I’d Rather Set My Hair On Fire

by Bob Poole on December 15, 2010

Have you ever had a telephone conversation with someone while also catching up on your email or surfing the latest news?

Have you ever been on the phone trying to talk with someone only to realize they aren’t paying attention but are instead reading from the screen in front of them?

Nobody disagrees with the importance of really listening to each other. In fact, I’ve tracked it on Twitter and you’ll see that thousands talk about the importance of listening. If that is all true then why do so many people do just the opposite?

To listen – truly listen to someone you have to tune everything and everyone else out.

This is one reason I don’t understand why so many companies insist on having telephone conference calls that last for an hour or more. Most of them are usually scheduled for one hour and it seems like whoever is leading the call always feels the need to fill that time. As a result, the majority of the people on the call have a speaker or headset on while they read their mail, check out their favorite blogs, clip their nails and groom the dog. And, what is even more amazing to me is how many people have to attend these calls every day and sometimes multiple times.

Yikes! I’d rather set my hair on fire!

I know that’s easy for me to say but you get the point.

You’ve probably played the game where a group of people get together and someone leads off by whispering to the next person a statement that is written down. Then that person tells it to another and one-by-one the story is passed down the line. By the time the final person at the end of the chain states out loud to the group what they think they just heard the entire initial story has changed and often so much so there isn’t any resemblance to it.

If this can happen when you know you’re supposed to be listening imagine what the outcomes are of corporate decisions dependent upon team conference calls that last for hours where your attention is less than focused.

Managers love these kinds of calls.

Leaders detest them.

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