Engaging the Fickle Mind

Engaging the Fickle Mind - cover 17 June 2015 copyHow many times a week do we look at our smart phone? Do we look at it first thing in the morning? Do we look at it before 7.30 a.m.? Do we look at it during meetings? Do we feel lost without our devices? I am sure the answers to these questions might not only be interesting but it will start us thinking.

Study UK’s Daily mail (www.dailymail.com) surveyed 2,000 smartphone owners about their tech habits. They found the average user now picks up their device 1,500+ times a week, reaches for their phone at 7:31am in the morning, checks personal emails and Facebook before they get out of bed, use their phone for three hours and sixteen minutes a day and almost four in ten users admitted to feeling lost without their device. (see the 4 mts video below about these dangers)


Technology has given us so many options of interest that our mind keeps wondering from one to another at an alarming rate. We may be at a meeting and our smart phone alerts that it’s a friends’ birthday and we pick the phone to wish her. When we open Facebook to do it, we see a friend request from an old friend. As we start accepting it, we see a photo posted by another friend. Then we remember there is a customer meeting and we may be late to get home and we start messaging someone at home to pick up a child from school, and then she tells you to bring some extra cash as the plumber was coming to fix a leak the next day. All this happens in about one and half minutes. Therefore we live in a world where our mind gets more and more fickle.

Some feel this is beneficial as it helps us to do many things rapidly, become knowledgeable in many fields, be able to handle more things than ever before, be able to respond fast, be connected with more friends more often, find new opportunities be more efficient, smarter, successful etc.

Information in www.careeradicts.com highlights the pitfalls of multitasking. The brain can focus on only one thing at a time. Switching between tasks results in less attention to each resulting in poor quality. It reduces engagement with friends and family causing disharmony. It can cause recurring errors leading to inefficiency and redundancy. It causes a 40 percent drop in productivity as switching tasks, requires the brain to run a complex process to disengage & engage neurons rapidly. Multi tasking costs the global economy $450 billion annually. It is one of the main sources of stress leading to health issues, memory loss and fatigue. Ultimately it shrinks the power of mental organization and creativity.  And most importantly we may miss out on some wonderful moments in our lives, like a baby’s innocence, a sun rise, a fragrance of a flower or a the flavour of a dish.

Therefore keeping team members engaged is one of the biggest challenges facing leaders of today. Let me present some ideas on how to engage team members by making things meaningful, compatible, interesting and educating.

Making work meaningful can engage our team members. Thinking with the heart and seeing team members not just as a name, designation or a number but as people who have hopes and aspirations, hurt and sadness, good times and bad times, challenges and opportunities, will help treat them like human beings and this is one of the most engaging activities a leader can do. Make work value adding by enabling, empowering, energizing & engaging. Teaching tools and concepts that are empowering helps team members feel valued. An example is the mental habits for success from Neuro Linguistics Programming (NLP) that helps team members learn how to engage and empower themselves rather than being dependent on external situations. Helping team members to find their higher purpose (personal mission), showing them practical steps how to get there and supporting them to get there is another activity that helps engage.

Making work compatible is another way to engage. Great leaders know how to get square pegs in square holes and round pegs in to round holes. There are four unique-ability areas (www.kolbe.com); quick starts, fact finders, implementers and follow through’s. There are three modes of communication, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic, and each person prefers a different mode. Some prefer to think with their hearts and others with their head and some are ‘left brain’ and others ‘right brain’. We have different personality types as per the MBIT criteria and other models. We have different modes of interaction: competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating and compromising. Leaders should understand these aspects of each person and allocate them to roles that are compatible so that they are engaged. This will then help the leaders to develop their tem members in aspects not so natural to them. E.g: Developing right brain skills of a left brainer.

Making work interesting is another way of engaging. Work can be made interesting by adding creativity, fun, technology (eg: smart phones to do self-assessments), challenging tasks etc. Since majority of the work force is becoming millennial’s (those born from the mid eighties to the end of the last century) and there ideas are shaping the world, we need to take note of what engages them. Leaders need to learn how to lead millennial’s.

A survey regarding the best places to work for Millennial’s, done by the Centre for Generational Kinetics and Best Companies Group (BCG) in more than 4,000 U.S. organizations and 500,000 employees, that was just released showed that the top 5 aspects that engaged millennial’s were; feel valued in the organization, have confidence in the leadership of the organization, like the type of work that they do, feel progress was made at work most days and the organization treats them like a person, not a number.

Making work educating would be another important aspect for engagement. Knowing what the fickle mind loves to learn and the methods they would like to adopt to learn become important. Using metaphors, creativity, visual/auditory/kinaesthetic modes, the seven intelligences, interaction, e-learning methods, gaming, animation, video streaming, and pictures (in this era of snapchat and selfies) become important. Creating self-discipline through helping with connecting with authenticity through values education on pitfalls of over-tecnologicalisation (word coined by me) etc. can help the process of engagement.

Today our uniqueness and diversity is so varied and growing faster than ever before. Therefore while these are a few ideas presented, leaders need to develop the acumen to understand each of their team members and tailor the way they engage each one. Similarly the engagement of a team that is diverse is another skill that requires development. Mastering this leadership skill will not be just good to lead our teams, but it will help us make this world a better place.

Contents of a presentation made by Ranjan de Silva (www.ranjan desilva.com) at the National Human Resources Conference of Sri Lanka organised by the Institute of Personal Management on the 17th of June 2015.

E mail: ranjan@sensei-international.com

Web: http://www.ranjandesilva.net

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