I recently went to meet the senior leaders of a software company. When I say senior I mean almost pushing 30. The team really were veterans as they’d been in business for more than 10 years. I was asked to consult on some communication issues related to some of their younger employees.
I have to say that what struck me during the meeting was how well spoken and confident each of the members of the team were. They were able to clearly lay out the problem, give examples and specifics. They performed many of the communication ‘rules’ flawlessly such as listening, not interrupting, staying on topic, adding to the dialogue in a meaningful way.
About half way through the meeting as the problems had all been laid out I was asked what I could do for their young employees. I began my ‘shpeil’ which doesn’t take long when I noticed that one by one the execs starting checking their mobile devices. Some were quite discreet just glancing down doing the “blackberry prayer” others had to claim their devices from back pockets which was more obvious but the final straw for me came when the main guy starting typing on his device when I was answering his question. I carried on for a few minutes but really I just couldn’t keep going. I waited in silence until he finished. He then noticed I wasn’t speaking and offered that he just needed to text someone a reply as they were waiting for him.
What to do? I’m their at their request. They want me to help some of their junior associates with communication.
I bit the bullet and apologized for sounding like mom but said that texting while someone was talking wasn’t really a good example of effective communication.
I am the mother of two teenagers and I know that this generation can ‘multi-task’ however it is actually humanly impossible to text and listen at the same time. The brain cannot be occupied on both tasks. It is not the same as walking and chewing gum or listening to music and reading. Listening and texting cannot coincide.
So, what does this mean for the generation who believe they can do two things at once.
First, consider your audience if you plan to text in a meeting. If you’re with like minded (and from the same generation ) people go ahead. The meeting may take longer but you’re all used to being ignored or having to repeat yourself.
Second, if you really want to have an effective communication exchange set some rules. Give frequent breaks for texting or e-mailing. If you must communicate in the middle of a conversation as to put the first communication on hold and then get back to it.
Third, if Gen X or Y and you’re communicating with a boomer, never pull out your device and start typing, it won’t go well.