I don’t think it possible for me to meet anyone in my professional life or personal who does not answer when questioned. how are you with the answer busy , very busy then a little laugh !
I spent a few days recently at JPM festival in San Francisco. l walked from meeting to meeting across wet and dreary Union square walking downtown to Market street meeting with many people on the way .Hi, I said , with my up beat smiley face, very pleased to see you ,so many old friends and colleagues all in one place it was terrific .How are you I said looking people straight in the eye . Everyone to a man or woman answered my simple question as to their health and well being with the same answer BUSY!Everyone was busy .Not good, or happy to be having a good time in San Francisco but BUSY .It hit me so strongly and it made me ask the question why are so many people saying how busy they are .I reflected am I so unpopular , so unable to use modern technology that I am missing a trick as even when the pressure is on I would not say I am busy,I would say I am effective! why is everyone saying they are busy almost waiting for some great accolade and almost unable to give any other answer , Busy is the mantra of todays business world
Has it always been like this .If we went back in time and we met a Victorian or Edwardian man or women walking down Pall mall in London and asked them the same question would they give the same answer .Would they have described themselves as busy ?. Would they have said , I am very well thank you and how are you ,then proceeded to have a interesting two way conversation . Perhaps even in the 70s and 80s people would not have been obsessed by saying they were busy .
There has been an overwhelming culture change in business over the last twenty years . In the 80s all of us would wait for the internal post to arrive in a brown envelope and after reading the contents spend the rest of the day reading , writing and talking to people either one to one or in meetings .The revolution of technology over the last ten years has Created a new life style both at work and at play . Social media (which is another word for speaking all day to all of a persons friends or colleagues at once) has altered people’s perception of their self worth and where they fit into communities.
It has induced a need to project publicly how well people are doing and this is capture by the word BUSY
So why do we all answer to the question how are you with the answer very busy ? Somehow in the current business world people measure their success on being busy .The extreme activity and unlimited action is a measure of work performance, success and popularity . The word busy is almost code for I am so popular , I am making so much money , everybody likes me .
So is this code relevant . Should we revere , look up to and copy the role models of busy people who project their greatness and success . Or should we look at them as distracted loosers who are people who don’t know how to focus and fill their life’s up with unwanted clutter and need to employ a personal organiser !
Can it really be so that if emails are not answered within 24 hours they are destined to enter the Abyss . Is this the way we want organizations and society to develop.
A number a commentators are talking about the new narsistic society being induced by the digital and Internet age
Narcissistic is defined as having or showing excessive interest in or admiration of oneself.
Clearly Instagram , Facebook and Twitter give people measures of success by numbers of followers or numbers of likes . All these platforms as well as the constant complain I have received 50 emails this morning make people feel liked ,valued and to some extent fulfilled .The war cry is almost I have momentum in my life .
So to discuss this further what is this BUSY.Various people role models and key books have a dramatic effect on all of our lives . I was mega affected by one such impressive character .He was a great guy from New Zealand called Ken Taylor He was an interesting guy . He liked to hang loose ,leave is door open and always had time for everyone. He had a real ability to make you feel good when you met him. He never short changed the conversation ,you lost the concept of time in his presence and his secretary always made you tea His unstructured approach and his apparent full attention on the conversation in hand was just awesome.This guy was doing a lot. His span of budget and impact on his organisation was huge ,but he was not busy he was very effective.
Some time later I bought the one minute manager. An unbelievably good small book written by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson This is a book everyone should read.In the one minute manager, the leader just like ken had time for everyone. The book describes a man , a leader who is not busy. He is so available to everyone. And spends time reflecting and looking out of the window! Ken and the one minute manager was not busy because he actively prevented it ,nor was it important to him to project a busy phenotype to the outside world. Giving time and not being busy is everything to people and employees. So why cant everybody do it .Why do we choose to actively be busy
It is at time we introduce a new Character to our thinking . Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord. Born 1878 In Germany a general who was the commander in chief of the German army. He was an interesting man for many reasons but he is reputed to have created a very interesting understanding a a basic level of leadership. He characterized his officers into four different types or classes.He used four simple terms the clever ( smart ) the industrious (strong work ethic) the lazy (wanting to go home early and the stupid ( we dont need them) He proposed that each officer always possessed two of these qualities .In deciding on what position to give his officers he used his own psychometric and appointed clever and industrious people to general staff and clever and lazy to the higher post of leadership. According to Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord the people who were clever and lazy have the requisite nerves and mental clarity for difficult decisions. They were the more capable of being effective Olin greater way, being high value generators .The clever and industrious officers were the busy people , the clever and lazy people were the effective?
lazy is a hard word. Rarely are people really lazy as the dictionary defines that is unwilling to work or use energy. Its perhaps more relevant to think of the Sigmund Freud’s concept of the pleasure principle.
People who were categorized by Kurt Vonnegut Hammerstein-Equord as lazy were more motivated to seek out other “pleasures” perhaps seeing the big picture of life rather than the looking down the microscope with the industrious approach.Does this mean people who are not busy are lazy losers or can that they just see the world in a different way.These people understand the system that is in front of them and they are guided by there own map. Perhaps the lazy person if they are not caught up by a culture that removes or destroys the non “busy” is the one who is really focused .In Donald trumps book he says focus is thinking big. It is controlled neurosis.its obsessive ,driven thinking .Its not lazy thinking ,its focus.Focused smart people are never busy ,they understand life and dont clutter themselves up with being busy.They are effective.
When I work with people in my own practice who have take on significant new jobs or are promoted, I try to attack the concept of busy .I have developed a The Leadership Agenda model as a tool that a new leader can pull out of their backpack when the culture within their remit requires a shift from Busy to effective
Based on modern behavioural psychology thinking and in particular the concept of the ‘circle of reality’, the Leadership Agenda model can be a very useful methodology to constructively challenge organisational leaders. It is not intended to be scientific or complex, yet in a similar way to brainstorming it is a method of revealing people’s initial thoughts and feelings about their everyday work and what should be prioritised on their personal agenda.Where should they obsessively focus and what is busy work.
The model is meant to have a high impact – helping people ‘get things done’ through clear thinking, and allowing an organisation’s culture to change as this clear thinking has a key direct impact on the respective thinking and activities of subordinates.
It is of significant importance that once a leader is clear about his or her leadership agenda, they ‘obsess’ about it. I deliberately use the word ‘obsess’ not because I want people to seek clinical help, but because experience has shown that successful leaders need to continually tell stories, engender encouragement, and have high energy in order to create change – these are obsessive characteristics. A leader cannot expect to really introduce change in an organisation without a strong focus on continuous improvement themselves.
Understanding what is busy and effective needs to be dissected . I have set myself a goal to prevent everybody I meet from saying how Busy they are to me when they meet me. It may require some sort of magic but worth the effort