shut it down to connect

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At a recent meeting for my entire company, one manager, a Millennial through and through, showed a YouTube video that inspired us all — and pointed out something we all do, probably without even realizing its level of annoyance.

An aside for background: Even though I was raised in a world where simple transistor radios made you feel cool, I am all things digital now, from phone to tablet to desktop to watch. I have rarely been in a room in the last two years where my iPad wasn’t mere inches away. With that level of attachment, I could clearly relate to the “I Forgot My Phone” video. Though the video is a few years old, the concept is relevant to anyone who wants to build teams and/or lead in the workplace — or any place.

Through 11 short scenes, the video shows people trying to engage, to talk, or to just get the attention of another. But each time, the person is ignored. In one scene, the friend is on the phone, totally zoned out of the person they’re with and sucked into whatever’s happening on their screen.

While each vignette brings pangs of guilt, from the woman snuggling in bed with her man, who is scrolling through his phone, to the woman who waits for her friend to snap a selfie before she can continue to toast, perhaps the saddest scene was of two 9-year-old looking girls on a swing set. Unfortunately, only one is swinging; the other is glued to her phone — at nine!

How does it look in your world, either at home, work or wherever you are during waking hours? Are you trying to connect with others or are you squirreled away in your screen?

Having access to the world from our screens is fascinating, no doubt. But I am suggesting leaders act differently.

From my observations, leaders look up. Leaders make eye contact. Leaders listen. And they talk. They share ideas. They work for solutions with others. (They also work for solutions alone.) But most of all, they know when to check devices and when to let the text wait or the Apple Watch buzz without checking it. (How many times have you been at lunch recently with an Apple Watch friend who glances at the buzzing watch? Repeatedly.)

After sitting at dinner once with international best-selling author and business consultant Stephen R. Covey (think 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), I remember him opening my mind to the concept that we all have an Emotional Bank Account with everyone we know.

You make withdrawals in that account with another by breaking promises, not doing what you say, missing deadlines, being absent, ignoring them, etc. Conversely, you make deposits by keeping your word, meeting deadlines, apologizing, helping someone when you didn’t have to, seeing a need and filling it, paying attention to them, engaging with them, listening, etc.

Effective leaders have a positive emotional bank account with those around them. It runs deep. It’s authentic and it has been built over time.

Let’s build our emotional bank accounts by knowing when to disconnect from our devices. When we do, we’ll see there’s an exciting world out there — with people! Connect. Engage. Lead.

By tim brown
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