If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Why Empathy is an Essential Skill in the Business World.

Why Empathy is an Essential Skill in the Business World.

Posted by martin.parnell |

My friend and fellow marathon runner, Paul, has been sidelined recently, due to a foot injury. It’s easy for me to empathise with him as I am recovering from an injured ankle. I understand his pain and frustration.

On the website, psychcentral, Traci Pederson defines empathy as:  “the ability to understand and feel what another person is experiencing. Empathy is a necessary and essential component of any relationship or social group. It is at the root of all pro-social behavior and compassionate action. 

Empathy is distinct from the emotions of sympathy or pity. When a person feels sympathy, he essentially “feels sorry” for a person in trouble and views that person with a sense of separation. Empathy, on the other hand, is getting on the same level as the troubled person and, in a sense, feeling what that person is going through. Empathy is essentially minimizing the differences between oneself and another. 

We have had two very tragic incidents occur, in Canada, recently. On April 6, a coach bus carrying the The Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, collided with a semi-trailer truck near Armley, Saskatchewan, killing 16 people and injuring 13. On April 23, a rented van was driven at speed along a sidewalk and into pedestrians along Yonge Street in the North York City Centre business district of Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 14.  

I have the very deepest sympathy for the families, friends and those injured, in both incidents. But, try as I might, I cannot, honestly, put myself in their shoes and truly begin to experience the emotions they will be experiencing. As Pederson explained, to feel true empathy, we have to understand what another person is feeling. In certain situations, a lack of empathy, can have very negative consequences. 

In a recent interview on the CBC’s The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti. Doctor Brian Goldman, host of his own CBC programme, White Coat Black Art, explained that he strongly believes empathy can transform healthcare. An encounter with a patient led Goldman on a quest to better understand what it means to be kind and empathetic. 

"When patients tell you you're incompetent, there's a good chance that they could be wrong but when they tell you that you're not kind, that hurts because they know kindness — everybody knows kindness," said the author of The Power of Kindness. That research took him all around the world and what he found is that kindness is powerful and transformative — and a lack of empathy has consequences on both the doctor and the patient.

"When we aren't kind to somebody else, we walk away diminished emotionally physically. Our heart rate goes up, our stress hormones go up, our blood pressure goes up,” He added that the same results occur in patients when receiving unkind care. “I think that lack of kindness is like the death of a thousand cuts. And that’s one of the reasons why people who are in high intensity jobs like being a paramedic or lawyer or whatever burnout in mid-career.” When doctors are less empathetic, Goldman said, their patients become less engaged, and less trusting.

“They don’t comply with their doctors recommendations, their medications, their prescriptions, if it’s not handed to them kindly, with empathy,” he said. Goldman believes there’s no losing to showing empathy because it comes back tenfold. The benefits of showing empathy will always have you walking away happy and satisfied, “in a way that you would not dream possible,” he said. “It’s not hard to give yourself time to do it. But if you do, you will feel better and more fulfilled in your life, perhaps, than you have ever felt before.”

In the workplace, it is essential that we have the skill to empathise with people, in a variety of situations. In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale carnegie wrote : “People who can put themselves in the place of other people, who can understand the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future has in store for them.” He also suggested that: “To be genuinely interested in other people is a most important quality for a sales-person to possess—for any person, for that matter.”   

It is clear that being able to show empathy is important in all walks of life, but there are those who have not mastered this people skill. In business, this can be particularly problematic. In an article entitled “Empathy at Work”, the team at mindtools.com explains: “Workers with poor people skills can often find themselves in the middle of unnecessary conflict. This can be exhausting and stressful for all concerned, and it can destroy even the best laid work plans.

Many people are confident that they can develop new technical skills and knowledge through training and experience. However, there’s a common belief that “you are how you are” when it comes to “soft” skills (interacting with other people) – and that there’s little or nothing you can do about it. Fortunately, this is far from true. And a great place to start improving your soft skills is by developing the ability to empathize with others. To be empathic, you have to think beyond yourself and your own concerns.”

The team suggests that in order to start using empathy more effectively, we should consider the following:

1. Put aside your viewpoint: try to see things from the other person’s point of view.

When you do this, you’ll realize that other people most likely aren’t being evil, unkind, stubborn, or unreasonable – they’re probably just reacting to the situation with the knowledge they have.

2. Validate the other person’s perspective.

Once you “see” why others believe what they believe, acknowledge it. Remember: acknowledgement does not always equal agreement. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.

