The Blog

Put Down That Phone and Come In With Your Hands Out

How about we all agree to make Shamen a phone-free zone?

No micromanagement of things back at work, no texting or email or checking bank balances and the market. No checking-in with friends or Facebook posting or – gasp! – Tweeting that we’re #somewhere doing #something with @someone. Turn it off, leave it off.

This will accomplish two things:

First, it will put us more into the here and now. We all troubled to climb out of our ruts and come someplace new. Here we are, surrounded by interesting people who know things we don’t and look at things in thoughtful and refreshing ways. Honor that! Instead of retreating from what we came to be part of, what if we stayed together, in the moment, shaking hands and meeting new people and asking follow-up questions of the panelists? Wouldn’t we gain more value from the experience if we, you know, experienced it?

Second, disconnecting lets the people Out There – people who work for and with us, people we depend on – exercise their independence muscles. They will have to make their own judgments! They will have to keep things moving forward for six whole hours without benefit of our wisdom and guidance! They’ll have to persevere!

Managers say all the time they want people who are motivated self-starters, independent thinkers, owners of their own projects and task lists. And then we keep them under our mobile thumbs, daddies and mommies checking-in every few minutes to make sure no one exerts their ownership by self-starting any independent action at all. When we do that, we may feel like we’re being attentive managers, but we are, in fact, being bored/neurotic smotherers of initiative. There is benefit to benign neglect.

I used to run a TV production operation, and when I traveled I made a point of not checking in every day. My people were smart. They knew what had to be done, their responsibilities, the standards they were charged to live up to. Leaving them alone for a few days to struggle with the (predictably) unpredictable gave them confidence they would need during real crises, when there wasn’t time to call daddy and ask.

What if we all did that for a day? What if, when Shamen ends, we made a point of doing that every now and then?