A little ADD isn’t all bad

Dec 09, 2015

HeartsThe work and talents required of an A/E principal means that some traits associated with attention deficit can be useful.

Experts have claimed that as much as 35-40 percent of the adult population has some degree of ADD (attention deficit disorder). While the last 20 years has been the time of treating everything with medication (i.e., drugs), I’m not convinced a little ADD is a bad thing – especially if you work as a principal in an A/E business. Here’s why:
  1. You have to shift gears quickly. With so many projects, clients, and other people both inside and outside of the firm to deal with – not to mention the continuous barrage of emails, text messages, and phone calls – you better be able to quickly address whatever it is that’s coming at you. And multi-tasking – writing an email, talking on the phone, and holding a meeting with an employee, all at the same time – no problem!
  2. You have to be wary of threats coming from all directions. The ADD brain is a more primitive one and is better geared to survival. Throw in just a pinch of paranoia and you’ll be better equipped to deal with the contractors who are trying to make you look bad, the clients who don’t want to pay what they owe you, and the myriad of other bad things that COULD happen to you if you weren’t looking out for your business continuously.
  3. You have to move fast. The need to stay busy and the accompanying hyperactivity helps you get a lot done some times. Staying billable is easy when you work a 60-hour week. Juggling all the things you have to juggle – selling work, recruiting people, training underlings, solving problems on projects, and firm management stuff requires you to move quickly or you won’t make it.
  4. You are geared for what the famous, ‘80s-era McKinsey management consultant, Tom Peters, called MWBA (management by wandering around). Staying in constant motion throughout the office helps you stay on top of what’s really going on with the projects and the people in your firm.
  5. You also occasionally have to hyper-focus. When it’s down to crunch time on a major proposal or project milestone, sometimes you need to shut out the world and lock in on one single task. The individual with an ADD brain can do this when it has to – to the exclusion of all else, of course. But this trait can help you get things done when absolutely necessary.
Time for me to get back to finishing a proposal, writing up a construction cost estimate, doing a bunch of paperwork for our bank, getting ready for a 9 a.m. meeting, and returning about 1,500 emails and phone calls. Maybe a little ADD isn’t so bad? Or am I just rationalizing? MARK ZWEIG is the founder and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.