“Okay, everybody, cells phones off!” The New Rude: Texting Reaches Professional Tipping Point
by Lore McManus Solo, Vice President, Public Relations & Principal, Strategic America
tip·ping point noun
The point at which the buildup of minor changes or incidents triggers a significant shift or makes people do something they previously resisted.
Commonly in various workplaces, we see a gathering of colleagues with heads and shoulders bowed inward, hands clasped under the table. They’re not praying. They’re texting or checking email. However, even in church, worshippers are reminded to turn off their cell phones so they can tune into heaven instead of cyberspace.
We’ve all experienced a conversation in which one of us receives a quick glimpse or a prolonged “uhh-huhhh” as the offender offers one eye and one ear to the person right there…while some distant recipient, who may not even be present, gets the better half. We’ve sat in meetings in which someone taps, taps, taps and then claims to not know the assignment or when called upon, asks for questions to be repeated. It’s not less personal in a group versus one-on-one. The facilitator feels the sting. The group inwardly groans. Someone notes: “There can’t be that many emergencies going down daily.”
The message sent: “I am more important than the meeting, conversation or people at hand.”
The recipients’ interpretation: “You don’t care.” Or flat out, “You’re rude.”
We as a society may have succumbed to “If everyone jumps off a cliff…” because yes, we would do so, too. This incessant trend is damaging workplace relationships and company successes, according to The New York Times, which has repeatedly reported on this subject with the most profound of findings.
Confucius was first to define the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Research indicates that while nearly 100% surveyed admit that texting or emailing during business gatherings is inconsiderate, two-thirds admit they do it anyway. Some 20% say they’ve been called on the carpet for doing so. More critically, neuroscientists have concluded that dividing attention between competing stimuli actually causes a person to be less efficient and creates anxiety instead. So, call it the illusion of productivity.
In a marketing professionals’ gathering a few years ago, the conference coordinator pleaded with participants to put away all devices except for those who had agreed to tweet the speakers’ salient points. Otherwise, why not stay home to read all that riveting daily communications instead of expending so many resources to then treat the noted speaker as a peripheral element, the equivalent to elevator music?
We’ve reached a tipping point. What’s the solution? Ban smart phones from meetings? Collect them at the door like Colt revolvers in the Wild West, another fractious era of societal changes? Which side do you think is winning and why?
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Lore McManus Solo is Principal and VP, PR at Strategic America (SA). Her expertise includes strategic planning, counsel, research, issues management and marketing direction to clients and SA staff. Lore’s the author and key instructor of several levels of executive presentation and media training which she conducts nationally. Earlier, Lore served as a producer, reporter and anchor for WHO Broadcasting and led marketing in two state agencies. Beyond overseeing SA’s PR and social media teams, she plays a key role in SA’s business development. She’s received numerous marketing awards and earned PRSA’s Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. A graduate of the Association of Business and Industry’s Leadership Iowa program, she also serves on Boards for Worldcom Public Relations Group and Rock In Prevention.
In one of last week’s blog posts I talked a little bit about the difficult times facing businesses today in my post about the release of my new e-book “Can You Hear Me Now? Make What You Say Matter and Increase Your Chances of Being Heard.” And in tough times we can be faced with opportunity, particularly when it comes to employees and employee engagement.
So I’m excited to share with you – and humbled to be featured in – another resource for internal communicators (and leaders) on the changing role of internal communications.
The new free e-book “The Changing Role of Internal Communications: The Experts’ View,” was published by U.K. intranet development company, SmallWorlders and “explores the issues internal communicators must solve as they strive to be effective, relevant and successful.”
In the e-book you’ll learn about—
- The focus on senior management: How are corporate leaders using communications and what can they do better?
- The impact on communication roles: What’s does a post-credit crunch internal communicators job look like?
- The emerging technology challenge: What are the key lessons in deploying new ideas, and what tactics help make them work?
To learn more about the changing role of internal communications in today’s evolving business landscape, download: “The Changing Role of Internal Communications: The Experts’ View”
In a recent online video, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said she leaves the office every day at 5:30 pm so she can have dinner with her kids – and she has since they were born.
At the same time, Sandberg is realistic about the challenge of striking the right work/life balance – a challenge many of us face.
For years after she started leaving at 5:30 pm, Sandberg would get up early and stay up late, responding to emails to show her bosses she was working and adding value. As it is for many, the struggle to unplug from work was difficult for her.
