If you want something done ask a busy person, goes the adage, but research suggests that this might well be true.
The busier you are, the more likely you are to complete tasks, particularly those whose deadlines have been missed, found Keith Wilcox of Columbia University and his team. Getting behind is demoralising, but Professor Wilcox discovered that busier people are better at bouncing back from a missed deadline and are more likely to get the task done — and more quickly. The theory is that while you may have missed one deadline, with other tasks completed and with others on the go, you feel that you are still winning the productivity war.
“Our research shows that being busy is one way to reduce the sense of failure,” he says.
According to the study, keeping yourself and your staff busy is a simple way to continue getting things done, even when deadlines have been missed. Rather than giving yourself or others more to do, you should instead break down larger tasks into smaller ones. This will make you feel busier without increasing your workload. But make sure you are busy with productive tasks and not simply those that occupy time, says Prof Wilcox.
Leadership gender bias
Making the transition to a leadership role can be a challenge, even without gender bias. Women in professional services can struggle with this change because they find it hard to create a credible public image with which they also feel comfortable, according to research from Insead business school. Based on interviews with 34 men and women in management consulting and investment banking, the study examined promotions from technical expert to client adviser.
Herminia Ibarra and Jennifer Petriglieri found that the women were held back by an expectation of how an adviser should behave. While most of the men became comfortable projecting the assertive, masculine image clients expect, most women fell back on emphasising their technical successes to prove their credentials — unsuccessfully.
The researchers suggest women can try out a new professional identity more easily by moving company or department, or by seeking clients — perhaps other women — with whom they feel more comfortable. Finding and emulating role models that knit more easily with women’s personal identities can help too.
Geraldine Gallacher, founder of Executive Coaching Consultancy, advises trying a style in client meetings that does not rely on bold, aggressive statements: “Be assertive but with a smile,” she says.
Distrust your gut
Asked what advice she wished she had received at 25, Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com, led with hiring. Instinct should be ditched, she told the BBC, in favour of a slower-burn audition of candidates. “Make sure lots of people in the company meet them, take your time and really choose people that you get to know.”
SOURCE: Emma De Vita