Last week, I had a frustrating conversation with a business colleague. During our entire five minutes together, he could barely focus on our exchange. Instead, he spent the entire time scanning the crowd around me, seemingly more interested in what was happening in adjacent conversations than in our short discussion. Now to be fair to him, this dialogue occurred at the national convention for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers in Calgary AB. Imagine for a moment, 250 plus people in one room at one time, all of whom speak for a living. The volume on the decibel scale was in the stratosphere, so in hindsight, he might be forgiven for getting distracted. But at the time, I found it maddening that he couldn’t be “present”, in that moment, in our conversation. Exasperated, I finally gave up and left when he turned away from me, mid-sentence, to talk to someone else.
As frustrated as I was last week, later I got to thinking … are we, as managers and supervisors, guilty of the same behaviour? When a staff member of co-worker comes to talk to us, do we get easily distracted by other pressing issues or the people around us? And if we can’t be present and in the conversation at hand, how does that make the other person feel? Would it not be better if we could just set aside, for a few minutes, the email, phone calls, crises and other people to focus completely and fully on the person directly in front of us? What do you think? Are we guilty? Is being “present” easy or difficult to do?