But recently, Sandberg has become vocal – internally and externally – about the importance of a strong work/life balance.
It’s a powerful statement from a senior leader at one of the world’s most visible companies.
While some will suggest she is able to do so precisely because she’s a senior leader, that argument misses the larger point.
Leaders lead by example.
Sandberg is telling her staff – women and men – it’s ok to leave work at a reasonable time so you can have dinner with your family, attend your kids’ soccer game and live your life.
How do you demonstrate the value of a strong work/life balance to your team?
I continue to be fascinated with what’s going on at Goldman Sachs these days. In the past weeks, I’ve been commenting on the saga that all began with Greg Smith’s NYT op-ed tell all. And now, The Huffington Post has released a piece stating that Goldman has plans to give associates a one-month holiday when they’re promoted to a senior level. Why? To “boost morale.”
There’s no doubt morale is at stake in the organization that is making headlines regularly (for all the wrong reasons). Once again, from an outsider’s perspective, Goldman leaders are missing the mark.
One of the most common challenges I see in my consulting work is that high performing individual contributors get promoted to managers without the training and support needed to best manage a team.
One day…star individual contributor. Next day…congrats…you’re promoted and are now managing people.
It probably comes as no surprise then that I’m baffled by Goldman’s move to promote associates and then give them 30 days off.
How about concentrated training and leadership development every week for those 30 days to get new bosses off to the best start on behalf of their staff and the organization? I’m not begrudging them the vacation, just not at such a critical time of transition for a team.
And in other baffling news from Goldman: the “muppet hunt” is done.
On the heels of Greg Smith’s op-ed, Goldman leaders reportedly conducted a review of internal emails for the word “muppet” and other ways in which employees referred to clients in a less-than-positive fashion.
Turns out, Goldman now claims—as mentioned in the Dealbreaker blog—Greg Smith’s allegations were wrong and Goldman execs were actually talking about the recent Muppet Movie. Goldman execs weren’t calling their clients muppets, they were talking about the movie.
Of course they were.
Looks like Goldman is trying to sweep their ill-advised email witch-hunt under the rug by “turning up” light-hearted and sugar-coated results. Chalk up another trust buster.
How about a better solution: Goldman leaders acknowledge there might be issues and fix them.
Or maybe as Jack Nicholson said best in A Few Good Men, they “can’t handle the truth.”
Napping at work has always been one of those ideas that sounds great in theory. But the truth is I can’t imagine powering down in the middle of the day for a power nap.
And when it comes down to it, I’m pretty sure that naps wouldn’t feel quite so necessary if we all didn’t feel so stressed and overwhelmed all the time. And I’m also pretty sure that we wouldn’t feel quite so stressed and overwhelmed if good communication were the norm rather than the exception. Think about it... How much of your day is spent figuring out what someone meant by something, what you’re really supposed to be doing on a project, managing office gossip that’s out of control, and the like.
I can't foresee many organizations buying into sleeping pods and the naps idea (unless you already work at Google), but in the meantime, might I suggest focusing on the much more easily attainable goal of improving communication. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing it is!
Read this month's entire eThoughtstarters
It goes without saying that most of us would rather never face difficult times in business. But tough times can present opportunity, particularly when it comes to employees and employee engagement. In times of uncertainty and flux, employees are eager for a leader who can step up, take charge, and guide them with strategy, vision, and integrity.
Yes, it's a challenge, but it's one that can be accomplished with an understanding of what it really means to communicate and connect with employees. In my newest ebook, I share the strategies and tools of The Grossman Group's award-winning messagemap. It's a methodology built on best practices in leadership, internal and organizational communications, and has been proven, tested and refined over the years through our team's work with Fortune 100 and other organizations with big, complex stories to tell. (I've even included a case study from our work with one of our clients, a leading hospitality company.)
Download Can You Hear Me Now? Make What You Say Matter and Increase Your Chances of Being Heard and get detailed, valuable steps that leaders can take to connect with employees. The result is better engagement, employees who understand their roles, and ultimately a dedicated team that is an integral part of your organization's success.
- The hallmarks of the best strategic messaging platforms.
- How to create a message platform that is the basis for all your communication.
- Untold messaging secrets that will help you capture your audience and get your messages heard.
- How you can reclaim and own communication in your organization.
