ in you, 
or if you are interested in retaining Steve as your Executive Coach, 
Contact Steve Riege via: twitter, or his website.

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