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The Ringmaster Named Dave

I will never forget a training program with a group of school administrators and school district leaders in California. They were a dynamic, engaging group and I tremendously enjoyed my time with them. I also had the unique opportunity to see a fantastic ringmaster in action.

I arrived early to set up for the meeting and was met by "Dave" the facilities manager. He greeted me at the door, ushered me into the meeting room and immediately began asking me what I needed to get set up. No matter what I asked, Dave either had it available or quickly contacted someone to take care of it. When he finished with me, he moved to the food service area and guided the group as they set up for breakfast. Next, it was time to greet the participants. He was everywhere!

Once the program started, I noticed that Dave would stop by from time to time, checking on things and making changes as needed. Always upbeat, he left a wake of smiles as he scurried around taking care of things.

The most telling moment about Dave came when I talked with him after the program. I thanked him for doing such an outstanding job taking care of all of us. His response, "This is my school, and whatever happens here is a reflection of me." Dave gets a HUGE standing ovation from me and countless others in that school system. I left that meeting having learned much.

Who could you observe today that could teach you something about being a better ringmaster of your circus?


Want to build better ringmasters in your workplace. Let's make it happen!


The Gamble Of Email

A study on email conducted by Dr. Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email. So, people who check their email every five minutes waste 8 1/2 hours a week trying to get back on track.

Another study by Tom Stafford, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, England believes that the same learning mechanisms that drive gambling addicts are also at work with email users. "Both slot machines and email follow something called a 'variable interval reinforcement schedule' which has been established as the way to train in the strongest habits," he says. 'This means that rather than reward an action every time it is performed, you reward it sometimes, but not in a predictable way. So with email, when I usually check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful-and I get a reward." The reinforcement schedule of email is enough to keep us checking whenever we hear the "bell." Didn't Pavlov have a dog that reacted the same way? Scary!

I know I can fall victim to this "conditioning" but I am amazed at what I see in the workplace. I have been in meetings and the person speaking will stop mid sentence, put the meeting on hold, and check their phone because it beeped. Even when carrying on a one on one conversation with someone, while I am talking with them, they will check their phone for notifications. They will even reply to the message while saying to me, "Uh huh, uh huh." Don't people realize we know they are not paying attention to us or listening to what we are saying when they are looking at their phone or tablet?

Again, take a moment and consider your phone and email habits. I have! Turn off the notifications and plan a time to check email. (It can at least wait until after our meeting!) One recommendation is to check email two times a day-the beginning of the day and an hour before the end of the day. I know that is a little extreme but limiting it to once an hour for some would be a big step. Then you'll be a winner when it comes to managing your time.


Our Juggling Elephants programs address the elephant of email as well as other workplace challenges. Click here to learn more.


What's A TRUE Interruption?

While in a corporate training program, I was working through a section of the Juggling Elephants program that deals with "focusing on your most important acts in your lineup." One of the participants said, "You know, there really aren't many TRUE interruptions." I was curious about their response and asked them to explain.

They said that most individuals consider anything that stops them from completing their current task as an interruption. In reality, many of the things that we consider interruptions are actually part of our job responsibilities. A phone call may be viewed as an interruption, but it is actually within our job expectations to answer it and deal with the need on the other end of the line if it's about work. Someone stopping by our office to ask us something related to work may break our concentration on a high mental task, but it's not truly an interruption.

The person was right. It would be futile to try and eliminate all interruptions-most of us would have to quit our job. Our goal, instead, should be to figure out ways to MANAGE those interruptions that are work-related and MINIMIZE those interruptions that are not work-related.


To teach the people in your organization how to better manage the TRUE interruptions, consider bringing the message of Juggling Elephants to a future event. Click here to learn more.


Putting Your Needs Second In Your Lineup

After a keynote to an association annual meeting, I had someone talk with me about a situation they faced with a coworker. It seems that the coworker has this need to feel like they are in control of certain information-even though there is no legal or ethical reason to keep the information private. This person gets very frustrated when they try to get regular reports of these number because the person simply says, "If someone needs any of these numbers, tell them to come see me." Control indeed.

In the spirit of being a general manager I asked him if he had looked at it from their perspective and tried to determine ways to meet their need but still get the information. "She just wants to be in control and I don't want her to have control," he said. A critical mistake.

Being the "General Manager" often means that you put your needs second to those of others-so that the greater purpose can be realized. We have to ask, "What's the most important result we need to achieve in this situation?" If it's to have a report of the information, our pride or own desire for control may have to take a back seat. If it's to simply say, "I didn't give in," that has its own consequences as well.

As you look at the performers in your lineup today, how could you be a better "General Manager" and best meet their needs to insure a better total performance?


Let's get the performers in your organization working more effectively together. Click here to learn how.


Multitasking And The Restroom

Studies have shown that the brain is not "wired" to handle complete focus on more than one task at a time. Multi-tasking is truly the brain bouncing back and forth rapidly between two tasks. It is recommended that the most effective multi-tasking is when you are doing mundane or routine tasks that don't require too much thought. (Actually, I must admit that walking and chewing gum at the same time for me is a challenge.)

That being said, I must mention a multi-tasking pet peeve I experience way too often. I don't know if this is happening in the Women's Restroom but it happens all the time in the Men's-especially in the airport. Men will go into the restroom while talking on their phones and will carry on a conversation while taking care of business. (I guess you could say that some are taking care of business while taking care of business). I wonder what Emily Post would think about the etiquette of that? Multi-tasking should have some boundaries.

As an aside, when someone is talking on the phone in the public restroom and I am next to them, I personally like to see how many times I can flush so that the person on the other end of the phone is wondering what is going on.


Stop the multitasking so you can get more standing ovations in your circus performance. Click here to learn more.