- and more.
Have you discovered what's possible when people listen to you?
Why can having a clear vision be so fuzzy?
A common question we hear from leaders is what’s the real difference between a vision and mission?
It’s funny how often the staples in an organization are the very same elements that can cause so much confusion. I continue to regularly see strategy maps and well-intentioned executives create unintended confusion because they mix the terminology and/or create statements that aren’t helpful to employees in answering key questions: what’s our purpose, and to what do we aspire?
First and foremost, kudos to any company or leadership team for wanting to get it right because done well, having both a distinct vision and mission is an important tool to set the right course for an organization and to ensure employees are on the same path. Plus, effective vision statements also can be hugely inspiring to employees who see the future and want to help you get “there.”
Today, we’ll set the record straight on which is which:
- Answers the question: “What do we want to become?”
- Paints a picture of where the organization wants to go
- Looks to the future
- Is about dreams and hopes
- Doesn’t talk about how things get done
- Answers the question: “Why do we exist?”
- Describes the purpose of the organization
- Looks at today
- Is about the business the organization is in
- Might describe capabilities, customer focus
All easier said than done, but well worth the effort.
How does your mission and vision stand up to these definitions?
Discover more great resources for leaders in The Grossman Group's CEO Ultimate Resource Center.
I recently was humbled to be the keynote speaker for the American Society of Baking during their annual meeting of members, this year titled, “Rise Up.” They were interested in helping all their members improve how they lead and communicate in their industry, companies, communities, and how they lead themselves.
Kudos to them for realizing that the first person one needs to lead and take care of is oneself, if one’s going to be able to meaningfully focus on others.
After the session, an attendee came up to me, saying he considered asking a question, but rather thought he’d catch me after my presentation. I think I fielded about 15 minutes of great, smart questions.
He commented on my multiple uses of the term “leader,” and mentioned how he thought that left out a lot of people in his organization. “Not everyone is a leader,” he said.
I thanked him for his excellent question, and mentioned I wished he would have asked it because chances are others had the same thought. It could have been another great learning moment.
Here’s my view on “leaders.” I believe that everyone can – and should – lead from wherever one is inside an organization, irrespective of level, title, or whether one manages others or not.
To survive today, every organization needs people willing to lead at every level and in every position. What’s more, leading is one way in which everyone can continue to contribute and more importantly grow.
It’s a win-win.
The trick is being able to use your influence to get others to follow you. One can’t be a leader – no matter the definition – without followers.
In what ways do you lead, and how can you get more followers?
Discover more great resources for leaders in The Grossman Group's CEO Ultimate Resource Center.
You've made time to share your expectations. You’re planning your communications to ensure your message is received and understood. How are you gathering data and intelligence from your employees, peers and bosses to make smart decisions?
In other words, how well do you listen?
It’s a skill all of us can work on. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, there are a number of ways to raise the bar. Follow these steps to become a better listener:
- Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something. Think, “This person can teach me something.”
- Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. Suppress the urge to multitask or think about what you are going to say next.
- Open and guide the conversation with broad, open-ended questions such as “How do you envision…” or “Help me understand how you’re thinking about this.”
- Then, drill down to the details, where needed, by asking direct, specific questions that focus the conversation, such as “Tell me more about…,” “How would this work?” or “What challenges might we face?”
- Pay attention to your responses. Be aware of your body language and recognize that the way you respond to a question will facilitate further dialogue or limit what’s discussed by shutting someone down. Purposefully let someone know you’re listening and want to hear more from them through positive body or other verbal cues.
- Summarize what you’re hearing and ask questions to confirm your understanding, such as “Here’s what I hear you saying…..” or “Let me summarize what I’m hearing….”
- Listen for total meaning. Recognize that, in addition to what is being said, the real message may be non-verbal; consider what’s not being said as critical to the message, too.
In the end, the goal is to better understand where someone is coming from, and get the information you need to take the next step and/or make a smart decision.
Which of these steps gets in your way most, which would you’d like to address?
Are you making The Greatest Mistakes (You Don’t Want to Make)?
Download the free ebook and start making things right!
In my recently released ebook, “The Definitive Guide to Taming the Email Monster,” I wrote about the boiling point employees are reaching as their constant attachment to electronic devices creates an imbalance in their work and life.
