You call a meeting to discuss some crucial matters with regard to staff training issues. How the managers decide to proceed once you lay out the facts as you know them will have a great impact on the effectiveness of their new hires to do their jobs in the future.
You have arranged for ample supplies of coffee, prepared a thoughtful, workable agenda and distributed it, and are hopeful for a productive session.
But Manager A hasn’t said a single thing. He seems to think this meeting was called to give him a chance to catch up on his emails.
Manager B excused herself five minutes into the meeting to take an “urgent call” and hasn’t returned even though 10 full minutes have passed.
Manager C is writing some kind of list: could be for groceries, could be dividing up a project, or could be the top 10 places she’d rather be right now.
They look at you from time to time and occasionally offer a comment, but short of setting off fireworks in front of them, you can’t seem to command their full attention.
Is multitasking by managers ruining the effectiveness of your meetings?
If so, you are not alone in your frustration. According to Fuze, 92% of information workers surveyed openly admitted to multitasking during meetings, and 41% said they do it in every meeting.
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Not only is their inability to focus on the agenda, at hand, disrespectful and annoying to the meeting organizer, but it is bad for the company as a whole. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review (P.Bergman, May 20, 2010: How and When to Stop Multitasking), people who multitask are 40% less productive than people who focus completely on the task at hand.
The multitaskers also face increased stress, and over time, they have a 10% decline in IQ.
The Bergman study reinforced findings by Ophir, Nass and Wagner a year earlier (Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that suggested heavy multitaskers sacrifice their top performance on the primary task at hand because they are letting in too many other sources of information when they multitask.
3 Tips to Engage Multitaskers in Your Meeting
How can you make the multitaskers in your management team pay attention to your meeting agenda?
The first step is to be relevant. Is what you’re saying really more engaging than the texts they’re reading? If not, perhaps you need to step up your presentation.
The second way is to encourage full participation by ensuring that every couple of minutes you call on someone to give information or their opinion. People who may be called next are more inclined to pay attention.
Third, if you cannot get them to change their ways, ask yourself if they really need to attend your meetings. Perhaps it would be better if you just emailed them the decisions taken so they could read them during someone else’s meeting.
The most important thing is to not brush off multitaskers. Holding a meeting that doesn’t reach any conclusions is just a waste of your time as well as the company’s resources. If all else fails, politely take the person to the side, share your feelings with them, and ask them to give their full attention at the next meeting.
About the Author
Roz Bahrami is a blogger for SkyPrep, an online training software. Roz regularly contributes blogs related to corporate training, L&D, and marketing.