Faster! Do more things at once, be agile, change gears mid-task….! It’s easy to conclude that success in modern life depends on sheer agility.  But does it?  As you skim read this (which inevitably many of you will) ask yourself where is the proof that multi-tasking and simultaneous but superficial mental processing are the keys to success?  Actually, there’s not much.

There’s much more evidence that the development of expertise is all about hours and hours of practice and that this is only possible through focus, tenacity and actually only doing one thing at a time.  Yes, just one thing – over and over gain until perfection is attained.

Skeptical? Well, consider this:  is it probable that the athletes who are soon to compete in the Olympics are simply highly talented people – brilliant genetic freaks and little else?  Or perhaps they have a high base level of ability and they are also extraordinarily good at fitting in their training around the demands of a busy social life? I doubt any one of us would come to this conclusion!  In fact, it’s much more likely that the respect we feel for them is in no small part associated with our recognition that they have had to sacrifice an awful lot to get to where they are today.

Sadly, we seem to forget this in work.  On the one had we read Outliers by Gladwell or Bounce by Syed and accept the “10,000 hour rule” and all that it implies, but when we recruit or promote into senior positions, we are still seduced by the plate spinning general manager who seems to have everything on the go at once.

Maybe we should think again?  It has been argued that some types of assessment favour extroverted behavior.  Thinking about observed group exercises, this is probably true.

But what about our general view of the structured, methodical completer-finisher?  They may seem to lack pace but perhaps what they are demonstrating is skill, poise and accomplishment.  Not everything that is important has to been done quickly and at the same time as something else!





Chris leads Serco Consulting’s Organisational Psychology and Change service line and is a Chartered member of the CIPD, a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council (EMCC) and an experienced management consultant and coach.

He holds a BSc. (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Law and Employment Relations (Dist.), post graduate qualifications in Business and Executive Coaching and has over 20 years of HRM experience.