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Secrets of Success

Outsmarting Your Smartphone

After more than forty years of consulting, I find the main problem in

organizations, as in life, continuesto be the difficulty people have staying connected with one another.

With the introduction of smartphones, the challenge of connecting has never been greater.

How challenging have these devices become?

The answer is “pretty challenging” and pretty intrusive.

The numbers don’t lie.

A study reported in the November 2017 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report

estimates by 2020, 90% of the world’s population over the age of six will have a mobile phone.

According to a 2016 study, the average person checks their cell phone 110 times a day.

In addition:

  • 40% check their phones while in the bathroom.
  • 12% use their phones in the shower.
  • 56% check their phones before falling asleep.
  • 50% of teenagers say they are addicted to their phones.
  • 50% feel uneasy when they forget their phones at home.
  • 75% say they have texted at least once while driving.
  • 56% of parents check their phones while driving.
  • 44% check job-related emails daily while on vacation.

Perhaps most interesting bit of research was the PEW Research Center finding that 67% of smartphone

owners have admitted to checking their phone for calls or messages when their phone didn’t vibrate or ring.

What’s going on?

In a nutshell, many of us have become addicted to our cell phones.

(There is now a name for this condition. It’s called “nomophobia,” which means the

fear of being without one’s mobile device.)

Seems these smartphones are a lot “smarter” than we thought.

So why is it so hard to put these devices down?

The answer is a chemical in our brain called Dopamine.

It makes us feel good, and every time we receive a “ding” on our phone a little Dopamine is released.

The message is, “We won!” “Let’s see what we won!”

And it’s addictive.

Unfortunately, like other addictions, eventually we have to increase the “dosage” to get the “high.”

Are you addicted?

Want to see how much of a hold your cell phone has on you?

Here are some signs you might be addicted to cell phone use:

  • As with many addictions, your phone is the first thing you reach for when you get up in the morning/the last thing you reach for at night before bed.
  • You experience actual feelings of withdrawal (cravings, urges to seek use of the phone) when you’re away from it.
  • You use the phone to cope when you are bored, angry, or upset; you pick up the phone to deal with or get away from these feelings.
  • You experience signs of intolerance; you need to use the phone more and more to gain enough satisfaction from it.
  • You have an inability to stop using the phone; you can’t connect to the moment because you have to be using your phone to capture it or post it.
  • You use your phone for things you could do without it—like checking the time.
  • You find yourself making a conscious effort to put the phone down for certain activities.
  • You use your phone excessively while driving even if you know you shouldn’t because you can’t leave it alone.

These devices are impacting every aspect of our lives and are becoming an increasing problem in staying connected at work.

The work effect.

A study by University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business found:

  • 86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings.
  • 84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings.
  • 75% think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings.
  • 66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings.
  • At least 22% think it’s inappropriate to use phones during any meetings.

Here’s the problem:

Research cited by relationship expert, Harville Hendrix found there is an 87% distortion rate even when people are actively

engaged in a conversation –that’s because we all have an internal dialogue going on throughout the day making receiving accurate external information difficult.

In other words, even when we are really paying attention only 13% of the other person’s message accurately gets through all our filters.

Add a cell phone and other distracting devices to the mix and the distortion rate climbs to near 100%!

When you are on your cell phone and another human being is trying to connect with you, that connection is really not possible.

What can be done?

Here are some ideas:

#1- When you’re talking to another human being, turn your phone off and put it away.

Learn to look the other person in the eye.

Learn to engage in face-to-face meaningful dialogues.

#2- Don’t allow cellphones in meetings–period.

That means the phone is not allowed in the room, not in your pocket, not in your purse–even if it’s turned off.

This involves making a decision as a culture to value true, authentic connection.

You may get some serious blowback. (Remember these devices are addictive.)

“Well I’m expecting an important call,” you might add.


Do you think people never had “important calls” before the advent of cell phones?

#3- Lead from the top.

The biggest culprit in your organization may be the leaders.

They call meetings yet are continually gazing at their phone.

They may even get up in a meeting to walk out of the room to take a call leaving everyone

else to sit in a state of suspended animation until they return.

There are three problems with this behavior:

1.    It sends the message that this behavior is acceptable and even supported.

2.    It says to the people around you, “What you have to say is so unimportant I’d

rather focus on someone who is not even in the room.”

3.    And most important, it’s rude!

As Rachel Druckenmiller, Director of Wellbeing at SIG (and my very wise daughter)

so astutely noted, “We are more digitally connected yet more intimately disconnected than ever before.”



It’s time to reverse that trend.

Learning to outsmart your smart phone could be the first step.


If you are interested in learning more about bringing training to your organization

to show people how to outsmart their smartphones and reclaim connection, email me at



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Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488