Your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry smartphone is a great device, enabling today’s business leader to constantly be in contact with the office and access the Internet or the cloud for needed information on the fly.
Unfortunately, it is exactly this constant contact and easy access to the Internet, apps, and countless games that all too often outweigh the positives and make these devices harmful to the leader’s business and life. So, is your smartphone killing business?
- Being in constant contact leads to a triumph of the urgent over the important. With the e-mails rolling in and the Internet so accessible, it is easy to spend too much time responding to trivial matters or checking the news, stocks or sports scores. The constant interruptions and the ease of distraction all but eliminate the quiet time business leaders need to think about their businesses in the medium and long term.
- Being in constant contact leads to micromanagement. Leaders can know what is happening in their businesses at all times. This lets leaders contribute their own two cents or opinions with quick e-mails or text messages on every topic or issue. Isn’t that great? Well, no. The constant barrage of your e-mails, text messages or phone calls to your team interrupts their day and undermines their authority and autonomy.
- Constant contact leads to a wimpy team. Along the same lines, the team knows that the leader can always be reached for an opinion or seal of approval. As such, even insignificant decisions can now be run by the leader with the leader serving as a crutch or security blanket for a team member unwilling to make a decision that he or she would then be held accountable for.
- Smartphone usage is often inefficient. First, it is necessary to synchronize with Outlook or your laptop e-mail, which is often not perfect. Second, tapping out a response on a smartphone, even for those two-thumb texting wizards, is nowhere near as efficient as touch typing on your laptop. As such, all but the simplest e-mails are often read and handled twice, once on the smartphone and once on the laptop.
- Are you going to work high? Nearly all the research suggests that the constant multitasking that results from excessive smartphone usage reduces your ability to function at peak levels. A study conducted by TNS Research determined that a worker distracted by phone calls, e-mails, and text messages suffers a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana. And the effects are cumulative. Without downtime, without the chance to recharge batteries, people’s stress levels increase with damaging effects on cognition and physical health.
- You are being both absent and rude. Try having a meeting, casual conversation, or meal where everyone is present and listening intently to whomever is speaking (without sneak peeks at the smartphone). It just ain’t happening anymore.
- You are setting a lousy example. Your team is aping your behavior. Many can no longer work for solid blocks of time and actually require interruptions to keep things interesting and lively. This smartphone-led, Twitter, Facebook and texting-induced disease of distractitis is rampant in many businesses.
Smartphones Don’t Kill Businesses, Poor Leadership Kills Businesses
Smartphones enable leaders to do more, causing a leader’s poor management skills, inefficient work style, or weak time-management skills to become even more glaringly bad.
We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Smartphones can be valuable business tools that facilitate work and improve business effectiveness. But, they require discipline and self-control to be used effectively.
- Create time-outs from your smartphone, especially during your most productive time in the day and nights and weekends.
- Set up rigorous controls on how often you receive e-mails (no automatic syncing).
- Set up time locks that prevent access to games and non-work apps and even the Internet.
If these suggestions cannot be followed, it may be time to join that growing band of super-achievers that have ditched their smartphones in order to make their business, their team and their own lives better.
David Shedd has 10 years of success as president of a $200 million group of manufacturing and services companies, having overseen 19 different B2B businesses. Shedd is principal of Winning B2B Leadership, an advisory firm focused on small- to middle-market B2B clients, while looking for his next company or group of companies to lead. David blogs at www.helpingleaderswin.com and his book, “Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company,” is now available on Amazon.com.
Originally published: Sep 19, 2011