The Wandering Mind

Wander 1Apparently, the average person (who participates in scientific experiments) would rather get an electrical jolt than spend time alone without electronic stimuli. For Baby-Boom or Gen-X managers, smartphones and desktop computers were certainly not as prevalent when you started your working career as they were just a generation later. For those who have come into the workplace in the last decade, it is perhaps more likely that Mom and Dad texted them when dinner was ready when they lived at home.  I have never been completely impressed by penguin documentaries that show two penguins finding each other (and their chick) in a large colony, because in my neighborhood growing up, at 6pm every night, mothers or fathers went out on the porch and yelled for their kids to come to dinner.  Every kid knew the sound of their own parents on full volume regardless of distance or line of sight.  At times, it probably resembled a yodeling contest.  No phones needed.

BureauSo, from a manager’s perspective, this would seem to amp up the degree of difficulty in getting your team together, in a room (or on video), with an agenda that begs for some creative input.  I haven’t been to a professional conference or seminar in several years where there was not an up-front plea to refrain from texting, tapping or surfing during the process.  And this is for higher-level managers, mind you. Imagine a Thursday, 3pm, in-house team meeting – how excruciating can you make such events?

I discussed the elements of a good meeting a year ago as one of my initial blogs.  First meetings for the new manager can be the stuff of legend by exceeding, or failing to meet, all the expectations out there.  I stand by my thoughts of a year ago, and would recommend for the meeting organizer that they review this post as well as some of the links contained therein.

Forbes has a new nugget of information on the smartphone culture, and it isn’t pretty. According to an executive coach who regularly does 360-surveys, the most common thing that pisses off the troops are bosses who continually keep their nose and eyes deep down in their smartphone. Of course, USC’s School of Business research found that the Millennials were three times as likely to engage in this behavior, which would be consistent with how and where cultural divides begin.  I was struck by how the habit of being unable to disconnect from the smartphone could communicate both power (“I am too important to give you my full attention”) and weakness (“I have to monitor this thing all the time or my boss freaks out”).

Children using smartphonesEntrepreneur Magazine coined the term “Electronic Display of Insensitivity” or EDI to describe people who pay more attention to a three-inch screen than their human colleagues in backhanding range.  Their suggestions range from the cute (“Let’s play a little game, shall we?”), to the obnoxious (Turn your GD phone off, Smithers!!”).  Whether it is executive coaches or college research, it seems apparent that the majority of people think that there should be some smartphone etiquette that keeps the device away from the meeting and out of sight.

Bottom line – consider an invitation to a meeting to be a sign that people want you and your attention to arrive together.  If it’s your own meeting and you are the one doing the inviting, try to be there. Completely.