Texting It: The New Rules of Multitasking

It has become the daily habit for all of us, “thumbing” our way through one message after another on our phones.

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It has become the daily habit for all of us, “thumbing” our way through one message after another on our phones. How often, of course, depends on age: One Pew Research project some years ago found that teens did it up to 87 times a day, while those 20 to 39 were texting 47 times daily.

Regardless, it’s clearly now part and parcel of conferences, with multitasking millennials and anxious boomers alike texting, occasionally if not frequently, during meetings. So what do top-line leaders think about this? To gauge their tolerance, we asked some executives, whose collective experience spans corporate leadership to health care, what their attitude is toward texting.

(No, we did it by email and edited the comments.)

Harry Kraemer
Former chairman, CEO of Baxter International and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

What’s your reaction when someone texts during a meeting?

Immediate reaction? Shows a lack of respect and hurts the dynamic.

How, exactly?

One person starts and everybody thinks it’s O.K.

What would you do?

Set a clear direction. In this meeting we need everyone’s complete and total attention.

No exceptions?

Here’s another thought. Say they’re all in sales. Everybody needs to keep track of customers.

Suddenly text isn’t an interruption …

Not if it allows people to be more productive. Then it won’t hurt the dynamic. But everybody agrees upfront.

Annette Watson
Health-care consultant, founder and principal, Watson International Consulting

Texting during meetings, your thoughts?

It’s con“text”ual ... what is the nature or importance of the meeting and the text.

How do you decide?

I try to be present in meetings. But sometimes you need to address an issue. Texting in a meeting is a form of multitasking.

So do you sneak a text?

I try to be discreet and courteous.

When does texting work best?

People in health care often need to be reached quickly to attend to urgent or emergent matters. Texting enables them to do so without having to leave a meeting.

Mark Minervini
Founder, Minervini Private Access, author of “Trade Like a Stock Market Wizard”

Is texting during a meeting O.K.?

Depends, is it my meeting?

LOL – let’s say it is.

I want everyone focused on the issues at hand. Pad and pen—taking notes.

No cell phones?

If the meeting is really important and time is limited, I ask people to shut them off.

Sounds like the phones irk you.

You go out to dinner—five or six people. The second you sit down, all the cell phones come out—texting, checking email, posting to Facebook.

No talk around the table …

The cell phone has become a pacifier or security blanket. We’re all like Linus in the “Peanuts” comic strip. It’s kind of pathetic.

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