Stay connected to each other, not the phone

December 18, 2017 | (16) Comments

Our Radiologist-in-Chief Dr. George Bisset told me something recently that got me thinking. A few weeks ago, Dr. Bisset requested a product demonstration from a vendor. The vendor representative offered to provide the demo over Webex, but Dr. Bisset insisted on a face-to-face presentation. He felt the meeting and the product’s potential impact was important enough that it should be held in person so his team could get a real sense of the product’s use and value.

The representative agreed, and Dr. Bisset scheduled a meeting for the vendor to meet with 15 key stakeholders. Within minutes of starting the meeting, more than half of the attendees were on their phones. And they remained on their phones for most of the presentation. Aside from being an embarrassing display for the organization, the lack of attention to the presenter conveyed that his presence was neither warranted nor appreciated or that some were too busy to give the presenter the attention he deserved.

How many times have you been on the receiving end of this scenario? Or, let’s be honest, are you often the person holding the phone? This is not who we are as an organization, and this is not how we want to represent ourselves or be perceived by others. Our lack of attention shows a lack of consideration for the people we are around. As individuals, spouses, parents and friends, it is important for us, personally, to be engaged in the moments with the people who are important to us. This is important professionally as well, and it speaks to our culture at Texas Children’s.

As Dr. Bisset and I were discussing how the attention to mobile phones has become almost obsessive, he shared this video with me in which the presenter speaks to how this is impacting us – and worse, our children and grandchildren – and the dramatic differences he sees when mobile phones are removed from use in a meeting or other environments.

I shared the video with our leadership team, and received some very interesting feedback. One remark that really struck a chord with the team was when our CFO Weldon Gage quoted Ronald Heifetz, Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, “Attention is the currency of leadership.” What a powerful thought. Great leaders optimize how they spend their attention. They are skilled at getting others to focus their attention on the right things at the right times.

So I’m challenging you, whether it is with your families or colleagues, to examine how you can make some meaningful changes. Watch the video, and let’s make a commitment to change our habits. Let’s make the effort to really be present in our conversations, activities and meetings. Although we at Texas Children’s are getting better every day, this is an opportunity for us to be a more respectful, fully engaged culture, and that’s worth putting the phone down.

Click here to watch the video mentioned above.

16 Responses to “Stay connected to each other, not the phone”

  1. Tyler Giess

    I am excited to see some attention on this topic. Many times I feel bad for patients and families as I observe TCH employees and providers buzzing past them in the hallways with their attention turned to a cell phone, while the family is just trying to figure out where they need to go. I have been guilty of this myself on occasion, but trying to improve. I think this is a great reminder that nothing beats the personal touch, and that helping PEOPLE is why we are all here.

  2. Sushant Jain

    Thank you, Mr. Wallace for addressing this! Simon Sinek has such powerful messages and I’m glad you shared his message – my favorite is where he references setting rules for meetings where no cell phones are allowed (different video). I am sure 99% of the attendees are addressing important e-mails during meetings, but the perception states otherwise, and I’m sure that’s what our patients perceive while they’re being passed in our hallways by staff on their phones. We’re all unintentionally guilty of this, but when we’re “on stage” (i.e. in public areas where patients and families can see us), we must try to take that opportunity to make a contact with the patients and families instead of our phones. Thank you again for addressing this important topic.

  3. Michelle Lawson

    This video was a powerful statement about the impact that cell phones are having on our environment, both at work and at home. This is a wonderful time to be thoughtful about the message of how our attention to others is perceived, and a great time to make a New Year’s resolution to be more present for those around us. Count me in!

  4. Frances Kelly

    Thank you so much Mr. Wallace for sharing this very important message. Like other responders, I know I’ve been guilty of ‘sneaking a peak’ at my phone during a meeting or in the hallway when I’ve thought no one was around. Yet, like you and others, I’ve observed that many, many team members stare into their cell phones or tablets while walking in the halls as well as during meetings. Seeing this makes me feel like the meeting isn’t really that important, although people likely don’t intend to project that image. More than that, it feels and looks disrespectful to other people and to the leaders of various meetings. I am so excited that we are raising the bar toward greater engagement, presence, and respect. Thank you!

  5. Akudo Anyanwu

    The importance of being present in the moment cannot be emphasized enough. I have had several encounters where lack of attention to the moment, due to focusing on the cell phone, has led to important moments, connections, and experiences being missed – a few of which have been my fault.

    Unfortunately, given the age that we currently live in and the role that technology plays in both business and social live, the cell phone has come to stay. The next step is to achieve a balance where the benefits of cell phones are maximized, while eliminating or, at the very least, minimizing the downside. Conscious effort is key in achieving this balance.

