I recently received feedback that I am multitasking too much in meetings. The perception is that I am not engaged enough. This bothers me especially because multitasking during meetings has long been a pet peeve of my own. Therefore, I’m dedicating myself to fixing this. Here’s why:

A good leader serves their organization through active listening and full participation in meetings. To be a good leader, one really must be “in the moment”. Let’s compare and contrast the active listener with the multitasker in a meeting:

Jacob, the Multitasker:

Jacob is a rising star in the organization. ¬†His seniors continue to give him demanding assignments and it seems he’s Distracted Businessman Texting During Meetingalways juggling 100 tasks. ¬†He enters each meeting, laptop in tow, blackberry out and bluetooth headset on. ¬†He’s often late to the meeting and / or must leave early, because he has conflicting sessions. ¬†As the dialogue progresses, he listens for keywords while he responds to email on the blackberry and, eventually, needs to pull out his laptop . ¬†In the most pressing times, he’s even known to attend two meetings at once – on a teleconference with his bluetooth while attending another in person.

As the dialogue ¬†progresses, it becomes clear to the team that Jacob has not been actively listening because he asks questions that were already answered. ¬†At times, he’ll interject suggestions and comments based on a sentence or two he caught, but it seems disconnected from the broader topic. ¬†The result is often a need for the group to rehash previous conversation and / or clarify the matter at hand for Jacob. ¬†But Jacob does not care, he’s just “too busy” and expects this to be the response from his team and the broader organization – it’s only natural, because we’re all “so busy”.

Michael, the Active Listener:

In contrast to Jacob, Michael makes it a point to arrive on time, typically carrying only a notebook. ¬†He urges the team to begin promptly. ¬†He requests an agenda before each meeting and expects the team to stick to it. ¬†The meeting coordinator often feels “under a spotlight” but knows they have his full attention. ¬†On the very rare¬†occasion¬†when Michael must step out of a meeting and / or respond to messages in the middle of a discussion, the team is surprised and knows something serious must be up, so they pause, rather than repeating¬†dialog¬†following the distraction.

As the meeting progresses, Michael asks detailed questions on each slide and challenges the team’s assumptions. ¬†Minute details they intended to glance over, Michael catches and asks for clarity.¬†¬†Furthermore, Michael¬†often repeats what he thinks he heard to ensure full comprehension. ¬†Decisions made during meetings include a decision document. If decisions are not made during the meeting, a clear action plan is defined to achieve appropriate decisions.

Which meeting would you rather be in? ¬†Which leader would you rather follow? ¬†Which person is really leading through service? ¬†I may not be as bad as Jacob, but it’s clear I have some work to do on this front. ¬†I hope you will consider this issue for yourself, as well.

Questions: How does multitasking impact your team?