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Dear Managers, Put Your Phones Away!

One of the simplest and most powerful gifts we can give someone in this technology saturated world is our undivided attention.

Like a cowboy with gun in holster ready to draw, the slightest beep, buzz, or flash sends our attention from the person we are with to our phone. One of the simplest and most powerful gifts we can give someone in this technology saturated world is our undivided attention.

One of the simplest and most powerful gifts we can give someone in this technology saturated world is our undivided attention.

I run programs on the Art of Acknowledgment and Engagement geared to help managers build relationships where their people feel valued every day. In my workshops, one of the first things I ask people to do is put their phones away and out of sight. (For the overly addicted, I will often have a valet parking box in the front of the room to take away the temptation!) My argument is always if we want our people to feel valued, we need to start by being present, a skill we need to develop and practice in this age of constant distraction.

It is not our intention to leave people feeling like what they say does not matter but, sadly, that is often the unintentional impact.

What message does it send to our employee, family member or friend when they are sharing and our eyes dart away from them on to our phones? A few weeks back, I called out a good friend for looking at his phone when I was sharing. He quickly justified “I am completely paying attention” as he parroted back my last statement word for word, while continuing to scroll through his email. The part my friend and many people (myself included) often forget is that there is a difference between intention and impact. It is not our intention to leave people feeling like what they say does not matter but, sadly, that is often the unintentional impact.

As managers, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to show our people they are valued is to put our phone away and out of sight when we are with them. 

It is common sense that we should not have phones out when we are with other people but, as anyone who has or ever was a teenager (all of us!) knows, what is common sense is not always common practice. These little devices designed to help us connect are often the very thing that keeps us disconnected. As managers, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to show our people they are valued is to put our phone away and out of sight when we are with them.

In your next meeting, put your phone in “do not disturb” mode and place it out of reach and out of sight. If you’re concerned about time, set an alarm for 15 minutes before you need to leave and let the person you are with know. “I want to be present with you and I don’t want to worry about time so I set an alarm for fifteen minutes before we need to wrap up.”

If you make this a habit, not only will your people feel more valued, but there is a good chance your meeting may be more efficient and effective as well.

About the Author

Christopher Littlefield, is the founder of AcknowledgmentWorks. He trains leaders around the world in the Art of Acknowledgment and Engagement. His work revolves around the understanding that at the heart of all of our relationships is the experience of feeling valued. Conducting over 400 interviews and collecting thousands of surveys around the globe have shaped Chris’ unique understanding of what employees really want and need to feel valued. Chris has worked with Fidelity Investments, Kraft Foods, The Lebanese Postal Service, Salesforce, United Nations and more. Watch Chris as he shares his research at TEDx Beirut.

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