Tag Archives: work

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Media multitaskers pay mental price

Stanford Report, August 24, 2009 by Adam Gorlick

Attention, multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in trouble. People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.

multitaskingHigh-tech jugglers are everywhere – keeping up several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework assignments.

But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.

“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Everything distracts them.”

Social scientists have long assumed that it’s impossible to process more than one string of information at a time. The brain just can’t do it. But many researchers have guessed that people who appear to multitask must have superb control over what they think about and what they pay attention to.

Is there a gift?

So Nass and his colleagues, Eyal Ophir and Anthony Wagner, set out to learn what gives multitaskers their edge. What is their gift?

“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said Ophir, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Stanford’s Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab. In each of their tests, the researchers split their subjects into two groups: those who regularly do a lot of media multitasking and those who don’t. In one experiment, the groups were shown sets of two red rectangles alone or surrounded by two, four or six blue rectangles.

Each configuration was flashed twice, and the participants had to determine whether the two red rectangles in the second frame were in a different position than in the first frame. They were told to ignore the blue rectangles, and the low multitaskers had no problem doing that. But the high multitaskers were constantly distracted by the irrelevant blue images.

Their performance was horrible. Because the high multitaskers showed they couldn’t ignore things, the researchers figured they were better at storing and organizing information.

Maybe they had better memories. The second test proved that theory wrong. After being shown sequences of alphabetical letters, the high multitaskers did a lousy job at remembering when a letter was making a repeat appearance.

“The low multitaskers did great,” Ophir said. “The high multitaskers were doing worse and worse the further they went along because they kept seeing more letters and had difficulty keeping them sorted in their brains.”

Still puzzled

Puzzled but not yet stumped on why the heavy multitaskers weren’t performing well, the researchers conducted a third test. If the heavy multitaskers couldn’t filter out irrelevant information or organize their memories, perhaps they excelled at switching from one thing to another faster and better than anyone else.

Wrong again, the study found. The test subjects were shown images of letters and numbers at the same time and instructed what to focus on. When they were told to pay attention to numbers, they had to determine if the digits were even or odd. When told to concentrate on letters, they had to say whether they were vowels or consonants.

Again, the heavy multitaskers underperformed the light multitaskers.

“They couldn’t help thinking about the task they weren’t doing,” Ophir said. “The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can’t keep things separate in their minds.”

 The researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they’re convinced the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.

 “When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

So maybe it’s time to stop e-mailing if you’re following the game on TV, and rethink singing along with the radio if you’re reading the latest news online. By doing less, you might accomplish more

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

People + Practice

jim-aitken2Mayor of Penrith, Jim Aitken OAM, celebrates 50 years as an entrepreneur this year.

Jim’s first enterprise was selling papers, magazines and cigarettes from a window at Penrith railway station.  Today his businesses include real estate, restaurants and gift shops and employ over 200 people.  We asked Jim to share some of his people management experiences and insights.

Thought is the original source of all wealth, all success, all material gain, all great discoveries and inventions and of all achievements.
Claude M. Bristol

1.      What are the three most important things a manager needs to keep in mind when managing staff?
Management is knowing your staff and knowing your business, the rest is logistics. Many businesses today are rapidly losing power to create a future. If the business is to project itself into the future and have meaning the managing director would do well to focus on three immutable truths:

i. Give the personnel a sense of ownership
Each person in the business at Jim Aitken & Partners has a sense of ownership. The acceptance of personal responsibility is what separates the superior person from the average person.

Personal responsibility is the pre-eminent trait of leadership and the wellspring of high performance in every person and every situation. Accepting ownership of that part of the business in which personnel are engaged and accepting responsibility for the part of the business they “own” means that they take responsibility for their own results with absolutely no excuses.

They are responsible partners in the business and the degree of responsibility accepted determines the degree of growth.

ii. It’s not a sin to have a problem

For some staff, problems are overwhelming. Most problems in businesses can be solved and the best way to solve a problem is to share it immediately with the manager and that manager must evaluate it and share it with the rest of the organisation. This sets up a risk framework which allows any problem to be dealt with. We do not escape responsibility by attempting to pass it off on someone else.

Having a problem and making excuses, or blaming someone else, weakens the staff member and weakens their resolve by turning control over to other people. They become passive and resigned rather than powerful and proactive. Instead of feeling on top of the world, they work as though the world is on top of them. This is a dead-end road which this company refuses to travel.

The only sin about having a problem is the sin of not sharing it. Sharing and resolving are growth factors in any company.

iii. Ensure the company becomes a learning company

It has been thought for some time that the future belongs to the competent. In my view the future belongs to the omnicompetent. The future belongs to the people that are very good at what they do and who are getting better every single day.
To earn more you must learn more. You must add more value. Staff must be developed to become better, to be developed to their highest competency and to make better and more important contributions.
This is not a one sided view of management. When a business competes with like businesses, the consumer sees similar products and similar services. Why should a consumer choose my business? The answer must be because we have better people. We want people who can move from a selling mode to a management mode and the consumer to see the obvious difference in management skills. To give the consumer confidence that their affairs are in professional hands. In the hands of people with superior knowledge and skills.
This is not only good for business but character developing for staff. When we become excellent at what we do, our lives change completely. Self-esteem, self respect and personal pride all increase dramatically. Staff feel good about themselves. They will be respected and admired by their clients.
A key factor in management is to nurture this type of growth and personal development in staff. The rewards will be a growth in business.

2.      What advice would you give someone about to employ their first staff member?
It is a fact of life that the personality and characteristic of a person defines what work they will give themselves to with all their energy. Why are some people more successful and effective than others doing the same work?
The most important point for any employer is to understand the future employee and determine from them at the interview what it is that they really want to achieve in their lives.

