Let’s keep in mind that this advice is coming from Ron Brown, then CFO of a publicly traded $15B company with 100,000 employees that did business in 90 countries. He received hundreds of emails a day from shareholders, hotel owners and developers, colleagues, his boss (a very demanding CEO), his direct reports and others. If anyone could or perhaps should be connected and wired every minute, it was THIS GUY.
As a Canadian, the ice hockey equivalent of the CFO of a global, publicly traded company is a star defenseman. The job is reactive in nature and your objective is to get the puck out of your zone and this means giving and taking hits, all day long. If you are daring enough to join an offensive rush, you’re taking a huge risk that your goalie is left defenseless. Despite the challenges that faces a CFO of a 24/7 global hospitality company, Ron strongly believed that the worst thing he could do was carry his mobile device into every meeting or take meetings at his desk where he could see his computer or Bloomberg screen. This was 2004, in the height of the blackberry era (or “crackberry addiction” as Ron used to call it,) long before the advent of social media.
Today, especially for millennials, mobile devices and tablets have created an epidemic of poor attention spans and lack of focus. Brands that are defining themselves against this, such as Soul Cycle, which bans cell phones, are growing in popularity. Despite its false spirituality, Soul Cycle is one of the few places where millennials and social media addicts can escape from the information and content onslaught they afflict themselves with on a daily basis.
I received some interesting feedback on this issue from our customers, investors and my colleagues recently. What I am told is that when I follow Ron Brown’s advice and leave my mobile and inbox behind and focus on a meeting I am much more productive. It also shows respect for other people’s time. I engage not just in the facts and data but make an emotional connection to customers, partners and colleagues. Because I am more focused and engaged, results follow. I have to admit, when I am in a meeting with an investor, developer or another CEO and they are looking at their phone constantly or sending texts and emails it makes me wonder if they are paying attention at all. So, try practicing Ron Brown’s advice and leave your mobile device at your desk sometime. And maybe try asking your colleagues to do the same and see how much more productive and engaged everyone becomes. I would also love to hear your thoughts on this topic.