How To Show Respect in Meetings

managing a project means avoiding the pitfalls of distraction

Today is the big day: a meeting with the new Client at their location. It’s been on your schedule for two months and you’ve spent weeks carefully crafting the presentation with handpicked visuals and precisely orchestrating words that would flow from your lips.

Your entire goal has been to leave the senior level people in attendance in awe, respect, and appreciation for what your company was about to do for them. The night before, you were unable to sleep as you played the presentation over and over again in your head.

You arrive at the client’s location and begin setting up. Everyone streams into the room. Introductions are made and you start your presentation. It’s going great! Then, five minutes into the presentation you notice people bowing their heads.

You knew the presentation was good, but you didn’t think it would command that type of reverence. It then occurs to you that everyone is bowing their heads not out of thoughtful respect – it is to look at their digital devices!

What’s going on? Don’t they know how hard you prepared? using your smartphone in a meeting means you're not focusing on the project Didn’t they understand that what you were presenting was a game-changer for their company?

Sure, some tried to be discrete by casually glancing down every now and then. But for the rest, they were garishly beholden to their digital god, not even pretending to pay attention to your presentation.

The digital prayer is so commonplace that it is turning into an acceptable way to work. Every level of the organization, from manager to VP, has succumbed to the illusion that attending to digital communication during meetings is a form of multi-tasking.

If there is a digital god, he would have us believe you can get 3 or 4 things done at the same time. The reality is that you end up missing very important moments that you should be paying attention to. This results in doing 3 or 4 things very poorly.

Reasons Why You’ll Never Find the Digital Prayer in a Project Manager Job Description.

The following are a number of reasons why this type of behavior will not be introduced in a project manager job description:

  • It’s Rude:  First and foremost, it’s just plain RUDE, successful managers set a positive example in working the projectwith a capital R – U – D – E. Seriously rude.What are you saying to someone who has prepared for weeks, traveled to your location, and maybe even lost sleep when you ignore them in favor of your portable device?You’re telling them that what they have to say is not nearly as important as the snippets and sound bites of electronic static in your hand. Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll see how badly it feels.
  • You Miss Key Points: Another reason you won’t find the digital prayer in any project manager job description is that you miss key points. It’s hard to keep focused on the incessant scrolling of your email, tweets, and other updates and pay attention to what is going on in the room at the same time.Think of all the times people have come back and said, “I didn’t know anything about that!” Really? You spent 20 minutes on it at the meeting just over a week ago! They were so focused on their electronic device that they missed extremely valuable information. What’s more, they most likely made poor or less than stellar decisions as a result of their self-inflicted lack of knowledge.
  • It’s a Bad Example for Others: Rudeness and inattentiveness has a tendency to propagate itself in others if left to its own devices. People observe others checking email, stock quotes, websites, and whatever else they check during meetings and feel they can do the same. This is especially true if they see a project manager or senior level person exhibiting this behavior at a meeting.
  • It’s Not Professional: A project manager’s job description calls for professionalism. Professionalism is marked by a high level of respect and interest in the other person. Bowing your head to your digital god when someone else is talking to you hardly comes across as professional.
  • It’s Rude: Did we mention that it’s rude? Wait, we already mentioned that. Well, it bears repeating. Checking your email and other digital distractions while someone else is talking is just plain rude.

It has gotten so bad that people roam the hallways saying their digital prayers. They may even be oblivious to the person they pass in the hallway, who happens to be the one they need to connect with. Rather than connect in person, they choose to connect virtually. What a waste of an opportunity for engaging and productive conversation!

Simple Ways to Show Respect in Meetings

There are options available to people who attend meetings yet can’t keep their hands off their digital devices, and below are a few for your consideration:

  • Focus: Focusing on one thing at a time for the purpose of deeply understanding something is a lost art. It’s worth picking up this discipline again.There used to be a time when people came together to meet. They would talk with each other and appreciate each other’s points of view, facial expressions and body language. Try focusing at your next meeting. Check your digital device at the door. You’ll LOVE it.
  • Participate: A result of focusing on the conversation Focus on the conversation and participate in productive project managementat hand is that you’ll be able to participate in a meaningful way. Sure, people participate now with a cursory “uh-huh”, “sure”, and “sounds good.” They have no idea what they just agreed to, but if everyone else thinks it’s a good idea then they do too!We’re not talking about that kind of participation. We’re talking about asking intelligent questions, providing meaningful insight, and helping solve issues at hand. This is the reason you replied to the project manager job description for your current position. Make sure to take advantage of these opportunities.
  • Check Your Device Right Before and Immediately After:  Try baby steps if you find it hard to disconnect digitally. Most meetings are 30 minutes to an hour long.Check your messages right before you go into the meeting and as soon as you get out. The worst that can happen is that you miss 30 minutes of real-time activity while engaged in real and meaningful conversation. It can be done!
  • Excuse Yourself:  If you must reply to a text, email, or other notification during a meeting then excuse yourself. Let everyone know that you must take care of this important matter of business and that you’ll be back as soon as you can.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology as much as anyone. But, technology has its place. Its place is to augment, complement and improve the business that ideally transpires face-to-face. Technology can then be used to expedite and fulfill the promises that were made in a very real exchange between people.

So, keep the digital prayer out of the project manager job description. People will appreciate the undivided attention you have given them and provide you with the same respect in return!

We’d like to earn your respect at ProjectManager.com by letting you use our project management software FREE for 30 days! This online project management software comes with a graphical dashboard and easy to use reports. Simply import your Microsoft Excel or MS Project plans and the dashboard is immediately populated, showing you the overall status of the project. You can even check your project plans on your digital device…just not during your next meeting!

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