Sunday, June 2, 2013

Turn a Stupid Question into Lunch

"If I find that on the first page of Google, you're buying lunch."

Ever get tired of answering questions that employees ought to have figured out for themselves? It's the "go-to-guy" syndrome. They find it's easier to ask you than search for an answer themselves. Sometimes it's a "general knowledge" question, like, "How far is it to Peoria?" Seemingly innocuous, and maybe you know the answer, but why is that a problem? Because it interrupts you, takes your time, and distracts you from your highest and best use (which, hopefully, you were working on at the time the question came up).   And because it costs you far more time to return to what you were doing, or perhaps don't get back to that at all. 

Is that really true? Apparently it is -- "multi-tasking" has been largely discredited. Humans don't, in fact, multi-task. Rather, they switch rapidly between tasks, and it takes awhile to spool back up after each switch. According to a New York Times article,
"a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. "
One Chief Executive Boards International member, when interrupted by a "general knowledge" question, simply says, "If I find that on the first page of Google, you're buying lunch." It only takes a couple of lunches to break a chronic interrupter of the habit.

Or, here's another idea for solving the "go-to-guy" problem when the question is not stupid - when the employee is trying to delegate a decision to you that he should be making himself. It's important to note the difference, and use the right medicine for the right symptom.

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If you have ways you've been able to break employees of interrupting you with things they ought to be doing themselves, please click "Comments" below and share them with others.

Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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