Sounds of Silence: Managing Is More Than Just Productivity & Multitasking

“In music the silence is just as important as the notes.”

This is the same as with speech, where we must place spaces between our words to be understood properly. There are 12 notes in our musical scale, so there must be more than just notes, too.

In music silence is golden, indeed.

My commute into New York City normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending upon the bus. Since I leave very early (around 6 am), there is not much traffic. The ride is largely uneventful. It is a quiet time with the sun just coming up. I really enjoy it.

Time for reflection

Imagine that you are sitting on this big bus in total quiet and darkness, with that allotted amount of commute time all to yourself. At no other time during the day will you be afforded this opportunity of quiet. You can be the director of your own movie with your thoughts. You are totally in control.

When I was growing up, the ritual in our family was that every Sunday after church and dinner, we would all load up in the big Cadillac and go for a ride. For about an hour or so we would just ride aimlessly. My mother and father carried on their conversation while my two brothers and I would just look out the window. It was reflection time for the entire family.

This seems to be a lost art all in the name of “productivity and multitasking.”

I notice people that can hardly wait until they are seated to either pull out their smart phone or laptop. Some are even involved in intense conversation on their cell phone while others are on their computer.

I often wonder who they could possibly be talking to at that hour. There is one person who pulls out a sheath of papers and read and marks up documents, all while carrying on a conversation on their cell. This happens every morning — working away, all in the name of being efficient or not.

Computers and other gadgets were supposed to make us more efficient. But as I look around, it seems that people never really catch up. In a lot of ways, we have become addicted to distractions.

I also see people at the gym working out on the treadmill, and at the same time, engaged in a phone call. How about the ones that work out and read the paper or a magazine at the same time?

As I walk the streets of NYC, there are people walking around glued to their smart phones, sometimes almost walking into other people. On the subways, everyone is distracted.

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At one time, there would be conversations instead; meeting new people, real networking. But today, the personal contact of humans seems to be either lost or going the way of the typewriter.

Where is the silence?

I took a conference call the other day in Bryant Park, which is a green oasis in the middle of Manhattan. It was the first really warm day and everyone was sitting enjoying the onset of spring. Surprisingly, people were talking, laughing, and enjoying each other. Everyone was experiencing the silence.

At one time I worked for a company that was located directly across from this park. During the spring and summer months, we held department meeting there — especially our Friday morning catch all meeting. The level of discourse increased as opposed to what we would experience if it was held inside a generic conference room.

We sometimes would go out for coffee or take a walk while we discussed issues relating to our work.

We are all faced with opportunities to create our silence, but so many times, the opportunity just passes us by.

Mastering that art of silence

When giving a speech, we are often told that it is OK to pause. Those well placed pauses can sometimes be more convincing that a thousand words.

The same holds true in our personal lives. Do we ever take the time to take a breath and just think? Do we ever just create our own silence? It seems that more and more we are on auto-pilot, walking through our daily routine.

There is a quote that I always live by, “The time to take time is when there is no time.” Try it sometimes and you will begin to see the results.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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1 Comment on “Sounds of Silence: Managing Is More Than Just Productivity & Multitasking

  1. people need to take time out for themselves i went on vacation and the boss wanted to know if he could call me if he had questions about the job shure call all you want doesent mean i am going to answer the phone afterall i am, on vacation

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