Most of us have by now grown accustomed to being in two or three places at once – not physical places, but mental ones. We find ourselves in a world where technology has made it seductively easy to multitask. In fact, for an increasing number of us, that’s the only world we’ve ever known.
I think it’s time to step back and reexamine how much we want to let technology fracture our focus and, perhaps just as important, create the perception among clients and coworkers that we’re focusing on something completely unrelated when they’re in the room with us.
I’m as guilty as the next guy. My iPhone goes everywhere with me. I don’t wear a watch anymore. Instead, I prefer to glance at my iPhone to check the time when I feel like a meeting is going long. And if I’m running late in a meeting with one client, shooting off a quick, discreet text to another client who might be waiting can be a lifesaver.
But where do we draw the line? As more and more of us bring our phones, iPads, and laptops into meetings, how do we confront the fact that there’s real (and perceived) competition for our full attention?
“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”
– M. Scott Peck
Peck’s comment might be a bit of an overstatement, but we’re in a business driven by insights. And great insights are usually the result of a penetrating, discerning consideration of the available facts and the discussion surrounding them.
If we sit in meetings, or even at our desks, and allow our attention to be divided between a variety of competing stimuli, how deeply are we really thinking about the primary issue at hand? How much of our education, experience, intellect, and creativity are we actually bringing to bear on the challenges and opportunities facing our clients and coworkers in those moments?
We’re also in a service industry. Adopting an attitude of service demands more than working hard on our clients’ behalf. It involves reinforcing, in every interaction, that those clients are important customers of ours and that their brands and consumers are just as important to us as they are to them.
What signal do we send to our clients when we pick up our phone to glance at a text message that buzzes its way into a meeting, or stare at our laps while scrolling through email? And even if we are simply typing up notes from the meeting we’re in, what message are we sending to clients and coworkers when our eyes are glued to the screen of our laptop rather than looking back at theirs?
The easier technology makes it for us to be in several places at once, the more difficult we’re going to find it to be in just one. Given what’s at stake, I’m willing to start making that effort. Are you?