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December 3, 2004

News & Opinion: Juggling

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 5:13 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

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.