Short time. Great inspirations.


Turn your phone off, don’t let the magic go

The other day I heard a song on the radio which I haven’t heard for about 25 years.

The thing is, when I last heard this song as a kid, I didn’t speak much English, so all I could understand was “Susana, Susana”. Now, however, I can follow the lyrics and my first thought is:

Why the hell did he pick up the phone?

(For those of you who don’t know the song, or are too professional to listen to it during working hours, here is the short summary of the story: The guy is having the perfect romantic moment with Susana. Just then the phone rings. He picks up only to find out that it was a wrong call. By the time he returns to the girl the “magic is gone, it is a disaster”. In fact, she soon gets up to leave.)

No wonder the magic is gone! You picked up the stupid phone!  What did you expect?

I feel like saying the same thing to many managers who keep multitasking, picking up phones, sending texts and trying to hold a conversation simultaneously. Yet, they complain about

  • not being in tune with their team
  • not understanding their subordinate’s lack of motivation
  • having frequent misunderstandings with colleagues
  • facing low level of employee satisfaction
  • etc.

How can you expect to understand your subordinates, how can you expect to motivate them, if you can’t find time to devote your full attention to them?

The foundation of successful leadership is listening and understanding – and this doesn’t work without you being fully present. There’s no place for non-stop multitasking and frequent interruptions.

So here are a few thoughts on how to have meetings in which you can give your full attention to the other person, all in a world dominated by smartphones.

(Yes, they do sound obvious. No, they are not followed by most managers.)

  • Plan regular one-on-one meetings with your colleagues. Don’t limit your interactions to the times when you bump into each other in the corridor.
  • Make sure that during those meetings you are fully theirs. Turn your phone down. If you can leave it outside with your secretary, that’s even better. This way you won’t feel your pocket vibrate – a distraction in itself – and be tempted to look who is calling.
  • But what if there is something important? Many managers ask at this point. I am sure that there will be several important calls during your meeting. However, important doesn’t necessarily mean urgent. Most calls can wait for another half an hour. It is just too tempting to pick up once the phone rings. This is why leaving it outside is better than just on mute.
  • All this means that you will have several missed calls during the day. Make sure those missed calls are not really missed, only postponed. Find a way to reassure people who try to contact you and you don’t pick up. Get into the habit of returning those calls promptly. This way all your contacts can rely on you getting back to them as soon as you can.
  • Try a no-phones, no-emails policy at your team meetings. If you come from a culture where meetings are full of interruptions, this might trigger some resistance. However, you will be amazed how much more effective your meetings will be with the gadgets left outside.

The Susana story would have ended very differently had guy not picked up the phone. But he did and the magic was gone. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Be present, don’t let the magic go.