Many employment programs have been heavily competency based. What is of the most benefit to an employer is the pleasant smile and the can-do frame of mind.

Any job may be accomplished adequately but the negative waves and passive resistance brought about by poor attitudes can create a great threat to productivity
Success in life is not just about ability or knowledge but about attitude. When looking at a prospective employee it should be remembered we can only study the past but we can design the future. If we are going to design the future of the company we may as well do it with attitude.

3.      What do you know now that you wished you’d known earlier about people management?
Management was always about corporate planning, strategic planning, implementation and feed-back. Today psychologists have discovered that the very act of observing behaviour tends to change that behaviour for the better. This is a breakthrough in understanding personal performance. This critical discovery contains the key to dramatically improving the quality of life and I wish I had realised this long before I did.
Much earlier I would have closely monitored every action of staff and set specific measures and goals. We have Key Performance Indicators which point the way business is moving, but these KPIs are not called in for review at regular enough time frames. The upgrading of staff knowledge and skills must not be ad hoc. Monitoring results, goals and performances must be on a daily basis. In other words, appraisals are a daily fact of life. This, in effect, is monitoring areas of excellence.
Without such monitoring it is easy for staff to fall into the trap of spending more time on the 80% in areas which are not productive to themselves or the company. By daily appraisals we focus of the 10 or 20% of the activities that account for 80 to 90% of successful results. We examine the tasks that that yield the highest returns and rewards relative to the cost and effort of performing those activities.
Daily accountability and monitoring results is organising work life so that more and more higher value tasks are pursued.

4.      What do you find most rewarding about your business achievements?
The most rewarding aspect of my business is to know that it is achieving its purpose. The purpose creates the context for everything the business does. Everything it does should relate or contribute to the fulfilment of that purpose.
To be most useful, a company’s purpose should describe the benefits that are delivered to the client when they use our product or service, rather than simply describe what the products and services are. My business does provide a quality of life for over 200 people and brings a return on investment.
I believe value is based solely on our clients’ opinions and only our clients can tell us whether or not we have been successful.
In the light of this the most rewarding part about business achievement is simply my mantra;
Profits are not the end in themselves. Instead they become a a measure of how successfully the company is fulfilling its ultimate purpose.
It is a customer-focused company guided by a “What more can we do for them?” philosophy. The company develops a deep understanding of the daily experiences of the clients which in turn leads to new thinking which may better serve the client’s needs.

5.      What other insights would you like to share with our readers?

Commit to Excellence. Successful people are very good at what they do. Commit to excellence in your work and resolve to be part of the top 10% in your field.
Have a very strong culture of people-building in the business. Build up your leaders from inside the company. People aspire to grow their businesses so rather than be title driven (seeking positions in the company) be business driven.
Encourage staff to see themselves as self-employed. When staff accept responsibility for their business lives, they see begin to see themselves as self-employed. No matter who signs the pay cheque, they are in charge of their own business. They will see themselves as an entrepreneur even though it may be a company of one. They will see themselves as responsible for every element of their work, control, training, development, communication, productivity improvement and finances.
Such staff will not make excuses.  Instead, they will make progress.
Would you like to share your business experience to help others?  Please comment!

If you would like to be interviewed for this series, or you would like to suggest someone we should talk to, please let us know.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

More profit from your practice

How profitable are your people management practices?

You already understand the importance of excellent practice management in helping you deliver on your client value proposition. When you look at businesses that really shine, regardless of their size, age, market or niche, their success can always be traced back to having exceptional employees. Attracting and retaining exceptional employees – the best talent – is only sustainable with exceptional employment practices.

Data linking people management practices to financial returns was published in the Future Ready III whitepaper by Business Health in April 2007. In their data analysis of over 1000 advisory practices in Australia, they found that those with effective people management practices (majority of staff have job descriptions, individual objectives, regular reviews and awareness of the high level business goals) had profits 159% higher than those with ineffective people management practices.

The simple practice of having job descriptions for your staff can have a dramatic effect on profits. Practices with job descriptions for more than half of their employees were found to have profit levels at 125% above those with fewer staff with job descriptions. This is equivalent to an extra $101,096 profit per principal.

A detailed organisational structure with clear roles, responsibilities and reporting lines will form the basis of job descriptions. The time invested will be repaid many times over when everyone knows what they’re doing and why. If you already have job descriptions in place, ensure you keep them up to date and relevant by consulting the current incumbents.

What should you include in a job description? At a minimum, a job description includes:

  • An accurate job title
  • The purpose of the role
  • The location of the role
  • Key relationships, both external and internal, including reporting lines
  • Essential qualifications, skills and experience required for the role
  • Key responsibility areas

When you build on the job description with personal objectives (KPIs) and a structured performance management process, you are developing systems that have been shown to have a positive impact on business financial performance, according to the Business Health whitepaper.

The next article in this series will look at the when, where and how of finding and selecting the best talent for your practice. For more information on people management for your practice, contact Susan Rochester on 1300 785 150 or susanr@balanceatwork.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Short of time? Worried about money? Lacking energy?

If you’re a successful financial adviser, it’s because you love your clients and excel at explaining complex issues in simple terms.  Doing these things gives you energy and brings in the dollars.

To really prosper, you need to spend as much time as possible on these tasks.  This blog will help you do that by sharing articles, videos, checklists and practical advice on managing your staff.  Visit whenever you need some relief from people management headaches.

For now, take 20 minutes to watch this thought-provoking video about work:

[ted id = http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/477]

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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