Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is your email more important than your people?

Do you check email during meetings with your folks? There’s a one-word rule for this: Don’t. You can’t give  an hour of your attention to something that’s pretty important to (at least) the rest of them? If that’s a habit of yours then stop it, right now. I’m not saying you need to turn off or confiscate everyone’s phones at the start of the meeting. Emergencies do happen. But it should be a rarity that they come popping out of their holsters. And what about laptops (or tablets)? Do you bring yours to the meetings? If you’re presenting, or legitimately using it to take minutes (with something like Evernote or NoteSpark), that’s fine. Otherwise, there’s no reason to bring it along. And the same goes for everyone else in the meeting. Make the rule and follow it yourself.

While I’m ranting, let me do another one in a very Jerry Seinfeld-esc manner. “What’s the deal with email notifications on your phone?” Given that most people get a few emails every hour of the workday, what’s the point in turning on a vibrating (or heaven help you, an audible) notification that an email has just arrived? I’ve asked groups of people before, “If you checked your phone for email 15 minutes ago, and didn’t have notifications on, what are the odds that a new email would be there waiting for you right now?” Inevitably, the answer is something like 80-99% likely. So why do you need the alert? Yeah, there’s an email waiting for you… all the freaking time. Surprise.

Maybe you’ve tweaked your alert settings so that you get some sort of distinctive notice that it’s an email, and not something like a text message or phone call. In that case, you can be a good guy and ignore it, even though the constant brain diversion will deduct somewhat from your participation with the group. But, especially if you can’t tell the difference between an email and anything else, your pulling your phone out every few minutes will send a wonderful message to the team that whatever else is going on is far more important than anything they’re working on. Make it easy… turn email notifications off. If it’s that important, they will call you.

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