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You must...multitask

CEOs’ performance depends on the rare capacity to act and reflect simultaneously in a continuous loop in which action feeds reflection and reflection feeds action.

Why it matters: In the most challenging conversations, we focus so much on the goals that we miss the different realities other people bring.

Multi-channel capacity: Observing ourselves in real time requires us to be engaged and disengaged simultaneously. It’s like dancing on the club floor and watching from the balcony how we and everybody else are dancing.

Developing multi-tasking muscles is like working out in the gym. You have to do sets and reps to build strength, speed, and power. The same about real-time reflections. Here is the workout plan with the sets and reps structure:

  • Stop every hour or between meetings to ask yourself how you’ve been doing since the last check-in.

  • What have you noticed about your behaviors? Your feelings? Your thoughts?

  • What have you noticed about other people?

  • What have you missed?

  • What hasn’t been said that should have been said?

The Sets:

The hourly (or between meetings) reflective pauses. If you are pausing for reflections at the top of the hour or between meetings, you will have around 5-7 pauses a day plus one at the end of the day to reflect on what happened at home.

The Reps:

Every reflection pause is for just 1 minute. Our brain is a fast processor. You can complete reflecting on the above questions in one minute. Just notice. Be aware.

Next Step – During Interactions:

After 1-2 weeks of hourly reflections, add another reflection halfway through meetings or interactions.

  • Pause during the interaction to have a one-minute reflection.

  • Force yourself to stop the engagement – excuse yourself to the bathroom or get yourself for just a 1-minute off video.

  • Follow the same process – but now you do it every 30 minutes or halfway through the meetings.

Next step – Cut the time interval to 15 minutes and the reflection to 30 seconds.

  • Pause to follow the same reflection process

  • At this stage, you are very close to real-time reflection.

  • Think about how your reflection feeds and influences your actions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings during your interactions.

  • What has changed for you? Do you show up differently?


One of my biggest challenges at the Air Force Flight Academy was listening to two radio channels simultaneously and connecting what I was hearing (and what I wasn’t hearing) to the reality I observed in the sky.

On one radio, there was non-stop communication during a battle among the four jets; on the other radio, there was non-stop information and guidance from the ground control unit. In two-seater fighter jets, add a third channel with the co-pilot.

Making sense of what I heard on the multiple radios competed with my attention to what was happening in the sky and my attention to flying the jet at breakneck speed in high G-force when my weight was 7-9 times heavier than on the ground.

Over time I developed the capacity to never give 100%  attention to any of these multiple activities. Instead, I left some space in each channel, engaged and, to some degree, disengaged to observe and act on all the channels simultaneously. That enabled me to put them together into a complete picture of reality.

Take Action

The most effective way to boost your potential is to develop the capacity to observe yourself and others in real time, considering your awareness and observations.

Such multitasking is more than a skill set. It’s a new capacity, a new potential that will help you become a more effective leader, communicator, spouse, and parent.

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