Single-tasking creates group magic

Guest post by Craig Freshley. We are big fans of Craig’s wisdom and are delighted to share this post with our readers. Visit Craig’s website for more superb tips on meetings and leadership.

In principle, even though multi-tasking seems ever more popular, the fact remains that focusing on one goal at a time is the surest way to achieve them. Juggling many balls may appear impressive, but the more balls in the air the greater the chance of dropping one, or several. Groups are especially prone to failure when trying to do too many things at once, and especially prone to success when everyone is focused on a single task.

Of course, to focus on a single task the single task must be well defined. Many groups flounder because the participants are not clear on what they are supposed to be doing. Absent a well-defined problem to be solved or objective to be achieved, group members can’t be blamed for coloring outside the lines or getting off track. What lines? What track?

Practical tip: When you meet with others to make a decision, define the task at hand and then focus on achieving it. Resist the temptation to simultaneously check e-mail or have side conversations or view other screens or work on other projects. Even when bored or when you think you have nothing to contribute, meditate and search within for creative solutions. Listen to others for deep understanding. Quietly jot notes on how things could be better. Even though silent, there are many ways to contribute to the group task.

Discourage other group members from weaving in and out of participation, distracted by other things.

The magic of groups happens when several brains and hearts are focused on a single task. The frustration of groups happens when undefined or multiple tasks suck energy from singleness of purpose.


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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.