#246: When to Heed the Ring Tone of Failure

Let’s ponder how meeting interruptions have evolved. Ready?

In the beginning, only the boss’ secretary had the power to interrupt a meeting. Next came tone-deaf bosses who ignored cell phone ringtones, followed by boundaryless bosses who partook when fast food aromas overwhelmed the business agenda.

And today, what have we? Cute kittens? Pawing puppies? Potty tots? Sulking spouses? Another package delivery? In fact, almost anything may pause a meeting.

Which is just another reason I miss those disciplined and disciplinarian gatekeepers. They knew how to keep the boss in line, focused, and performing to the benefit of us all.

Years ago, before caller ID and cell phones, I met with a manager when his office telephone rang. He ignored it. Being polite, I suggested he answer it. “No”, he said, “You took the trouble to visit me in person. This caller can wait or also make the effort to come to me.”

I once attended an executive meeting as an outside adviser. A cell phone rang. The meeting faltered as almost everyone grabbed at a cell phone. I looked at the CEO. He shrugged.

These anecdotes highlight the meaning of ‘important’. The manager in the first story knew that if the call was important, the caller would find a way through. The participants in the second story knew the CEO was not important. No wonder their company was already in trouble.

So, the next time you tolerate cell phone (or kid, cat, dog, spouse, package delivery) interruptions in your meeting, acknowledge what it reveals about your importance, your power and your future success.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.