Is your smartphone within reach while you’re working to solve a difficult problem? Do you keep it on the table when you’re meeting clients? Do you allow a buzz or ping to interrupt a conversation you’re having with someone in your team?
Research tells us that your cognitive performance, ability to focus, and trustworthiness suffer when you pay attention to your smartphone and make it visible to your counterparty.
In every conversation, meeting or call our main objective is to either inform, engage, persuade or some combination of these.
Unfortunately, the presence of your smartphone will impair these – even if it’s face-down. Who will trust you or want to engage with you, if they can tell part of your attention is on your phone?
A study at the University of Texas found that having their phones nearby during a cognitively demanding task made participants perform worse than others who’d left their phones in a different room.
The authors suggest that you’re wasting brain power merely by resisting the urge to interact with your phone when you know you could do it. Your attention level decreases and with it, your capacity to solve difficult problems.
So, next time you’re grappling with something at work, hold back on peeking at the screen of your face-down phone when you get an alert.
The illusion of multitasking
Even those who say they can do multiple things at once, can’t – it’s the way our brains are built. We focus on one thing after the other, and the more we switch between tasks, the weaker our thinking power becomes.
Professor of Mathematical Psychology David E. Meyer refers to that decreased brain power as “switch cost.” Your smartphone interrupts your thinking with its alerts and your mental process is derailed.
It takes you 15 seconds to get back on track, which can make you squander up to 40% of your productive brain time each day, according to this American Psychological Association report.
Now, let’s say you’re meeting with a client and you’ve kicked off with a brilliant introduction. You’re about to pitch them the solution that you and your team have been preparing for the last three weeks. You see your phone on the table or notice it in your pocket. What if it rings? Did I turn it off? I’m not going to look at it. Thank goodness it’s face-down.
You’ve lost your train of thought and missed an opportunity to make an impact.
Trust – put your phone away if you want to build and maintain trust
In my research about trust and leadership, I found that goodwill, caring about the other person and their concerns, is a top requirement for leaders.
People trust leaders who show they can do what they have to do – they have the ability. That they will do it no matter what – they have the integrity. And, above all, that they care about the people they lead – they have the goodwill.
Three-level model of trust
Think of the conversations you have with the people on your team. They come to you for advice, direction, or just to catch up, but the smartphone on your desk tells them you’re open to distractions. Are you signaling you care about them and the things that concern them or are you showing you’re the boss and choose what to focus on?
When you’re visibly not blocking the hazard of a random call from any of your 3,200 contacts interrupting your conversation, what does that indicate to your team?
Do you want your brain working at its full potential? Do you want to fully focus on what you’re doing? Do you want to truly engage with the people you interact with?
Get off your phone.
Carolina Perez Sanz joined Templar in 2017, bringing with her 20 years of diverse, international experience as a communications consultant. Carolina is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from the Complutense University of Madrid as well as an MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from New York University.
Carolina is certified in the Hogan suite of personality assessment tools for success in the workplace, composed of the Hogan Personality Inventory, Hogan Development Survey and Motives Values Preferences Inventory.
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