“Please leave your Blackberries and iPhones on and just do me a favor and put them in meeting mode. If you want to check them, please do. If you want to respond to an email, please go ahead. You don’t have to hide it in this class. I know that there are things going on in your life that you need to take care of so that you can focus here. So go ahead. If you want, you can tell them that you’re in a training class and will get back to them at lunch. That’s quick and responsive. Oh, and if you want to email me about anything, I’ll see it at the break.”
It’s my new mantra.
Tip #1: Help adults feel like adults and not like they have to act like sneaky little kids to check what is most important to them. Yes, yes, of course, I’d prefer that they’d be so engrossed with my material and so intrinsically motivated that they’d shut out all distractions and be 100% present, and that does happen. A lot. On some days. On other days, it doesn’t happen much at all, and for good reason. The adults in the room have more important things happening in their lives like customers, colleagues, family and friends who need things. It’s not insulting; it is. My decision is to make it as easy for them to take care of business and then get back to the business at hand as possible.
Tip #2. Be more interesting than their waiting message. I love watching them start to type and then set the mobile device down to take notes, answer a question, or work with a partner, and then pick it back up to finish their email. That’s perfect. They’re totally engaged, learning the way they want to, and comfortable. I could do a little happy dance!