Language to Communication to Filling in the Space with Chatter to...Distraction?

We look at language as "a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition".

We can be fluent in a language and yet fail to communicate clearly and concisely or tie the listener in knots by speaking around a topic and not saying anything of relevance.

As the younger generations come into the workplace and often communicate through text messaging rather than speech, the term 'sound bites' come into play as they speak almost in code. Yet do they know how to communicate at all levels, especially in the workplace when leadership tends to think and speak in complete sentences? How can we expect people to understand what we're doing and how we're doing it if we abbreviate to the point of ambiguity?

Enter the world of Twitter, for example, where you can only communicate with a maximum of 140 characters, forcing one to use coded language, misspelled words and pieces of thought sequences. Is that really serving us or forcing us into the world of "explaining what we meant"? Does this help evolve us or hold us back? Is the time one spends on Twitter or similar services time well spent or just "busymaking"?

These questions are on the table in more organizations than I can count. Where is the line crossed between using technology to simplify our lives and just filling it with chatter?

As I coach Executive Committee teams I now have systems set up where Blackberries are parked and turned off. "Isn't there pushback?" you ask. No. Because ultimately if these leaders are to do their jobs and use their time to create strong cohesive organizations, they have to be totally present and that means little or no distractions. What do I do? I have runners in an anti-room who field incoming calls from headquarters and come find the person needed to put out fires or field crises that come up. If it's neither of the two, the runners take messages for the team to get to after the meeting is over. They get ten times the work done, and honour their colleagues by listening and participating.

At a recent conference one of my colleagues was continually Twittering through the event. A few people complained about the distraction and the clattering of the keys. All I asked her was "How present were you, how participatory and engaged and how much did you miss by needing to be visible to your online world?"

She missed half that question as her fingers flew across her iPhone keypad. Then asked me to repeat it as I walked away.

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