New research from data protection company Neverfail provides a telling tale of what employees face as they attempt to advance up the corporate ladder, while striking the right balance between their personal and professional lives.
According to Neverfail:
- 83 percent of professional workers check their email after work
- Two-thirds say they have taken a work related device on vacation
- More than 50 percent say they send emails during meals with family or friends
Why is it so hard to power down when we’re not at the office? The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found people consider email, Twitter and Facebook more difficult to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.
Smart leaders know employees with a strong work/life balance are more productive.
Smart leaders are starting to recognize the difficulty many employees have in maintaining a positive work/life balance in an increasingly connected world.
Smart leaders are starting to take action.
- German-based telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom instituted a “Smart-Device-Policy,” asking employees to claim communication-free time after work. In exchange, management promises not to expect employees to check email or answer phone calls after hours.
- Lloyd’s Bank in the U.K. banned travel for all employees during the third week of every month. In addition to improving employees’ work/life balance, the move has saved the Bank roughly £1.5 million (roughly $2.25 million) per month. It’s worth noting that travel over the rest of the month has also decreased since the new policy went into place.
- Google launched a new program focused on employees’ emotional well-being, and installed energy pods for employees to take 20-30 minute power naps to help curb workplace fatigue and increase productivity. The pods, built by MetroNaps, can also be found at AOL Huffington Post Media Group and Cisco.
What steps can you take to improve your employees’ work/life balance, and their productivity?
I’m working hard with my 2-year-old daughter to teach her good manners. I believe it’s a critical life skill and think the world would be a better place with a little more “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” among other phrases that portray kindness and an understanding and appreciation of others.
When it comes to email in the workplace, I think we could use some better manners, too (and not just with email, but don’t get me started!).
Here’s my list of abuses and bad habits. Are you guilty of any of these?
- Selecting email as the wrong form of communication – should your message be communicated face-to-face? Voice-to-voice?
- Poorly written email – beyond misspelled words and poor grammar, does your email get to the point?
- Sending irrelevant information – is the information pertinent to your recipient? Do they really need to read your message?
- Engaging in too much back and forth when a phone call would solve the issue – research shows conflict escalates quicker and last longer over email
- Hiding behind email for tough conversations
- No call-to-action – why are you emailing? What is it you are asking the recipient to do?
- Using “reply all” – not everyone needs to see your one-off response, and it’s rare that everyone needs to be copied on your email response
- Cc’ing unnecessarily – not everyone needs to see the message
- Saying something in email you wouldn’t want to read in the newspaper – email lasts forever; don’t let your frustration or poor choice of words come back to bite you down the road
As you read the list, which one or two abuses are you guilty of that you’d like to remedy?
We want your bad emails!
Send us your best—or actually the worst—emails in your inbox. Email us at BadEmails@yourthoughtpartner.com.
We’ll use the emails for a future eBook.
In the latest chapter of the Goldman Sachs saga, last week a senior policy advisor, Arthur Levitt, shared his thoughts with the Wall Street Pit. He said Goldman should stop referring to putting customers first, because “nobody really puts customers first.”
That’s a bold statement to come from the inside of a company working overtime these days to assure the public (including clients) that they have a “client-driven culture.”
I can name numerous companies, including many of my clients, who have a client-driven culture – not just in words, but in all-important actions. None are perfect, but have the reputation and credibility with employees and other key stakeholders that they mean what they say, and make good on their promises every day. As importantly, when they make a mistake, they admit it, fix what’s broken and work to make things right. It’s all about integrity and dignity.
Also last week a former Goldman Sachs partner, Jacki Zehner who left the firm in 2002, spoke to CBS MoneyWatch and surprisingly, didn’t defend or condone the actions of her former employer, who she says she still supports.
Rather, she said she recognizes the accusations from an op-ed by ex-Goldman executive Greg Smith might hold some truth. Zeher said she thinks Goldman needs to be brave enough to answer media’s tough questions, participate in the lessons learned from this situation, and hopes this serves as a wake-up call for the management committee and board of directors.
If Goldman leaders want to be able to say with integrity “we’re a client-driven organization,” extinguish the bad behaviors, hold employees—and each other—accountable for what they say and do, and improve their brand reputation, they need to acknowledge what’s broken as the first and most critical step, then fix it.
If they’re not putting customers first, who is Goldman putting first? And what does that say about their organization?
What can we learn here and apply to our team or organization?