Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Who said that men can’t multitask? Well, perhaps there is something in it…

Going Train-ing: Recently I travelled back to Dublin on the evening train from Cork. 2.5 hours of uninterrupted laptop use. Great scenery. Someone else doing the driving. What’s not to like? Especially those jazzy new trains on the mainlines.

After a large coffee and two bottles of fizzy water, I asked the guy across from me to watch my stuff and went to the loo. Big semi-circular doors provide access to the toilets, which are wheelchair friendly. You press a green button and the door swings open, spaceship like.

Hello Boy! I was just getting underway when my mobile started to ring. Now, like Pavlov’s dog, I am programmed to answer that phone at all costs. It might be Bill Clinton looking for me and I wouldn’t want to let him down. Steadying myself with one hand on the grab bar, I wrestled the phone out of an inside pocket while continuing to go to the loo. At that exact moment the door opened with a very distinct swoosh sound. I don’t actually know who got the biggest fright. Myself, the middle-aged woman who stepped into the toilet or the guy on the other end of the phone (I’d managed to hit the talk button just before the lady’s muffled scream of Oh Jesus could be clearly heard). No-one told me that you have to press a lock button as well as the close button. There should be a training course on it. Something. You have now been officially warned!

Dum-Dum: The previous night in Cork I’d called to a friend’s house and was playing a thing called the Dum-Dum game (it’s a test to see how stupid you are). Their kids thought it was great craic. Well now I’d officially achieved Dum-Dum olympic standard. A gold medalist.

Back in the carriage I moved into the window seat, burying myself as low as possible, partly-hidden under a fully extended Irish Times. Thank God for broadsheets. I prayed that the lady was seated in another carriage and would not walk past. Endless possibilities, all negative. Maybe she was a solicitor. An off-duty Garda? I’d been through Heuston Station millions of times, but never in handcuffs.

Shark Hunting: So, is there a point to all of this? Yes, there is. Most managers are faced with competing issues vying for their attention. Customer defections, staff problems, cash shortages, the 5 sorrowful mysteries. More things than time. But in the overall scheme of things some issues are sharks and some are minnows. No-one becomes successful hunting minnows. But shark hunting is brilliant sport.

So it turns out that you don’t actually have to be good at multi-tasking after all. You just have to be great at identifying strategically important issues. Then learn how to ignore the small stuff. Like a phone ringing.

Now, did anyone see my car keys? I have to get to Cork and can’t risk the train. Not without some sort of disguise.

Paul Mooney

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About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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