Where Were You, Really, When You Said You Were “There”?

I recently received a picture from a friend showing a hand holding a “smart phone”. On the screen of the phone were the words, “Putting your phone away and paying attention to those talking to you? There’s an app for that. It’s called RESPECT.” This photo reminded me of an incident that I was involved in many years ago as well as a meeting I attended a few years ago.

In the first instance, I had just been appointed to manage a branch office by my first agency manager, Ray. Ray had come to Tucson to meet with me; to review my actions over the first 60 days in my new office; and, to help create a plan that would grow the branch office in the coming months. As we talked, my telephone rang and I answered it. (Keep in mind that this is well before “Caller I.D.” told us who was calling) Ray sat patiently and waited while I spoke with the caller. When I hung up the phone and turned to resume my conversation with Ray, he fixed me in a firm stare and said, “Son, do you realize that when you interrupt a conversation you are having with one person to answer the phone, you are essentially telling that individual that while you don’t know who is calling, anyone is more important than the person you are talking to? Don’t ever do that to me again!”

Many years later, I attended a meeting with two other individuals, John and Joseph. John had been working on a research project assigned to him by Joseph and was now to deliver his findings. When the project was first given to John, Joseph repeatedly stressed how the information was urgently needed; how the findings of John’s research could play a huge part in determining the future success of the company.

On the morning of the meeting, John confidently walked into the meeting room and took his place at the conference table and awaited Joseph’s arrival. Joseph arrived late to the meeting, sat down at the head of the table and drew his cell phone from his pocket placing it on the table in front of him. “Tell me what you found,” he told John.

As John began his report, Joseph’s cell phone vibrated on the table and Joseph picked it up and read the message on the screen. “Go on, John, I’m listening,” he said. A few minutes later, the phone rang and Joseph answered it as if John was not talking. John stopped and waited for Joseph to end the call which, based only on the half that he and I could hear, was clearly a casual conversation and not an urgent matter. When the call ended, Joseph turned to John and said, “Well, go on, what are you waiting for?” This pattern of behavior continued throughout the meeting. At meeting’s end, John and I left the office and I heard him mutter, “I wonder if he even heard a word I said?”

Great Leaders do not treat associates in this manner. Great Leaders show the same level of respect for their associates that they expect from those associates. Great Leaders make certain that they are present when an associate asks for time with them. Great Leaders give the person(s) that they are with their total and undivided attention … they are truly present when they are “there”.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at tom.hoisington@eagleoneresources.com

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