I noticed something interesting this morning when I finished my exercise class. As I walked over to grab all my stuff and go home, I took a good look at all the other people getting ready to leave. Instead of talking to each other and discussing the class and life, every single one of them was staring down at their phones. There were 5 people lined up against the wall, all engrossed in their smartphones.
This made me chuckle and think about another incident that recently got my attention.
I attended a wedding with my whole family. I was so happy to have everyone together to celebrate this joyous occasion. After eating, I pulled everyone out on the dance floor. For a good 45 minutes, we laughed and danced like crazy to the music. Suddenly, I looked over to the closest table to the dance floor. There were about ten people at the table, all in their 20’s. Every single one of them sat silently, staring at their phone.
No one engaged in conversation and no one looked up from their phone. Honestly, it was the strangest and saddest thing I had ever seen. In fact, I pointed it out to my son, who quickly snapped a picture of it on his OWN phone.
There we were, engaged in the moment, celebrating this big event. However, instead of being in the “here and now”, the group of 10 were isolated with their technology.
There’s a story about a CEO of a large billion-dollar company that decided to change his policy for their weekly tactical meetings. As each member of the leadership team entered the room, the CEO motioned for them to place their phones in the box he was holding. He reported that the first meeting didn’t go too well. The team was fidgety and irritated with the change in rules. However, over time he found that the team’s conversations became more meaningful, and the team became more effective and productive. They were focused on NOW.
Do you realize how powerful it was to have all that talent in the room with no distractions?
I have definitely noticed this issue in my last couple of training presentations. When working with a small group, participants will inevitably utilize their smartphones to check email, etc. during the training. Even when I make a point to ask employees to stay off their phone, there are always a couple of offenders.
There are two reasons why this is happening. First, it is no longer seen as bad manners to interrupt what you are doing to check or be on your phone. Second, this behavior has become such a habit that we have difficulty changing this wired action. We are compelled to reach for our phones without even being aware that we are doing it.
I’m unsure how this smartphone behavior is going to manifest in the future workforce. In some ways, it helps us accelerate business, but in other ways, it’s a total distraction, a drain on our productivity and a barrier to creative problem solving.
I believe what’s needed are some boundaries with smartphone usage. Leadership must role model good behavior and have expectations that there are times where usage is off limits.
Organizations want engaged, creative, productive workers and that comes with eliminating the distractions during work. The best work comes out of people that can truly focus on the task at hand.