I recently had a meeting with a gentleman that I had not previously met. I have to admit, I made some assumptions about him based on what I was able to find on LinkedIn and Google. Being under 40 years old and President of a highly respected organization, he was likely bright; driven, and charming. (We marketing types are always profiling people.)
I also had a few expectations that were not so flattering. I assumed he likely “gloried” busy; would be addicted to his technology; and would be easily distracted in the meeting. As I waited outside of his office, he politely came out and apologized that he was having a situation that he needed to address and asked that I wait a few moments for him to resolve an issue (ahhhh, glorifying busy); I heard him tapping away on this computer (addicted to his technology?). (We marketing types also look for any reason to be right about everything…) When he finally invited me in to his office, I expected my last assumption to be valid-he would be distracted.
Well, I was wrong. Really, really wrong. When I initiated this meeting I asked for 30 minutes of his time. I am very committed to keeping my word on time frames so I had planned the agenda accordingly. This gentleman shocked me, by actually providing me with 30 minutes of his TIME.
When I stepped into his office, he motioned for me to sit at a small conference table. He then proceeded to sit NEXT to me… not across the table. He pulled his chair out and turned it to face me. He then sat down and gave me direct eye contact for 30 minutes. I was floored. I glanced over at his cell phone and noticed he had it on “silence” and he had also closed his door to avoid any interruptions. He allowed me to lead the conversation, was completely engaged in the discussion and did not make me feel as if I was an inconvenience in any way.
The other shocking realization was that he studied ahead for our meeting. He commented that he reviewed my company website; had reviewed our previous works for his organization and had spoken to our contact person to gather her thoughts on our value.
This may all sound basic; however I realized that I don’t do this. I may review a website to form an opinion of an organization before a meeting, however, I tend to scale my prep by the value of the meeting to me, but I don’t put this level of planning in to every single meeting I have. I don’t approach each interaction with the thought that I OWE the other person this extreme level of engagement.
I was curious and envious of this level of organization and commitment. Certainly, I was pleased with his desire to continue with my firm, but to be honest that is not the most valuable thing I walked away with. I left that meeting realizing that I am short changing people, and I do it all the time.
I often glorify busy; I am addicted to my technology and I am VERY easily distracted. (Curse of creative types) But, I have decided to do better, much better. I have started to give my full attention to people, as frankly, any less is just simply rude. I silence my phone for more than just meetings, and I am working very hard to not be distracted from the project or discussion at hand.
This has not been easy; it is a work in progress. However I realized after that meeting, how in slightly less than 30 minutes, this gentleman had convinced me that he was a strong leader; self-confident; and capable. All because he had mastered one simple skill. True time management.
The impression it made on me was enormous and the credibility it gave him was even greater…and all this in under 30 minutes of simply being present, really present in the moment. Wow.
-Betsy McCloskey, Partner/Principal