I was sitting at book club last night and my friend Carla turned to me and exclaimed, “Write about laptops and devices!” What? I was puzzled.
“Write about bringing laptops into meetings and how disrespectful that is. People think they are multi-tasking and being productive, but they are really expecting the meeting to run on autopilot. They may be listening, but they are not contributing.”
I was thinking about the meeting I had facilitated earlier that day. Two participants had been using their phones under the table. Literally under the table. Did they think their colleagues didn’t notice? Did they think I didn’t notice? Did they realize that they aren’t super humans and their minds can’t be in two places at one time? AND, it was a wake-up call to me that my program had gone a bit astray and if I were completely on topic and relevant, this wouldn’t be happening. Immediate feedback!
And then I thought about Kristine at the same meeting. She told me she had been waiting for a call from her doctor, which she received during the very same meeting, and she left as soon as she received the call. Fortunately for her, she was able to receive the medical care she needed during the work day and return to work.
I also thought about my colleague Sharon Weinstein . She attends EVERY meeting with laptop in hand and she takes copious notes. She often shares her notes and they are incredible. Somehow, she is able to take notes AND contribute. Though I am not a neuroscientist, I am going to guess it is because the notes she is taking are about the meeting, not about another topic. What I do know is that Sharon is unusual. Unfortunately, most meeting participants are not using their devices to focus on the meeting. Most are using them to multitask, or to text and engage with their social network.
Interestingly, in technology companies, devices are banned at meetings. That’s right, the people who make the devices and the software that supports them know you can’t be two places at one time! In fact, those very same product developers and engineers frequently place their phones in the middle of the table during meals. The first person to reach for his or her phone pays for dinner. They know that you can’t have meaningful discussions and relationships while checking your phone.
If your organization suffers from “device creep,” and most do, I recommend considering the following options:
- Create a policy of device-free meetings in your organization.
- If you don’t have that policy, discuss as a group at the beginning of the meeting if the group will allow devices.
- Have one notetaker with an on-screen laptop and distribute those notes.
- Use notepads. For those who have forgotten, it’s paper with lines and you will need a pen or pencil.
- Place devices in the middle of the meeting space. The person who grabs his or her phone first is responsible for the task that no one at the meeting wants.
- Take breaks and allow time for people to check their devices and respond accordingly.
- Only hold extremely important meetings and keep them short. If the topic is relevant to everyone in attendance, the devices are less likely to surface.
If you are the meeting organizer, or in my case the instructor, and you see the phones come out, don’t be judgmental. You don’t know if the participants are taking pertinent notes, texting a message that the class is so interesting that they will be running late, or checking the stock market.
If you want to manage devices, manage them as a group, at the beginning of the meeting. And while we might be able to manage devices, the only way to manage attention is to be relevant.
How does your organization handle “device creep”?
Approximately 10 years ago, I was working with a consultant to help me grow my business. I’ll call her Barbara. She came to me with outstanding references and she had some excellent suggestions. Not too long after I met her, she suggested that we spend some time at the beginning and end of our sessions quieting ourselves. She wanted us to connect to ourselves, connect to our breath, connect to the space we were sitting in.
WHAT? I was paying her by the hour! She wanted to spend 10 minutes — 5 minutes at the beginning and end — of our session doing nothing but breathing? Those would be VERY expensive breaths! I thought she was crazy. I thought she was stealing money from me. I thought I was far too busy to spend 10 minutes a day mindlessly. I politely ended our work together.
This morning, having left my hour-long yoga class, I am perusing my calendar to see what time my meditation will begin. Now that I practice yoga regularly and am an intermittent meditator, I can feel, notice, and understand the benefits of trained quietness, trained peacefulness, trained mindfulness. And those benefits extend to both my work and personal life.
I see now that Barbara was way ahead of her time and she knew exactly what I needed. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to embrace her wisdom at the time, but I recognize it as wisdom now.
Who has showered you with wisdom? And what was that wisdom?
And this week, you are still there and your colleagues wish you had left!
That’s right. Last week, I wrote a blog called “Why Are You Still There”. When I wrote the article, my intention was that readers would think about all the reasons their work was fulfilling and their workplace was positive. Fortunately, I heard from a number of my readers about the rewards they find in their work and from their colleagues.
I would have been thrilled, but I heard about a few cases where recipients of the blog added a caustic note, “Yeah, why are YOU still here?” and sent it to colleagues. If it had happened once, I would have been bummed, but I am aware that it happened in several different organizations.
What I know about that behavior is that the sender:
- didn’t have the courage to talk to the person directly
- didn’t have the skills to talk to the person directly
- hides behind email rather than talking face-to-face
- felt superior to his or her colleague
- didn’t see that one’s behavior influences (in this case negatively) the behavior of peers
Only workplace bullies would send a hurtful message like that to a peer, a manager, or a subordinate. Our role as colleagues is to make the workplace positive and productive for all. We must support one another and bring out the best in one another. We should act as though our work depends on the success of others. In organizations where employees are accountable, their work does depend on the success of others.
I do hope you will forward these blogs to your colleagues and your associates. And when you do choose to forward them, send them as a way to build another person’s confidence, to show your admiration for them, and to appreciate them.
Isn’t it interesting that the same article can be used to empower or to hurt?