It’s Monday Morning… and you have an especially large amount of to-dos floating around in your mind as your first meeting begins. You look at the person talking, give all the nods at the appropriate times, and occasionally even state back a couple of lines that were said. You give just enough to show that you’re listening, enough to make it seem like you’re interested. But you’re really not that interested. You’re not really there, mentally or emotionally. Sound familiar?
Or even worse, you join a teleconference, go on mute, and try putting a dent in your other tasks. You train your ear to listen for your name, in which case you’ll say something smart before retreating back into your other, busier world.
I suppose most of us have adopted this behavior in one form or another. The trouble is that when all is said and done, by multi-tasking we will have missed most of what they said in the meeting and even more of the emotions behind it. And, on the other hand, we will have been less productive than if we had just skipped the meeting altogether and focused.
Here’s an approach that may be helpful: At the beginning of a meeting (virtual or in person) ask the following questions: “Do I really need to be in this meeting, or will I be more productive working elsewhere? If I need to be in this meeting, is there anything that simply cannot wait until after the meeting?” If there is something that cannot wait, look at the agenda and kindly ask if you can step out to accomplish a critical task.
Otherwise, focus on listening. Be there. Make this your point of concentration. Mentally set aside everything else. Listen carefully. Ask questions to get more out of it. See how many others you can encourage or praise. Try harder to understand the issues, challenges, and success stories. Decide on a key takeaway and commit to implementing it as a result of the meeting.