As our technology-fueled revolution continues to gain traction, we must adapt to the new behaviors and circumstances this double-edged sword called ‘cell phone’ produces.

I have seen it time and time again, from executives and business heads, all the way down to the part time employees and interns. There is one act that destroys communication, cooperation, and collaboration more than most businesses realize. Let’s start with a couple of questions. Do you have people relying on you to meet deadlines, attend to business, or to which you provide your services?

Am sure you have friends, family, and other people who like to talk to you, right? If these people tried to contact you during work, would you answer it? What if it was an emergency?

Now the big one: Have you ever looked at your phone just in case you received an important text message or email during your work time? I’m almost entirely sure that answer is a yes.

Is it possible you have happened to take a look during a past meeting?

What a seemingly inconsequential action, checking your phone… But its effects can be exponentially larger than you imagine.With a simple glance, for a couple of seconds, down at that all-important, all-connecting device, people can destroy the relationship of communication, cooperation, and collaboration instantly.

The Real Problem

When you take your attention off of the person who is attempting to communicate with you, during a formal or informal meeting, it says to them that what they are doing, thinking, or saying at that moment is unimportant and irrelevant to you.

During my executive coaching session with a director from a technology organization, he wanted to work on his influence quotient using behaviors of warmth. He created an outline for a presentation for his subordinates. The objective of the presentation was for the employees to understand why cell phone use during meetings hindered his efforts to relay the important information effectively and quickly, which would allow the team to function at 100%.

The coaching leader designed the presentation to be fun and interesting while using creative examples. Here are the main three points of what was covered. Remember, this was not designed to bore the people who are already distracted and not paying attention, rather it was created to engage them.

1) Please, Let’s Pay Attention

You want your job to be easier, right? If you listen carefully once, you will be able to retain the information and understand how to implement it in your daily work much more easily. Paying attention is the number one way to not be asking “could you repeat that?” a thousand times. Listen up.

2) Respect My Time and Your Own

Meetings are (typically) not designed to have everyone sit around and twiddle their thumbs. You’re there for a reason. You’re not better than anyone else or exempt to the rules. Do everyone a favor and respect the people around you and whoever is trying to teach you something.

If, by chance, you have some psychic ability and know that you need to check your phone because your cousin-in-law’s brother needs your world famous Biryani recipe, send whomever that “all-important” message during your break, not during this distribution of pertinent information.

Let me guess: your dog just escaped your house and is now the neighborhood terror? Deal with that catastrophe when we’re done.

3) I’ll Take An Order of Some Self Control, On The Rocks

You were given the ability to focus on whatever you are doing for any amount of time you desire. Practice using that willpower and do your best to resist those gnawing, pulling urges to see how many people liked your Facebook status. Don’t worry, it’s just your mother texting you saying she loves you anyway.

Even though we are being trained to react to stimuli quickly and want everything instantly, have some patience and self-control before you reach over to pick up that phone.

Summary: If somebody’s cell phone behavior is bothering you, address the situation in private, attempting to empathize with them to the best of your ability and then offer a reasonable solution. If a behavior has become an epidemic, make the first round of suggestions fun, yet sincere. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to bring in rules and regulations to enforce your desired outcome. Respect your employees and help them understand the benefits of a no-phone meeting and they will surely have their eyes locked on the speaker in no time.

Comments: Have you ever tried or come across some techniques to reduce cell phone dependency during a meeting? Share your thoughts. I love learning from my readers. And please share this science of people skills.