What Sully Taught Me About Multitasking

Laurie Ranegar is the Director of ReSource Pro’s Insurance Experience Center, where world-class service experiences are provided to the customers of ReSource Pro’s client’s.  She specializes in business process transformation and operational performance and optimization. Laurie is also recognized as an IBA Elite Woman.

Emergency Landing

Since famously making an emergency landing in the Hudson River, saving 155 lives, Captain Sully Sullenberger has taken to sharing his wisdom in books, movies and now LinkedIn videos. Lucky for us, it’s about something more everyday than life-saving piloting maneuvers. In the latest clip, he takes on the difference between multitasking and real, game-changing focus.

Let’s face it, if Sullenberger had been multitasking, he likely wouldn’t have successfully landed the plane on the Hudson River and become a hero.

His commentary about having priorities and the discipline to ignore the rest really resonated with me, and it can help inform how we approach our daily work and insurance operations.

Multitasking Hell

Sometimes, I feel as if I am the poster child for multitasking. As a perfectionist (now somewhat reformed), I sometimes found myself stressed in rapidly changing environments or chaotic situations. I tried to accomplish too much and found myself answering emails in every meeting I attended.  Eventually, I realized that I could only be successful if I focused on the highest priority items—those aligned to strategic goals. It was really difficult to narrow my focus. Sometimes I had to put blinders on to things that I thought could improve service and process. Over time, I learned to delegate the initiatives related to service and process improvements that I thought were important but perhaps weren’t directly aligned to our strategic goals. I learned to focus, to fly.

Don’t Forget the Details

All this said, as operations professionals, we can’t ignore the details. Our clients count on us to get the big stuff and the small stuff right. When Sullenberger tells us to stop multitasking, he’s not saying we shouldn’t be detail-oriented. He focused on the right details to successfully land the plane on the water. (By the way, I was working in lower Manhattan the day he landed that US Airways plane on the Hudson River. In the post-9/11 world, it was definitely scary to hear the news about a plane landing on the river before we knew the details.)

How can you focus on everything that’s important to your clients and customers without multitasking? Here are my takeaways for the insurance professionals from Sullenberger’s advice:

  • Stop being distracted by multitasking.
  • Focus on strategic priorities.
  • For client related work, focus on the client and the level of detail required to successfully execute and deliver an excellent client and customer experience.
  • When you need to do something critical (like, say, landing a plane on a river), give it your complete and undivided attention to do it successfully!

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger