(This is one of a set of notes from my work coaching founders, CEOs and technical leaders in the tech industry. Originally published in the “Leadership, Management and Being Human” newsletter)
So I’ve had a few clients who check their laptops and phones in meetings, to the extent that it comes up in a 360 review.
I’ve even had a couple of clients who apparently do it in one on ones.
When you pull out your phone in a meeting, or open the laptop and start typing away, you are not invisible: humans are exquisitely constructed to connect with other humans. We notice every detail in face, body posture, vocal tone, and attention. How do you feel when somebody pays close attention to you? Intense, right? Can be great, can be uncomfortable, but there’s a lot happening there. How do you feel when somebody completely ignores you, despite the fact that you’re right there? Less good, right?
A meeting, even a boring one, is an opportunity to connect, really connect, with other people. It’s where we build our relationships at work – in many ways, that’s the purpose of a meeting. It’s where your team members figure you out as a leader, and where you’re bosses’ boss starts to understand you as a person, starts to get an idea of where your career is going, who you might be in a couple of years.
We want to see our reflection in other people. We want to be known. Other people want to be known by you. That’s why you’re meeting.
By pulling out your phone, you’re indicating that the relationships with the people in the room are less important that something they can’t even see: maybe it’s email, but maybe it’s the weather.
Everything you do in that room is seen and understood at an emotional level by everybody else. You can’t check your phone invisibly.
– close your laptop, put the phone away. if you have to take notes, use paper and a pen. take a photo later if you want to store it.
– if you’re bored, pay attention. if the content isn’t interesting, pay attention to the people. what relationships are being formed in the room? what is their quality? what relationships are you forming in the room, even if you are not speaking?
Meetings have a bad rap. But it’s where the relationships that define our work are made. Make your choices accordingly…