I believe listening skills in the workplace are rapidly eroding in an era where it has become commonplace to bury one's face in a screen, whether it be a laptop or wireless device. The primary setting for such offenses is in meetings. How many times have you been in a meeting, where you are talking and someone in the room is looking at his/her SmartPhone/iPhone/BlackBerry? Or worse, you're presenting and several people are on their laptops clicking away on keyboards. And you wonder: Are they taking notes on your comments or checking e-mail? Long ago, I banned any personal screen from my agency management meetings. And you know what? We haven't lost a client or missed a deadline during those two hours of being disconnected.
I know I'm not the only business leader irked by these serial distracters, who spend more time making eye contact with a screen than a human being. Fortunately, there's a movement afoot to ban all laptops and wireless devices from meetings. It's called "Topless Meetings," as in laptop-less. And it is what it says -- no laptops (and other devices with a personal screen) allowed in a conference room!
Think of the beauty of going topless:
- Your colleagues no longer will ask questions that have been already asked and answered, because they are paying attention.
- Productivity will increase, because more ideas will be exchanged and problems resolved.
- Rudeness levels will sink dramatically, and respect in the workplace will soar.
- Face-to-face meetings will once again have relevance.
The thought of a topless world for meetings is inspiring. It would take us back to the days when people actually listened.