Caught in a Speed Trap?
by Donna Mills

In reviewing this issue's article on multitasking, it struck me what a high premium 21st century businesspeople (and people in general!) put on speed. Slaves to the efficiency god, we are perennially seeking ways to pack more productivity into less time.

In his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea, poet and corporate consultant David Whyte addresses the issue of speed. He states: "Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important…. Yet speed by itself has never been associated with good work by those who have achieved mastery in any given field…. The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are."

This is so frequently the case! How often are we able to slow down and recognize value that isn't related to efficiency? Perhaps a bit heretical in the competitive world of business, in the everyday business of life I think it's vital to our mental and emotional health to slow down—to recognize the value of stepping back and taking an honest look at where we're going and who we'd like to accompany us on the journey. "Stop and smell the flowers" is an old cliché. In our ever-speeded-up techno-world, it's a challenge to slow down long enough to even notice the flowers in the first place!

One of the major tasks of coaches is helping our clients attain and maintain life balance. Sometimes balance means a short-term full-bore push towards a vital goal. However, over the long term, I need a reminder to walk my coaching talk—to regularly put efficiency and goal accomplishment aside and sync with people who are moving at the speed of curiosity and wonder rather than at the speed of light. How many great ideas are born in the blur of Tayloristic efficiency?

In the legitimate quest for goal achievement, productivity and efficiency are often equated with speed. But as Whyte points out, speed can often have the effect of leaving behind individuals who travel at a different pace. And often, that slower pace is indicative of a creative mind at work.

I tend to respond quickly to most questions, tossing off the answer that first occurs to me. However, I have observed that when someone else is slow to respond to a query, and I am impatient for a response, the delay is due to the fact that the person is actually thinking about the answer. Those are the people, I find, who are the truly deep and innovative thought leaders. Rather than responding in knee-jerk fashion, they ponder questions and ideas, and come up with the brilliant solutions. Perhaps if employees or clients are slow to 'fall into line,' it might be a good idea to decelerate and match their pace. They may be mulling over the problem and fomenting an unexpected, ideal solution!

Donna Mills, BA, CFCC, is editor of Business Coaching Worldwide. As the owner of Creative Clarity, Donna helps her clients to discover their authentic purposes, define goals that are aligned with those purposes, and design and implement strategies for their achievement. Read more about Donna in the WABC Coach Directory. Donna may be reached by email at


Return to In This Issue.
Click here to view or print entire issue for easy reading.

Copyright (C) 2006 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.