3. Examine your attitude.

Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning, or being right? Or, is your priority to find a solution, build relationships, and accept others? Without an open mind and attitude, you probably won’t have enough room for empathy

4.  Listen.

Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate. Listen with your ears – what is being said, and what tone is being used? Listen with your eyes – what is the person doing with his or her body while speaking? Listen with your instincts – do you sense that the person is not communicating something important? Listen with your heart – what do you think the other person feels?

5.  Ask what the other person would do.

When in doubt, ask the person to explain his or her position. This is probably the simplest, and most direct, way to understand the other person. However, it’s probably the least used way to develop empathy. Practice these skills when you interact with people. You’ll likely appear much more caring and approachable – simply because you increase your interest in what others think, feel, and experience. It’s a great gift to be willing and able to see the world from a variety of perspectives – and it’s a gift that you can use all of the time, in any situation.” 

It is evident that, in order to have an empathetic approach to situations, probably the most important skill we should develop is the ability to listen. As Ernest Hemingway once said: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” That means actively listening, fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively 'hearing' the message of the speaker. 

Listening is a necessary component of interpersonal communication skills and is fundamental to developing empathy.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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What we agree with leaves us inactive, but contradiction makes us productive.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Do Contradictions Fail to Make a Lasting Impression?

Do Contradictions Fail to Make a Lasting Impression?

Posted by martin.parnell |

The other day, I was going through our bookshelves, looking for something to read. My wife, suggested a title by an author she’d recently discovered and thought I’d enjoy. I looked at it and wasn’t impressed by the cover, but decided to give it a go. It has turned out to be a really good read. It reminded me of that old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” 

Last week, my publisher sent me 5 prospective covers for my next book, asking for my opinion. I really took my time, trying to decide which one I thought would most appeal to a prospective reader. After all, don’t “First Impressions Count”? Old sayings can prove to be very contradictory. Just consider these further examples: 

  • Great minds think alike.       Fools seldom differ.
  • Money is the root of all evil.      Money makes the world go around.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.     Many hands make light work.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.     Out of sight, out of mind. 

It’s easy to find one of these little nuggets of wisdom to support our ideas. Sometimes, looking at things in different / opposite ways can help us learn and evaluate.  However, offering contradictory advice can be confusing and non-productive. Consider the effect if you are giving out contradictory messages to your colleagues or employees. 

In an excellent article for the Globe and Mail, published 13th. January 2018, Harvey Schachter wrote: 

“Don’t ignore work contradictions – leverage them. Life is full of paradoxes, contradictions and apparent oxymorons. Success is often determined through the tension between two contrary desired ends. But it is also in our human nature to avoid bringing those contradictions to the surface, particularly in our organizations. So we let them fester, blocking us from moving ahead as far as we might, and sometimes creating opposing camps fighting guerrilla warfare by memo and artifice.

Let's take one of the most common contradictions. Most organizations are dedicated to producing quality products and services. And most organizations are also committed to efficiency. But at times, quality and efficiency can be contradictory goals. It might be difficult to achieve both at the same time. Similarly, it's often difficult to achieve quality and cost reduction at the same time, as the "more for less" gang claim.

The prevailing management position is to ignore the contradiction. Managers will choose whichever of the two goals seems most pressing at the time, and let it triumph. That might means efficiency rules for a six-month period, until anecdotal evidence surfaces that customers are concerned with deteriorating quality, in which case the tilt shifts in the opposite direction for a while. The other common technique is to simply go with instinct or the best case put forward at the particular time a decision is being considered. So in the morning, a decision favours quality at the expense of efficiency and in the afternoon the reverse occurs.

Meanwhile, employees' heads spin. They can't figure out what really counts in the organization. And many of them will take advantage of any inconsistency to criticize management, dampening morale. "They tell us quality is important, but look at how they are wrecking quality by that crazy decision to speed up the process," cynics will tell anyone willing to listen. Or they will feast on the contrary decisions in a short time span: "Yesterday morning, they decided to accept some inefficiency in the name of quality and then did you see what they did in the afternoon? Exactly the reverse! What a bunch of morons."

Meanwhile, you keep talking about clarity and alignment, just like the management experts urge, aloof from the reality of the workplace.

Running an organization is not simple. That's the challenge and fascination of management. You will always face contradictions and paradoxes. The trick is to identify them and grapple with them openly, so they aren't hidden. What makes managers look foolish is in not acknowledging the grey areas while talking in black and white terms. The result is confusion and cynicism, not clarity and connection.

Meetings, by the way, are loaded with contradictions. They are meant to build a team feeling but are best when people challenge one another, which can lead to conflict. The urge in a meeting is to plunge straight ahead to conclude an item but inevitably the best parts of meetings are when you get sidetracked, wallowing in some unexplored issue.”

Schachter offers some solutions:

“Start by identifying the various contradictions that bedevil your organization. There are probably a dozen or so, with three to five quite prominent. Everybody knows about them – people might even have divided into camps over them – but they have probably never been openly discussed in a general way, like quality and efficiency, or superb customer service and the need to keep staffing low. Less fundamental, but also important, might be the fact you say you want to hire the best people but you are always in a rush to fill a spot. Or perhaps you say you want to give developmental opportunities to your people but you tend to always hire from outside. Centralization vs. local autonomy, of course, is an eternal favourite.

Once you have identified these contradictions, talk openly about them. It can help to identify the positive elements in each element of a contradiction you have raised, to understand that both are still laudable intents and neither side is wholly wrong. How can you gain the positives each offers, a win-win in Western terms and a yin-yang in Eastern terms? Then try to figure out whether you can approach these dilemmas with more consistency and logic, developing some overall policy that keeps you – and staff – more balanced and consistent.”

 This may be a lot to take in and if you think your company is ticking along quite nicely as it is and your attitude to it all is “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.” However, I’d like to be a little contradictory and propose that “You're never too old to learn.”

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.

Ronald Reagan
Know when it's Time to Intervene but be Cautious not to Interfere

Know when it's Time to Intervene but be Cautious not to Interfere

Posted by martin.parnell |

Being a manager requires a great deal of skill when it comes to the way you interact with your colleagues and employees. You have been given your role because you are well versed in the workings of your company and have, hopefully, demonstrated excellent skills relating to that role. There is, however, one skill that, despite their competencies in many areas, some managers find it difficult to master. 

I refer to the ability to know when it is appropriate to demonstrate a valuable hands on approach and when that can be come intrusive. I am talking abut the difference between intervening and interfering. 

Obviously, it is important to encourage employees and be an enabler, so that you get the best from your workforce. If you are a smaller company, there may be times when you will be required to coach them in certain skills, train them in new techniques and technologies and bring an awareness to any new company policy.  

You should be available to engage in planning sessions and be seen to collaborate. This will gain the respect of employees and make it easier for you to identify areas for their development. It is important to take an interest in their work, be a mentor, offer guidance, and provide feedback. If you have a new employee, it makes sense to observe them and ensure that they are fulfilling their role. It is also important to make sure they fully comprehend all the aspects of that role, in order for them to show their range of capabilities. 

Being an approachable manager will encourage others to seek your opinion and refer to your knowledge and experience. Always keep lines of communication open, so that employees are not daunted by the thought of having to ask for support or clarification. There will be times when you may need to intervene. If you see that an employee hasn’t fully understood a task, or if they need some support in a certain area. Perhaps they are lacking in experience in a certain aspect of their job. It may be that they have become overloaded with work and you need to help them prioritize. 

Of course, as a manager, you need to know what is going on in your company and, if you have a large enough workforce, this can be achieved by appointing reliable, skilled team leaders, in each department. They can be very effective in ensuring that employees are up-to-date with day-to-day requirements and any changes needing to be made. It is their role to demonstrate new skills and be able to prioritize when they have issues to deal with and know when it is appropriate to take them to the manager. 

Team leaders can be seen as people to go to when problems arise and may be able to decide what need to be overseen by the manager or dealt with there and then.

They can give support to both colleagues and management and reinforce company policy and standards. For some managers, this approach can sometimes be difficult to adopt, the reason being that they find it hard not to have complete control.

They want to monitor everything their employees do and have an input in to everything. 

This can prove very disheartening if you are a capable employee. You have been given your job because you were viewed as being knowledgeable and have the appropriate skills to achieve what is required of it. You understand the job description and produce good work and yet you have someone constantly checking and overseeing everything you do. 

This not only undermines the employee’s confidence but it would make it appear that the manager does not trust them to complete a task to a satisfactory level. Also, if you are constantly spending time checking on your workforce, it gives you less time to concentrate on your own duties. 

As a manager you might wish to maintain a certain level of detachment which may be necessary at times. It also allows you to focus more on the bigger issues relating to your company. Of course, there will be times when a manager will have to intervene. If a team leader is not being supported by employees, if there are issues they are unable to deal with or there is s disciplinary matter. 

For a manager, it’s all a matter of  being engaged enough that your workforce sees that you are aware of what’s going on, are taking an active part in mentoring and  supporting them, offering encouragement and the benefits of your experience, without interfering in their day-today- work and knowing when it is necessary to intervene. 

This will result in a workforce that appreciates your interest and confidence in what they are doing whilst not feeling they are being left to struggle when they are in need of support and guidance. 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.

William James - American philosopher and psychologist
How to Manage a Mammoth Task – See it as an Elephant

How to Manage a Mammoth Task – See it as an Elephant

Posted by martin.parnell |

In 2005, I embarked on a cycling trip through Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.  A total of 11,500 Kilometres and 10 countries in four months.   I kept a detailed journal and, on my return used it as a basis for my book “How Do You Eat An Elephant?” I chose that title because it pretty well sums up how I approached the ride, the answer being “one bite at a time.”  In my case, I just had to get to a campsite at the end of each day. This certainly helped me succeed and made the trip less daunting. When I present my workshops on thetheme of  “Finish The Race Attitude”, I encourage participants to do just that, when embarking on a new project.

The workshop title is “Unlock Your Potential: Set Goals and Achieve Results you Never Thought Possible.” Key areas include Goal Setting, Goal Execution and Goal Completion. We discuss what resources they will need to achieve their Goals including tools, time and funds available.  We discuss the need as to how they are going to manage their project. This is when the doubt can creep in. For those who have not tackled a large project before, the task can seem overwhelming.

To ensure that they do not become discouraged, I ask them to look at ways in which the task can be divided up into smaller, mini projects. Working in this way, allows for each area to be thoroughly researched. It encourages creativity by way of looking at various aspects of working and allows for evaluation at each stage.  It is important that deadlines are set for each stage, in order to keep the project on track and stick to a predetermined timeline. When a part of the project has been completed, it gives a sense of achievement and acts as a prompt to embark on the next step. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and, psychologically, it motivates us and gives us less chance of failure.

According to Lauren Marchese's “The Psychology of Checklists: Why Setting Small Goals Motivates Us to Accomplish Bigger Things”, on the Trello Website, January 27th. 2016: “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation. When we feel the effects of dopamine, we’re eager to repeat the actions that resulted in success in the first place. Neuroscientists refer to this as self-directed learning. This is why achieving small goals is such an effective way to stay motivated during long-term projects and processes.”

Of course, this approach may not be right for you and Mike Martell, in his piece “Don’t Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time!” originally published on Dumb Little Man,  argues that :  “The real problem with taking it step by step is that most people lose interest and end up quitting. If they can’t quit at let’s say a job related task they get so sick of it, they find every reason to get the project killed by their boss.”

He suggests that, instead of breaking things down into “bite size” pieces, we should create: “Big chunks that can be taken on at the same time. In the information technology world, you call this parallel instead of serial processes. You have several things running at once, instead of one at a time each after the other. In addition to breaking the item into big parts, you find others to help you with it. This might be outsourcing, it might mean finding partners, paying affiliates, or even bartering your skills for assistance. Getting outside help with these big chunks will make it go much quicker and you will get the results you wanted while you still remember why you wanted them.”

He does add, however: “Now I am not saying that this is for everyone and for every situation. Some people have a very disciplined mindset and a methodical, linear approach works for them. In my experience though, there aren’t that many people like that around.” What I would argue is that, whether you take small bites or large chunks, approaching a project in manageable pieces can be more productive, less daunting and more satisfying. What we all want is to make sure that we achieve our goals and can celebrate our success. In business, as in life, it is important that we see things through.

On thePsychology Today website, in an article “Why we hate not finishing what we start”, posted Mar 31, 2014 Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph. D explains: “According to the "Zeigarnik Effect," you are much more likely to recall uncompleted tasks than one you completed. In a 1927 study Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik asked subjects to complete a set of tasks. During some of the tasks, the subjects were interrupted before they could finish. When asked later about the tasks, they recalled the tasks during which they were interrupted at a much higher rate than those they were able to complete. It turns out that the brain has a powerful need to finish what it starts. When it can't complete something, it gets stuck on it. Intrusive thoughts about what we could not finish may pop into our heads as a way to remind the cognitive system that something still needs to be completed.” 

So whether you are confident enough to tackle a complete task head-on or find that chunking things down in to more manageable pieces, it is worth looking at different ways of achieving your goal.

I’m a great believer in the premise that anything is achievable, if you take the right approach.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Handwriting is an imprint of the self on the page.

Dr Rosemary Sassoon, Handwriting Researcher.
Why Handwriting still has Value in the World of Business

Why Handwriting still has Value in the World of Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

In my role as an author, I write – a lot. In my other profession, as a keynote speaker, I also write in order to keep up with my platforms on social media. If I’m not working on my latest manuscript, I’m blogging, tweeting, connecting on Facebook, preparing talks etc. The list is long. 

Needless to say, all of this work is done on a computer. The other day, I gave a talk and, afterwards, as with most of my events, I did a book signing. For this activity, I write a brief message and sign my name. I find it interesting that, even in this time when most things are written on one form of technology or another, people still value having a handwritten signature. 

They would not be impressed if I were to print off a set of labels with my printed name and stick them in my books. A signature is very individual and personal. It is used to identify us. We have it in our passports and on the back of our credit and debit cards. It is the defining example of our handwriting. 

Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is the study of handwriting shapes and patterns to determine the personality and behaviour of the writer. In the world of forensic science, handwriting analysis fits into the area of questioned documents and expert examiners in this field can recognise signs of alteration, forgery and authorship. The primary basis of handwriting analysis is that every person, in the world, has a unique way of writing. Just look at the criminal cases of Robert Durst and David Allen Lucas, to name but two. 

On a daily basis, I still have a notepad where I jot down ideas and things I need to do. Every year I buy a diary, to keep track of things like appointment, birthdays etc. I must admit, I’m still, to a degree, a pen and paper guy. But, for many people, the thought of having to actually write anything seems a pointless activity. 

They would argue that there is no point when everything can be typed on to their Smartphone, IPad or other device. And I do see their point. However, handwriting appears to be a dying skill and that, I think, is a great pity. I could quote you articles and statistics about the number of schools that no longer teach cursive writing. 

On the other hand, I could also quote you experts who tell us that learning writing is integral to developing fine motor skills in young children and aids in their learning to read. But, I want to focus more on why I believe there is a place for us to incorporate handwriting at stages in our day-to-day life. Who doesn’t get a thrill when a Birthday card, Christmas card or postcard from an exotic destination arrives in the mail. 

It tells us that we are being thought of in a way that goes beyond just sending a quick text, email or message on Facebook. Actor Steve Carell once said “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It's disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there's something visceral about opening a letter - I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.” 

On the wall of my office, I have a charming picture drawn by our 4 year-old goddaughter and she has signed it with her name. Upper and lower case letters mixed and a back-to-front “S”, it’s a treasured reminder of her first attempts at writing. 

In business, probably the only time you might see someone’s signature is at the end of a letter. A busy boss hasn’t the time to be handwriting letters, he or she needs to let someone type them up or put them on the computer. It’s so much easier to reach a number of people that way and there’s no denying the convenience of having one’s spelling checked. 

Also, if yours is not particularly clear and decipherable, you may not feel inclined to put something down in your own handwriting. We’ve all heard the jokes about doctors’ handwriting being impossible to decipher and wonder if pharmacists have some sort of extra training to do so and ensure we’re getting the correct meds. 

But I do believe it’s worth making the effort. I keep Thank You cards to hand and will write a brief message and send one to an event organiser, or other contact that has engaged my services. I regularly get feedback as to how much they are appreciated. This personal touch resonates and shows how much you appreciate their business. 

At work, the only time you may only be required to write anything in your own hand is when you’re being passed a card for someone who’s leaving, had a baby or is celebrating some other event. But, why not think about other ways in which to engage by writing a note or card? 

I’m sure, if you are an employee, you’d really appreciate it if your boss dropped you a personal line to tell you “Job well done” or some other way to show you’re appreciated. “Handwritten notes are a rare commodity. They’re also more important than ever.” Those are the words of John Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest in Business. They’re also the title of an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2013. 

How many of you take handwritten notes when attending meetings? Robinson Meyer, in The Atlantic, May 2014, under the heading “To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand” referred to a study conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer which found that: “People remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. What's more, knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn't seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-note takers ahead of time, it doesn't make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better.”

The study also found that:  “The people who were taking notes on the laptops don’t have to be judicious in what they write down.” If you locate Meyer’s article, you can read the way in which the 3-part study was conducted. In conclusion, the study demonstrates that: “taking notes on a laptop seems to lead to verbatim notes, which make it tough to study well. We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” This result could feasibly be the same for those taking notes at business meetings.

I am not proposing that we all give up our laptops and computers and start writing everything by hand. I, for one, would find this far too time consuming and inconvenient. I need to be able to send written work to multiple contacts. The convenience of cutting and pasting, taking quotes and articles and use them for reference is obvious.

But, I would encourage everyone to at least make some small effort to write something by hand when looking at the ways in which we communicate. We need to find ways in which to show that we are engaged with colleagues and employees.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Make it brief, make it personal and watch it make a difference.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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