Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Rule #2 for Motivating People and Organizations

My Rule #2 for Motivating People and Organizations

Richard Rosenblatt
Chairman and CEO at Demand Media

Always stay positive, honest and open, especially when things get challenging. That's when your team needs it and YOU the most. This week I'd like to share the second rule I've learned and live by, and it may be the hardest of them all. Remember, these rules (starting with stay positive) are intended to be simple, straightforward and impactful – tips you know but may forget from day to day how important they are.

Rule #2: Don't multi-task during conversations

Multitasking is not new and has always been an issue. However, technology has increased the number of distractions we're faced with, and the problem is only getting worse.
Lord Chesterfield in the 1740s (yes, even before email) offered the following advice to his son: "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time."

So, why shouldn't you multi task? First, it's bad for business. Despite your strong belief that you can do more than one thing successfully at a time, you cannot. You will miss something, and it will hurt your effectiveness in ways you may never even know.

Second, it's bad for overall perception. The person you're speaking with knows that you aren't paying attention to them, and this disrespect will dampen their enthusiasm AND will permeate through the organization. If my boss doesn't focus on me, why do my peers and subordinates deserve my undivided attention?" Finally having realized this, I now do not allow active iPHONES into our management meetings. My goal is to set an example that permeates throughout the organization.

So, you may ask: "Is it really bad for business?" The answer is yes. If you are multitasking you WILL inevitably miss part of the interaction. Here is what happened to me. For years I was in meetings all day, and email kept piling up. So, I used to listen to people and answer emails simultaneously. I would inadvertently miss something, but I was too embarrassed to ask them to start over. So, I either said nothing or clearly seemed like I wasn't getting it. I missed a piece of information, so my decision was less informed. That meant I wasn't making the impact I should have been making on the business. They were small decisions (or I would have sheepishly asked them to repeat themselves), but strung together they probably negatively impacted our business. At a minimum they held us back from being as good as we could have been.

Not convinced? Ignore that example and now assume you can actually type and listen. Most of us look down when we type, and words are only a fraction of what someone is actually communicating. There are powerful and important but subtle signals that are sent alongside someone's words. Often, these signals are even more important than the words. You probably didn't catch them while you were typing that email, and it will impact your decision-making and the business.

All this leads to the second issue: how YOU are perceived and how that bleeds into the organization's culture. When you're multi-task during a meeting, you lessen the importance of whatever your peer, employee, boss, or partner is saying. Unquestionably they feel it. They will leave feeling less empowered, and it will affect the rest of their day and how they interact with others. The tone is set at the top, and the message you are sending is that they are not important enough to get your undivided attention. Why would they act any differently when they meet with others?

I encourage you to try this for a week. Every time you're having a conversation with someone, set down your smartphone, minimize all the applications you have open on your screen, and really focus on listening to what the person's saying. I bet you'll learn something you wouldn't have if you had been multitasking, and I'll bet that person just got a little more motivated about the work they're doing.

I took Lord Chesterfield's advice last night and tried to give similar advice to my 14 year old son about having a singular focus. He literally didn't hear me because he was on his iPHONE playing Clash of Clans, chatting on Facebook with his friends and watching 30 Rock. I think I'll stick with trying to give my advice to adults for now!

Edited by: Lawyer Asad

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