  6. Virginia Garcia

    A previous employer (in healthcare) established an expectation of all staff (from worker bees to executives) which has stayed with me 15+ years. When in the presence of people…BE PRESENT! Regardless of job title, role or etc., do NOT answer your desk phone, email, IM’s or mobile device unless it is an emergency. Unbelievably, they will call back, leave you a voicemail or send you another text. Time is a precious commodity so when you receive it, be respectful and embrace the gift of opportunity. Sure, I am guilty of the occasional faux pas but do try to keep myself in check and appreciate the friendly reminder.

  7. Thank you for addressing this matter Mr. Wallace. Recently I went with my mother to a doctor’s appointment. During our visit the physician looked at his phone several time. After noticing I was not pleased with this, he finally put it down and told me it was the hospital texting him. I find this is a useful tool but not when you’re with a patient. I did not feel my mother received his undivided attention that she deserved and was paying for until I silently demanded it. I’m writing the President of that hospital to voice my opinion and offer suggestions..

    In the office, this happens all the time with both the cell phone, computers, and sticking your head into someone’s meeting to ask a quick question. We need to be more aware of how it is perceived by others and how we want to be treated. He is right when he say that the person doesn’t feel important and that can diminish a persons confidence and willingness to bring important information to us. I will stop there but would like to thank you again for sharing this with all of us so we can do better.

  8. Katie Kalenda-Daggett

    Yes! When we are focused, present, and engaged we are #OneAmazingTeam. When we put away our phones – *especially* in proximity to patients and families – our body language communicates that we are available, that we are approachable, that we are in that space on purpose, ready to assist them. Our patient-families are the first to notice, and say it best, “The doctors and support staff were all very present and courteous. I give them 5 stars plus!” Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for this simple and powerful call to action!

  9. Valerie S. Mayer

    I got to the point that give my kids and husband (and to myself) 2 minutes to check what ever they/we want to check on the phone before turning it off for the meal time.
    It so hard Mr. Wallace, and I am so glad that you are bringing this issue. I can’t denied that makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable, because I also have an addictive relationship with my phone, but as a mother, as a wife, I know that the sparkle that the human eyes have when you looking at them is absolutely crucial to feel the connection. To be heard means to stop, pause, listen, and look at the eyes, offer an smile, pay attention.
    Thank you so much for this peep talk!
    Valerie S. Mayer

  10. Opera Wagner-Ross

    Gosh Mark, you are so on point with this message. I’m guilty of it and I see it all the time. I will commit to being more present from today forward. I appreciate the call out.

    Time to do better!

    Merry Christmas

  11. Michael Simko

    Thank you Mr. Wallace and colleagues for this important message. The fundamental question that this boils down to is “do you own your phone or does your phone own you?” If you own your phone, then using it and/or putting it away is a matter of choice and responsibility – so yes be present to others in ways that are meaningful to them. One of my wisest teachers once told me, “If you are sitting at the table with your phone and a friend comes to sit with you, put the phone away and be present to the friend because…the phone will be here tomorrow but maybe the friend won’t. Don’t miss that.”

  12. Vickie Broussard

    Well this was like a breath of fresh air! I am hoping those with “tech necks” will look up for a moment and feel the breeze.
    I conduct Department Orientation for my department and on many occasions I have had to ask the new hire to put the phone away (because they are looking at it constantly).
    I first ask if they are expecting an important call or if they need to step away for a moment, when the reply is “no”, I then ask them to put the phone away. I sometimes get a look like I have asked for their first born!
    I will be putting in a special slide into my PowerPoint point presentation to address the issue and using some of the wonderful comments about “being present”. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  13. T. Racheal Proctor-Ezimako

    “The way to eat an elephant, is by eating it one chomp at a time”, for we can never swallow it whole”. Mr. Wallace, 2017 has indeed been a learning experience for every “Essential Employee”, here. We all have to do our part! I appreciate you pointing out our good and our “needs improvement”, areas. You have been very vocal in expressing/bringing very valid, much needed issues to the forefront of all staff. From smoking, to caring and sharing and now…our cell phones. We truly only get to make a first impression. I feel horrible for the Vendor; not to mention our families, that are desperate for our attention. A lot of us are guilty as charged. As one stated earlier in the post- some is business but there is a lot of personal. We can do better. With my own health and consumer needs; I demand full attention. Life is 40% automated and 60% human driven. We all can stand to make a difference with the human experience…as our Families and Guest are our biggest assets. We owe it to them as they are what’s keeping us afloat. Life is truly about choices and they can take their business elsewhere. Going back to the basics is step 1#.

    Thanks, Mr. Wallace…the conversation was much needed.
    I too will do my part!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *