Putting your phone away

I was reading an article about the Melbourne rugby team, the Melbourne Storm recently, which really sparked an interest in me, and it intrigued me. One of the things they talked about as a reason for the team’s success in winning the grand final was that during all their team meetings, they had to put their phones away. This had been initiated two years prior at a training camp. During a meal break the head coach noticed that on at least two tables of players, apart from two people talking to each other, no one was speaking to each other. People were all on their phones. They were either doing emails, checking social media, texting, but all their attention was actually on their phones. They were not conversing with each other.

It suddenly struck the coach that for a team, especially a sports team, to go out there and play, they needed to have a high level of trust with each other. In any team, you need to know how others think. You need to be able to understand who they are, who’s on your team, who’s got your back. There was something about team cohesion. Of course, apart from practising and in the rehearsals, there’s also that bond or closeness that comes from just conversing with each other. So they introduced a ban on phones at meal times and at all meetings. Players were not allowed to bring a phone. Even if you brought a phone and the phone rang during the meeting, there was a hefty fine.

The coach noted that this one shift in behaviour, had a significant impact on team cohesion. I found that to be really interesting, because my own experience of working with teams and working with people is that it’s extremely hard for individuals to pay attention for long periods of time. It’s that lack of attention that’s missing in today’s world.

What’s the relevance of this for you? Well as leaders, you have a lot on your plate. You need to be strategic. You need to be thinking of people, strategy, suppliers, market, economics, geographies. It’s a lot. How much focused time are you spending? How much time are you spending in terms of reflection and planning? How often do you put your phone away?

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