Step Away from Your Devices During Meetings

Today’s world is an electronically connected one. It is rare to escape it all. However, there are times our full attention is needed, and meetings are one of those times.

Here is what is happening.

  • As people walk into the meeting, they have their laptops in hand. They sit down, and up go the lids.
  • As the meeting begins, a smartphone is pulled out of a pocket, and a text is sent.
  • During the meeting, people are staring into their laptops and typing something.
  • People across the table are receiving an instant message from someone on the other side.

How can anything productive be accomplished in such a distracted meeting? What message is being sent to the participants and leaders in the meeting? People at all levels in an organization are exhibiting this behavior, but it seems to be condoned by the leaders through their complicity.

It is time to step away from our devices for an hour, listen, interact, and reach agreement on the issues being discussed.

In school, we used to get in trouble for passing notes during class. In today’s meetings, we are passing electronic notes via instant messages. What is being exchanged? Why can’t it be shared with the group? We should make people doing this get up in front of the meeting and read what they just sent via an electronic text or message!

If our attention cannot be gained for 60 minutes, then cancel the meeting! Multitasking is one thing, but multi-meeting is almost ridiculous!

Here is the message leaders are really sending by not giving their full attention:

  • I am so important that you can only have one-third of my attention for the next hour.
  • What this meeting is about is not that important, so I am going to stare into my laptop and do something else.
  • I am going to give my real opinion about this meeting to a person across the table through an instant message.

There are many challenges we are trying to address. We need us to sit up, listen, and participate fully. If our presence was requested at a meeting, then we need to be fully present!

Here are the rules. First, the “you shall not” rules are:

  • You shall not surf the web during a meeting.
  • You shall not send an instant message to anyone in the meeting.
  • You shall not send text messages with any mobile device.

Next, the “you can” rules are:

  • You can research topics that are relevant to the meeting.
  • You can type notes.
  • You can share information from your device to a projector for all to see.

Meetings are a time for people to listen, discuss, and solve problems. Meetings are a time to share and discuss with your voice and ears. Meetings are a time to align people, activities, and initiatives. Meetings are a time to give your full attention.

Let’s make the most of our meetings. Let’s set the right example.

During meetings, what rules have you set for the device-enabled and electronically-connected?