By Stanley Bing
31 May 2004 – Fortune magazine – p. 216
Today I would like to announce the discovery of a new, stress- related ailment that attacks senior management everywhere. That’s right. Another one.
This disorder, which I discovered because I suffer from it, is called executive attention deficit disorder, or EADD. Its characteristics correspond almost exactly to those that afflict people with classic ADD, and I’d like to thank the Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center at www. add-adhd-help-center.com for identifying them. Remind me to do so if I forget, because I’m…
Often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated. This casts a new light on executive desk toys. My little wind-up teeth are my favorite–a set of choppers on tiny feet that hop around on my blotter. I also like doodling while people are talking to me.
Having difficulty remaining seated. This explains why I’m always “stepping away” from my desk when I should be sitting and working quietly. It also manifests dramatically at staff meetings, where suffering executives like me are always getting up, acquiring coffee, slapping our faces to stave off sleep, stuff like that.
Being easily distracted by extraneous stimuli. I can’t concentrate on any damn thing, and it’s getting worse. The minute something comes into my field of vision it entertains me until the next phenomenon comes along. Like right now. I have about an hour to write this column, but I keep getting sidetracked by noises and cravings for Diet Pepsi, even though it’s early in the morning.
Having difficulty awaiting turn in games or group activities. Bosses with EADD must always be at the front of the line, even if it means cutting in or having their person cut in for them. These people get completely nuts if they have to wait for anything. Tragically, this is often interpreted as rudeness rather than the illness it is.
Often blurting out answers before questions are completed. Even when they’re wrong. I know many more wrong answers than right ones, and I like to offer them as often as I possibly can. I hate waiting to reply to people. It means that they’re talking and I’m not.
Having difficulty in following instructions. But not in giving them, of course. The eagerness to give instructions even when we don’t know what to do is what marks us as leaders!
Having difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities. Like right now, I’d give anything to bail on this writing assignment and take a stroll around the hall, greeting people and then moving along, because I get antsy when I’m forced to stay in one place for too long.
Often shifting from one uncompleted task to another. Which is why I wait to do things until they’re insanely overdue and I’ll be completely screwed up unless I concentrate–for the shortest amount of time I can–and get it done. For example, if I’m not finished with this analysis in about 45 minutes, there’s a chance you won’t be reading it at all, you’ll be looking at a vintage picture of a skyscraper from an old issue of FORTUNE, and while that would be entertaining for you, I wouldn’t get paid for it. It’s a good thing I type fast.
Having difficulty playing quietly. Right now, I have an old Allman Brothers album on the CD player. A couple of minutes ago my assistant came in and told me to turn it down.
Often talking excessively. I don’t think I do this one. The other morning I had breakfast with my friend Max, and I distinctly remember him saying a couple of things, although I can’t think of what.
Often interrupting or intruding on others. Have you ever known a senior manager who didn’t do this? You’ll be sitting in somebody’s office, having interrupted what they were doing, and another boss just strolls in and interrupts you interrupting the other guy, completely intruding on your intrusion! Man!
Often not listening to what is being said. This was the first symptom I recognized in others and then in myself–a certain drift of the eyeball when other people were speaking. The more senior the guy, the worse it is. You start talking, and there it goes, the eyeball, drifting up and to the right, checking some internal database for signs of activity. It’s very annoying, in other people.
The good news is that while ADD can be debilitating in children and other normal human beings, it is actually an asset in executives. I can’t imagine what corporate life would be like without it–sitting like a slug for hours attending to conversations, bending my nose to the grindstone as I tackle one aggravating duty after another…feh!
My EADD took me years to develop, and I’m proud to say it’s getting worse every day. There is no cure, and I’m glad. If you want some, get your own.
I’ve got mine.
The good news is that for senior managers, executive attention deficit disorder is actually an asset.
Copyright (c) 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.