Offer Your Undivided Attention

Everywhere you go and everywhere you look these days, you see people transfixed by their cell phones.

You go to pay for new running shoes and you have to wait for the young woman at the register to finish texting before she’ll ring you up. You’re sitting in a restaurant wondering why your order is taking so long and then you notice the servers on the floor are all gathered around the glow of a phone, laughing at whatever funny video has gone viral. At the airport you try to find out why your flight is delayed and you have to work to divert the attention of the ticket agent behind the counter because he’s glued to Instagram.

As a customer, I find this maddening. It tells me one thing, loud and clear: My business is not important to these people.

But every time it happens, it also serves as a great lesson to me about the kind of business I want to run and how I want those I interact with to feel. I am admittedly as reliant on my iPhone as the next person, and there’s a natural tendency as a CEO to think you have to be reachable at all times, but it’s the people right in front of me—whether they’re prospects, or clients, or team members—who matter most. If they’re making the time to show up for me, I need to show up for them with my undivided attention.

And there’s an added benefit to putting your phone down. In his wonderful book Deep Work, Cal Newport demonstrates that the cost of all the distraction these devices bring is a dramatic drop in performance. Master the art of focus, he says, and you’ll produce better results in less time.