Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The compulsion of the mobile phone - is that email really so important?

When I facilitate groups, I've noticed that the way I set up expectations about the use of personal devices like mobile phones, ipads, laptops has changed significantly. If I don't have an explicit conversation about boundaries and respect, then participants would be checking emails, facebook and tweeting throughout their learning sessions.

When I'm working with leaders, I talk about the messages they send to their team if they are consistently responsive to emails and phone messages. I ask whether they have faith in the team they have around them to carry on in their absence. Generally they nod and smile and tell me they have complete faith in their team. A few moments later, they'll be surreptitiously reading email under the desk.

Reading email on the phone under the desk is the same as picking your nose when you're driving the car: everyone can see what you're doing!

Why is it that the information and communication on our phones has apparently become more compelling than the interactions occurring beside us?

After setting up and gaining explicit agreement about phones being put away and only checked during breaks so that focus is intense, participants engaged and fellow students respected, usually people adhere to that agreement.  Sometimes, however, they don't. I know that this really gets under my skin and I need to make a choice about how I respond.

I'm now clear that when I've set boundaries, the group looks to me to help them hold those boundaries in place. If behaviour that is outside what the group has established occurs and is left unchecked by the leader (me) then very soon resentment will breed and the agreement will crumble.

Sometimes when I speak directly to someone about the boundaries and how they're outside them, they look to me to tell them what they should do. I don't. I remind them of where they are and what they've agreed and tell them that they need to make a choice that takes account of their commitment and respect for the group as well as their own needs. Mostly, they put the phone away and meet the needs of the group and their commitment to it.

And then at the end of the day, someone will shake my hand and say goodbye with the ipod already plugged in. Talk about feeling dismissed!

How do you manage the compulsion of the mobile phone?

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