We’re living in a multi-tasking society. The belief exists that the busier you are the more productive you are. Or, perhaps you feel more important because you have such a busy schedule. Did you grow up doing your homework in front of the TV? There’s a sense that we can manage both tasks with the same level of focus and efficiency when we do both at the same time. Studies show that you’ll get more done if you do one thing at a time and do it well. Do you have children or grandchildren who say they are paying attention even though all you see is the top of their heads? I long for the day when someone looked you in the eye when they are talking to you. Even my doctor has his head in his laptop so he can keep up with the documentation.
Multi-tasking in a meeting is an insulting activity! Your actions state, “What I think is more important” than what you are saying. It takes focus to listen actively. In today’s distracted world this focus is becoming a lost art. How many distracted drivers do you encounter? Ever sit at a green light waiting for the person in front of you to find that smaller pedal under their right foot? Recently I observed a car wandering all over the road. When I was finally able to pull up to the right of them to make a turn, their head and focus were buried in their phone – texting! The competing distraction of whatever was in that text kept the driver from operating their car safely.
How many times have you been in a meeting and observed a person with their head in their lap fiddling with their phone? I recently watched a client bust someone. He was very direct asking, “So, what did I just say?” The multitasker looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Meetings often involve an alpha or two strong personalities. Sometimes you may have three different levels of interest – small, medium and large.
- Small usually is a person who does not believe what is being discussed has much of an impact on them.
- Medium has opinions, but may lack a comprehensive understanding of all of the facts.
- Large – gets it, has done the studying and is deeply impacted by the outcome.
Like any strong personality, I must be aware of how I come across. I listen carefully to fully understand their concerns and offer solutions – with the belief that my solutions will benefit them. If I am missing the mark because of a misunderstanding – better to shift to a solution acceptable to the client. One challenge for me is to take adequate notes of our meeting so that I and my staff can take care of any action items. I don’t want to miss a single signal from body language or from a pause in their response. Do they look to the side to see what their partner is thinking? I will miss that if my head is down. We use large expanses of wall covered with Idea Paint® (better than a traditional white board) to outline what we are hearing. By standing up in the meeting, I feel like I maintain a better overview of how people are reacting.
This week, why don’t you try leaving your phone off the table when you meet with someone? Have lunch with your phone in your pocket or purse. There will always be certain circumstances when you want to have your phone handy—to check that your children got home from school okay or to see that someone is running late. You’ll be surprised at how rich your conversation is when you don’t react to every beep and buzz.
Believe you are there to improve the client’s life.