Saturday, April 12, 2008

Multitasking vs. Prioritizing

I dislike the term "multitasking". Anyone can say they multitask - by virtue of the fact that a human can breathe, digest, and walk at the same time, we're all multitaskers. In reviewing resumes, recruiters look for content - specific information that gives some kind of inkling as to how the job candidate spends his or her days. Then we use a term like "multitasking" to describe the position we are advertising.

A few years ago, a study came out stating the human brain isn't meant to multitask in the way the term is commonly defined. We are supposed to focus on one concept, then another, not two or more simultaneously. Personally, I think it's an evolutionary step - our environment and our jobs require that we filter out extraneous noise, evaluate and accept or reject incoming data while simultaneously completing tasks. We're bombarded with information, and at some point we had to learn how to take it in without allowing it to consume the focus of our thoughts.

From my view, a better way to find out if a person has the ability to successfully manage incoming data, noise pollution, and the tasks of the job is to focus on the ability to prioritize and change focus quickly. A question from a manager may not be more important than the task at hand, however it has a higher priority and must be addressed as expeditiously as possible. A good interview question to learn about this ability might be "Tell me about a time when you were working on an important project with a tight deadline, and your manager asked you to answer a question. What did you do?" For an entry-level candidate, the best answer is "I asked my manager for direction as to which was higher priority, the question or my project". A mid-career worker would probably say "I answered the question and returned to my project, and met the deadline". A high-level employee might respond "I delegated the question to a member of my staff who had the data readily available, and followed up with my manager to make sure the information was delivered." These are all the right answer, and appropriate responses.

Sadly, the need for prioritizing is simply lost on some people. In terms of skills, this is a trainable area of focus for those of us who mentor, supervise, or coach. For some people, this is an innate ability - they know that you don't open your e-mail based on order of receipt, but instead on order of importance. (I'll save my diatribe regarding non-urgent items marked as urgent for another day - but that's coming, too). There are many books and articles available with great suggestions for learning to prioritize.

From my perspective, here is the best question to ask when trying to decide which item is most important - who do you LEAST want calling your boss to follow up? There's the first priority of the day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why Mess with a Good Title

I am far too lazy to set up an entirely new blog. Besides, I have about 83165841 logins and passwords taking up valuable real estate in my brain. So, the song remains the same.

Today I will share a little nugget from HR Land, where the roads are paved with checklists and we love process outlines. Twice in the last week, I've had the distinct pleasure of fielding questions regarding candidates who decided that "f**k" is an appropriate word to use when communicating to a recruiter the sense of loss felt upon learning that they would not be moving forward in the interview process. To clarify, I am not referring to the sideways "f**k" that slips out during conversation, I'm talking about the written "f**k", the "f**k" that took time, fingers, and a mouse click on another 4 letter word, "send" to deliver unto the recipient's inbox. Please don't misunderstand, those who have had the distinct displeasure of speaking with me when I have reached my saturation level of frustration know that if swearing were an olympic event, I'd do my country proud. We're all our own marketing and sales department when it comes to looking for a new job - I guess some people aren't meeting their quota this week.

Changing My Focus

After a discussion the regarding the merits and lack thereof related to blogging, I've decided to change my focus. I think the best path is going to be discussion related to my field, to give my blog some direction and focus. So, I'm working on the new model and I'll update this one with the new address as soon as it's up and running.

Thanks for reading!