I was called to the Principal’s office a few years ago, also known as the Executive Boardroom. The Commissioner wanted an update from the design team for a key transformational program I was working on. During the meeting, I took out my phone and wrote some salient points in the ‘Notes’ app. Frowns and glares ensued from the gathered participants.
Unbeknownst to me, mobile phones were banned from the boardroom under direction from the Commissioner. At the time I scratched my head and wondered why this was the case. Couldn’t smart technology aid in the efficiency of the meeting? Wouldn’t it allow contributors easy access to information to support the meeting’s discussions?
Turns out the Commissioner’s aim was to limit distractions. The balance of benefit to detriment in allowing mobile phones in face to face meetings was hard to navigate even at executive level it seemed.
This week the ‘phones in meetings’ issue popped back into my world as I watched an interview by Simon Sinek on leading millennials in today’s workplaces. Part way through the talk, Simon spoke of the challenges of building relationships in a digital age. His description of the beginning of meetings, where everyone is feverishly typing or swiping on mobile devices before they officially kick the meeting off felt like he was spying on my day to day business life. You do it too, be honest. You’ve got a 9:00am meeting in a boardroom. You turn up, coffee in hand, find your seat at the table, whip out your phone and start sending that last email or text message. And for those minutes before the chairperson brings the meeting to order, you’re immersed in your digital world.
But imagine for a moment you don’t grab your phone. Instead you turn up, coffee in hand, find your seat at the table and turn to the person next to you and say ‘Hi, how are you?’ They may tell you they have just gotten over the flu, their kid is graduating the next day, or they’re anxious about presenting their project update to the boss. You may find out it’s their birthday, or their friend just passed away or they’re excited about an upcoming holiday. They may then ask you ‘How are you?’ and you have the opportunity to reply with a snippet of your world and what’s important to you too. Personal relationships are deepened, support is offered and experiences are shared.
By no means am I’m telling you to stop using your phone. There are many different articles on the benefits of mobile phones to support efficiency and achievement in business. Plenty of articles covering the positive consequences of banning mobile phones from meetings too. You can watch/read/hear both sides of the argument.
But my goal this coming month…I am planning to embrace the small opportunities I can to engage with my friends, peers and colleagues and try to make new connections. I’m going to steal back those little moments where my phone has filled the gap – just before the meeting, standing in line for my coffee, waiting for my friend to arrive at lunch…
Changing personal behaviour is hard so I’m starting small. I am making my mini-moments about building relationships and strengthening my engagement with the world around me and not about the next text or email or cat video.
I’ll let you know how I go. 🙂
Simon Sinek has spoken of mobile phones many times. The video presentation below is a shortened version of the topics covered in his interview mentioned above:
At your next team meeting ask everyone to put their phones in their pockets or bags instead of on the table. What happens? Let us know in the comments box below.