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What Are You Really Saying When You Multitask?

Personal branding is not new, but there’s definitely buzz around the concept of your personal brand? Imagine a bicycle wheel for a second. The wheel is you, your personal brand. At the center of the wheel is the hub. The rim of the wheel is connected to the hub by spokes. The wheel is only as strong as the spokes that support it and are what most people see first when they look at the wheel.

While a typical bicycle wheel may have 28-36 spokes, an aero wheel, built for speed, might have as few as four or six spokes. So, what spokes make up your personal brand? For example, your appearance may be one spoke; the language you use may be another; your degree/education may be an important spoke for your brand. Your leadership style is another spoke. (Your leadership style could be a wheel unto itself, too.) As a leader, but really for anybody, how you treat people is most definitely an important spoke on your personal brand wheel.

Another way to think of personal branding is to ask the question my friend Shawne Duperon asks, “What are you broadcasting?” While Shawne asks the question mostly as it relates to networking and the media, it’s a great question to ask all the time. In an earlier post I wrote that multi-tasking can, and often does, amount to nothing more than distraction and increased levels of stress. But, what about when you ask yourself, “What are you broadcasting?” when you multi-task?

When you sit in meetings with your smart phone, answering emails, texting, What are you broadcasting? I recently was speaking with a good friend of mine who is a partner at a prominent & successful advertising agency in Boulder, CO. She told me that one of their biggest problems is people bringing computers, tablets and smart phones in to meetings. They bring them under the guise of “I might need it during the meeting” but they end up using them throughout the meeting to multi-task. She said the end result is that meetings take twice as long because they have to repeat things or, worse, people leave the meetings never hearing the information they needed to do their jobs.

So, the next time you’re meeting or speaking with someone and you decide to answer a quick email or text, ask your self - What are you broadcasting? You might think it says that you’re being efficient—firing off quick responses to people so that they don’t have to wait for your answer. Or, you may think it says you’re important and very busy. But, what else does it say? What message does it send to the other people in the meeting with you?  Is it possible that the message you’re broadcasting is actually–The person with me/the meeting I’m part of right now is not really important enough or engaging enough to demand my attention? Is that really the personal brand you want to create as a leader?

4 comments to What Are You Really Saying When You Multitask?

  • Fantastic post, Steve!

    “You might think it says that you’re being efficient—firing off quick responses to people so that they don’t have to wait for your answer.” – I think there is enough research now indicating that multi-tasking makes you actually less efficient. I remember a wonderful article in the Bangkok Post titled “Too Many Emails Dull the Brain!”

    “Or, you may think it says you’re important and very busy.” – Well, I remember the very well respected CEO of my former company used a non-smart phone. He was so important that when he was in a meeting someone else would answer his landline phone – and inform him if there was anything really urgent.

    At the same time, we also need to consider how to make meetings more exciting so that people are not even tempted to use their phones in meetings…

  • Steve Frank

    Thanks, Gerrit. You are right, there is research that shows multitasking makes you less efficient. Of course, like most research, it can be interpreted many ways. And, despite research, people will continue to do it. But, people need to be aware of what they’re broadcasting when they do it. And, yes, making meetings more efficient and more exciting is a great goal, but that’s another spoke on a leader’s personal branding wheel.

  • Penny

    You speak the truth and oh how I wish people would listen to you.
    What does it say about that person? He/She is rude…insulting.

    Good job Steve

  • Steve Frank

    Thanks, Penny. It certainly can be perceived as rude and insulting. But, I would guess that’s not the intent of most people; they truly just think they’re being efficient and don’t realize how others might perceive it.

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