December 3, 2004
What are some of the lessons that conscientious parents learn, that can enhance their professional performance? I grouped them into four categories. The first is the one skill that everyone credits mothers in particular with having: multitasking. This means not only the ability to do a dozen things at once but knowing how to prioritize: what to do now and what you can leave for later. It means knowing how to focus amid constant distractions. It implies efficiency. And guess what? The classic study of what top managers really do all day, Henry Minzbergs "The Nature of Managerial Work," revealed that top executives dont sit in an ivory tower all day, thinking strategic thoughts and issuing orders from on high. They race around, react to crises, deal with difficult people, react to bad press, cope with constant interruptions. As Minzberg put it, managerial work is characterized by "brevity, variety, and fragmentation." Sounds just like a day in the life of a busy mother. (As one of my friends put it, life is not a final exam, its a series of pop quizzes).
In other words, the idea that having a lot of different things to do can detract from ones job performance needs to be reconsidered. Having a lot of different things to do may in fact be the best possible experience for most jobs. Its like that old saying: if you want to be sure that big assignment is done well, give it to the busiest person in the office.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.