Two things recently have made me think about the concept of being “fully present””

1. The bus stop ladies

I was on a bus going into the Brisbane CBD and as the bus approached one of the stops I could see two young ladies with their heads down looking at their phones. They were completely oblivious to the approaching bus and would have missed it completely had the bus driver not tooted the horn on the bus.

2. The conference crowd

I was the MC for the Panalitix Annual Conference attended by about 400 accountants. When I was doing the opening briefing one of the things I suggested was that each person make sure his or her phone was on silent, that he/she take notes and be fully immersed in each presentation.

So what is the concept of being “fully present” and how does this all relate to running an accounting or other professional firm? Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are a partner or manager and have an office that you sit in. When you have a team member in your office talking to you do you allow yourself to be distracted or interrupted by the telephone or emails popping up on your screen? If you do, you are clearly not fully present for the person you are speaking with. How do you think that makes the other person feel? Put yourself in in their shoes and pretty quickly you will answer “not important” or something similar. Not only is it discourteous, it is inefficient.

The concept of being fully present is about giving your complete attention to whoever you are with (or what you are doing) at that moment in time – not thinking about your next appointment or what you need to buy from the shops on the way home! Not trying to multitask but doing just one thing really well – really engaging with the person you are with.

I’ve read that Bill Clinton was brilliant at being fully present. He would make each person he met feel like they were the only other person in the world at that time. It was a quality that endeared him to many people.

The bus stop ladies were not fully present in terms of catching the bus and would have missed it but for the kindness of the driver. I’m pleased to say that the majority of the conference goers really were fully present and I think this meant each had a great conference experience.

As a young accountant I would regularly have interactions with partners who were not fully present. I got very frustrated with one partner in particular and on one occasion I walked out of the partner’s office and went back to my desk. After he had finished whatever he allowed to interrupt us I was summoned back to his office and asked why I left. I said that I was not going to waste my time watching him deal with other things that were clearly more important than talking to me. He was a little taken aback but got the point and we had much more productive conversations after that!

This week, ask yourself “am I really being fully present with each person I am with?”. If the answer is no, work on changing that. The people you interact with may not formally thank you, but I’m pretty sure it will be more satisfying for them and more effective for everyone in terms of getting results.

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