Hey… Put That Thing Back in Your Pants!

Growth mindset Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: It’s great to back! Garrett and I missed you all. A couple of times through our holiday we talked about how odd, even somewhat “empty” it was not to be working on the blog together. We missed connecting with our many wonderful and loyal readers. But that was the point: We wanted to turn the spigot off and drain the bucket. It was time to refuel and refill. Thank you for understanding. So, we thought (in case you forgot about us), that we might have to use a “cheap” clickbait title to reacquaint your interest. Sorry about that. But of course, you all know we’re talking about putting our smart phones away!

I recently read that Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO, “strips” his executives of their mobile phones and tablets before meetings. According to the Fortune article, a company spokeswoman characterized this a bit differently but essentially confirmed the principle:

“Benioff does not ‘take anyone’s phone,’ she noted. ‘But mindfulness is part of our culture, whether it’s in meetings or day-to-day in the office. Not using phones is a common practice at our major off-sites and important meetings to enable people to be more present.”

The reason I found Benioff’s position regarding mobile devices so interesting is that our culture has been wrestling with the same predicament regarding phone etiquette, and being truly present. Coincidently, I was reading Sherry Turkle’s profoundly important book, Reclaiming Conversations, and now I’m convinced; Millennial or not, in order to be really present with each other in OUR workplace, the phone or tablet needs to be put away if we want to REALLY listen.

This principle is important, not as an edict from a dog-eared boomer executive like me, but because the research is so powerfully clear. We thrive based on the contact that comes from personal, ideally face-to-face conversations with each other. However convenient it may be, texting or emailing is not representative of a fully rich conversation. When we rely on text, we cannot interpret how our words land. It is so easy to write things that are not fully representative of how we really feel and/or to perhaps to state things that are insensitive, cruel, even hateful, without seeing the outcome. Funny enough, Steve Jobs never allowed the iPhone or iPad to be at the family dinner table. As Turkle points out, meaningful conversations have trouble reaching their full potential with even a silent phone sitting on the table between us. Let’s have the strength and discipline to know when to put mobile devices away and let’s really TALK/LISTEN! (It’s also a reminder of what you’ve read here many times before: The conversation IS the relationship).

Character Moves:

  1. Ideally, I would convince you to read Turkle’s book. She presents tons of research on the importance of reclaiming conversations. She outlines practical and compelling recommendations. In case you don’t get there, please consider the rest of these moves.
  1. Promote and enjoy the messiness of authentic face-to-face conversations, where we can’t edit, erase, or avoid seeing how our words make others feel. We become better and more capable humans when we practice.
  1. Agree on sacred places where personal conversations and our presence have preeminence; where technology is literally put away and out of site. 
  1. Embrace difficult conversations, contrarian viewpoints, and uncomfortable moments of silence. These are gateways for improving ourselves and our relationships.
  1. Never find it sufficient to say “sorry” by text or email. It is too easy to escape what is necessary to become more authentic, raw, and empathetic. 
  1. Reclaiming conversations involves embracing solitude so that we might have a conversation with ourselves to better have an intimate conversation with others. 
  1. Do not believe you can look at your phone and really be present with others. As good as you think you can multi-task, neuroscience clearly confirms that’s a fallacy when it comes to deeply listening to each other. 
  1. This is not a Luddite rant against electronics or the utility of texting, emailing and/or social media. Technology advancement is phenomenal and I relish using every mobile device and application I have. This is an argument for intentionally reclaiming the importance having richer, intimate, face-to-face conversations! Have the courage to know where, when and with whom you will put your devices away. 

Reclaiming conversations in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Yoooo, so good to be back!! What up fam? Kidding, I don’t really talk like that, but that vernacular is commonplace via text and in social media. See how there’s a time and place for it? (Not here). I think that’s the real point. Should every meeting have a box where you surrender your phone at the entrance and retrieve it on your way out? Not in my opinion. But, I think we can all appreciate having the wherewithal to respect the environments where we need to let our texts, and social media updates vibrate in our pockets and remain unattended to for the time being. (Meetings = No. At your desk = Go for it). It’s pretty simple. We continually face criticism for losing the social skills to interact face-to-face, and we’re not helping defuse that stereotype when we get phone-itchy and we know we shouldn’t. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis