We live in the information age, with 24/7 news, constant connectivity, and what Sam Horn calls “infobesity.” On any given day, and especially during the holidays, we are inundated with so much stimuli it can be difficult to finish a thought, much less a task. We’re synced up, LinkedIn, we have Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, and Twitter. And yet, are we really more connected? Or are these conveniences taking place of hand-made Christmas cards, visiting each other’s desks, and making employees and team members feel valued?
Every year I re-read Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and each time I gain some new insight, fresh perspective and wisdom. Here’s a brief excerpt:
For life today in America is based on ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels with it…. This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise man warns us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned those words in 1955! Such timeless wisdom, written before we had cable TV, the Internet, and certainly long before Facebook was a gleam in Mark Zuckerburg’s eye. The 1950’s seem like a much simpler era in America, (although I wouldn’t know from personal experience), yet even then, there was concern about all the modern conveniences.
I worked with a senior level leadership team recently, and the leader asked the team to come to the meeting prepared to “Be here now.” That phrase could not be more important as we push through the holiday season. When I am “facilileading” a team retreat, I want people who are truly present. I know that sounds terribly woo-woo to some of you hard-driving, black-and-white, cut-to-the-chase-leaders, but it is actually an invaluable practice for fostering greater teamwork, problem-solving, and innovation.
Sometimes, participants are asked to check their cell phones at the door so that these hyper-connected devices aren’t a constant distraction during the meeting. Would you dare ask the guests at your holiday office party to do the same?
If you’d like to create more focus and valuable engagement in your workplace, try this:
- Really be there. I’ve attended meetings or gone to lunch and the other person was so busy texting someone else, that I thought they’d forgotten I was there. When you do that you tell the person you’re with that the person/people on the phone are more important/interesting than you. Unless you’re dealing with an emergency, then let the other person wait.
- Come out of hiding. Some people would rather hide behind their phone and feign busyness than actually interact with the person in front of them. Similarly, others prefer to hide behind email and text messaging than pick up the phone and call people. Make eye contact, have real conversations. You’ll survive.
- Forgetaboutit! Make a note or list of things you need to do, whether it’s sending that e-mail or wrapping that gift, as they pop into your mind so that you can let them go. They won’t fall through the cracks because you’ve written yourself a reminder. Then you can truly focus and be present in the here and now.
- Set some boundaries. I know it’s asking a lot, but set up some times/situations where you commit to being off the grid, (again with the exception of true emergencies).
- Be interested. Get to know the folks around you. The holidays can be a great time to reach out to office neighbors, or ask meaningful questions to your employees. Greeting cards, poinsettas, and personalized gifts can open up great conversation.
- How do you make yourself truly present for team members?
- How are you managing technology and the influx of information so that it doesn’t manage you?
I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a message on our blog below and share your insights with our community.
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.