Hi-852-smartphone-meeting-4colWhat do you think when others check their phones?

Last week, I was chairing a group meeting. The group is highly functional: processing deep issues, holding each other accountable, caring for the membership, and nurturing the chair (thanks!).

Then The Moment Happens
While the group deliberates, I scan the room. I'm wondering: Who is engaged? Who is trying to get into the conversation? Who seems to be wondering? Whose voice do we need to hear clear and soon? I'm deeply in The Dance Of The Chair.

And I see someone check the phone. It's what — when we are driving in traffic — Mrs. Isaac calls "the tell-tale downward glance." When a driver does it, it could be the mistake of a lifetime.

But, I wonder, is it important now, during a meeting?

Depends On What You Think
What do you think when you see a colleague check his or her phone?

If you are speaking, addressing a group whose opinion matters to you, what do you think when you see at an advisor who is looking down at the phone?

Does it change what you think if you are not speaking at that moment? Let's say you are listening to the debate, wondering what others are thinking. You look around and you see the Tell-Tale Downward Glance.

My Own Headtrash
Here's what I think. You might disagree, but here's what I think when I see the Tell-Tale Downward Glance:

  • The person might be expecting an urgent message. I really try to think this. But (unless the person has already announced the potential for a big incoming message) I don't buy it. I think…
  • The person would rather be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else.
  • The person is bored.
  • It's rude.
  • The person isn't going to give the full value of participation in the meeting.
  • The person isn't going to receive the full value of the meeting.

I was once (at least) very wrong.
Someone was using his phone. I thought, "He's playing with his phone now?"

Turns out, he was pulling numbers from the speaker's comments and putting them into the calculator on his phone. He offered the results of the essential calculations and I was surprised. And I was wrong.

Still, when I see the Tell-Tale Downward Glance, that's what I think.

What do you think?