The Gift of Presence in a Distracted World

If there’s one thing that defines our current generation, it’s the overwhelming impact of technology on our lives. And because of our technologically-connected world we are all highly distracted.

Incoming emails, texts and other notifications constantly interrupt our lives nearly every moment of the day. That – along with the lure of social media – constantly suck us in to our “devices,” pulling us away from what is going on around us.

As a result, one of the greatest losses is the art of conversation and interpersonal interaction… not to speak of the sense of self-worth we lose when the person across from us is ignoring what we are saying because they are drawn in by their technology.

Not long ago my wife and I were at dinner and part way through our meal a couple was seated at the table next to us. Over the course of the meal they hardly said a word to each other, buried in whatever was on their phones. There was no real meaningful conversation or personal interaction.

When it comes to leadership, this poses a significant danger. To sit in a one-on-one meeting and tune out the person across the desk from me while I tune into my mobile device or laptop to check an email or notification demeans the value of the person I’m meeting with. I communicate that what they are saying really isn’t all that important to me. And it’s just rude.

The same goes for larger meetings. To allow myself to be distracted by whatever technology is in front of me and tune out of the meeting demeans the value of every person in that room. It broadcasts that they and the meeting are not as important as the message, email, or notification in front of me. And my agenda is more important than theirs.

There is nothing more demoralizing or deflating than to have your boss distracted by his or her phone or laptop while you are presenting to them or sharing your idea. Even worse is when your boss asks you a question and then proceeds to give attention to whatever technology is in their hand.

I’m increasingly a believer that one of the greatest gifts we can give to a person in our distracted culture is the gift of presence. And as a leader, it is truly a rare and valuable gift you can give to those who report to you.

Imagine what it would mean to the person you were meeting with if you were to give them your undivided attention, never looking at whatever technology is in front of you. The message? “What you are telling me right now is the most important thing in this moment. And I really value you and your perspective.”

The same is true for larger meetings. Everyone present would see that the current meeting has your full attention. And whoever is talking is respected and valued.

Being present in the moment and putting aside technology to give your full attention to those you are meeting with is one way that you, as a leader, show that you have indeed “emptied” yourself of your personal agenda to put others first. And it places a priority on what should be most important to you as a leader, and that is those under your charge.

Resolve that this year you are going to practice the art of presence. It will transform the effectiveness and impact of your leadership.

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