How many times have you been in a conversation with someone on your team and taken a text/email/call mid-sentence? (Full disclosure - I have been guilty of this.) Let’s think about the message this sends:
“This communication that I am getting via my device is more important than the face-to-face interaction we are having right now.”
Believe me, I get it! If that call is from your spouse or boss, it may indeed be more important. But can you respond in a few minutes after you finish your ‘live’ conversation?
Sadly, our culture, even our business culture has ‘evolved’ to the point that it is completely acceptable to take that call or answer that text on the spot. There are plenty of reasons why we got here; instantaneous response is now the expected norm. We don’t want to be judged as non-responsive. Our society has become very impatient. There can also be a little bit of ego involved—“I’m really important, I get these interruptions all of the time.” or ”I am the only one who can solve this important problem – and it has to be now.”
One way we respond to this during our Leadership Development Program (LDP) is to collect all devices during the program and to leave time during breaks to catch up. I always make the statement that if you are expecting an urgent client communication or personal matter, step outside the room and take care of it. That said, I can’t remember the last time that has happened during our LDP sessions. We have received feedback that many participants feel more relaxed and are able to focus better with their devices out of reach.
This attitude is slowly permeating our Markon culture. During leadership and executive meetings, President Matt Dean makes an explicit reminder about not checking phones and it appears to be catching on. Personally, when I meet with Matt every other week for our one-on-one meeting, I now leave my phone at my desk. I regard this 30-minute session as important and not having my phone keeps me focused.
Consider this—when you ignore that buzz or ring you send a powerful message:
“This conversation is more important than whatever is coming in on my smart phone.”
About the Author
Steve leads client delivery and portfolio growth at the Departments of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs (VA). He is accountable for the team’s professional growth and development, client satisfaction, and the portfolio’s success. He has served clients across the Intelligence Community, DoD, federal civilian, and commercial healthcare markets. With a passion for developing the next generation of leaders, Steve co-developed and facilitates Markon’s Leadership Development Program.
Prior to Markon, Steve supported clients for PwC, West Hudson/Cardinal Health, and several highly regarded management consulting firms. He received his MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a BA from Louisiana State University, where he was commissioned through Air Force ROTC. Steve's military career includes service as an active duty Air Force Air Battle Manager, during which he flew missions in Desert Storm. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force Reserves.
Steve currently holds the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential and is a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner.
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