Recently I was in the middle of a conversation and realized while the person was talking I was thinking about something I really needed to get done and watching the clock as the minutes ticked away. Every few minutes I had to tune back into the conversation.
The person I was talking with had a genuine need to talk with me and had made it a point to schedule and be available for the call. I was genuinely interested in what he had to say, it was urgent and important to both of us, yet I found it difficult to FOCUS on what he was saying.
In thinking about how I can improve my focus I thought about how I might be able to apply some of the meeting behaviors I’ve talked about with clients and how I can apply them to one on one meetings, whether they’re in person or on the phone.
- Establish the logistics of the call. The call came in an hour before I thought it would because I hadn’t confirmed the time zone and who would place the call. I’d made the assumption about the time zone and that I’d be placing the call. Because I had both wrong, I was doing something else when the call came in and wasn’t focused.
- Start the call agreeing on the topics and duration of the call. The conversation would have been so much more effective if I would have said, “George, I have a meeting I have to leave for in an hour. I have these three topics to discuss that should take no more than 10 minutes each. What are your topics and how long do you want to allocate to each?
- Get rid of distractions. Both of us had a series of distractions during the call. I had the phone on speaker to allow me to continue getting ready to leave for my next meeting in case our call went overtime. Had I just sat still and focused on the call I could have insured we covered all of the topics in the hour available.
- Summarize what was accomplished and the next steps. We talked about a series of steps we would each take, yet 24 hours later, the information I was expecting hasn’t arrived. It would have taken me two minutes to summarize our commitments and I could have easily sent a follow-up EMAIL to confirm my understanding.
Fortunately, I’ll have many opportunities to improve my FOCUS.
Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups. Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.