A Radical Proposition: Phone-Free Conference Rooms


Have you ever heard of phone stacking? When a group of people are out together (say, for dinner at a restaurant), they put their cell phones facedown in a stack and do their best to ignore the buzzes and rings and other notifications. At the end of the meal, they all pay their bills as usual—but if someone grabs his or her phone before that point, that person has to pick up the whole tab.

When this “game” was created a few years ago, it made waves because it hit a nerve: growing numbers of people were fed up with the intrusion of mobile devices into face-to-face social gatherings. But restaurants aren’t the only places where phone stacking could come in handy. Conference rooms, too, could benefit from phone-free interactions.

When was the last time you and your colleagues chatted with each other while waiting for a meeting to start? As a society we have become so addicted to our phones that most people usually spend that waiting time checking their e-mail, text messages, Facebook feeds, Snapchat streams, and myriad other social media and communication forums. And once the meeting actually starts, many people can’t ignore the siren call of the notification chime and check their devices whenever they can.

Marketing consultant and motivational speaker Simon Sinek makes this bold proposition: “There should be no cellphones in conference rooms. None. Zero.” Because the instant gratification of responding to a phone notification is difficult (if not impossible) for most people to resist, he says, let’s just eliminate the temptation—at least, for the duration of the meeting.

But with no group dinner bill on the line, phone stacking might not work so well in the conference room. So instead, just keep phones out of the conference room entirely. Ask meeting attendees to drop their phones into a bin on their way into the room, then stow the bin somewhere else (perhaps behind a locked door, to stop people from checking “just one quick thing”) until the meeting is over.

There’s a time and a place for everything. But a gathering at which attendees are expected to interact with each other or listen to a speaker or do something else that requires their full attention is not the time and place to look at cell phones. Many people have accepted the pervasiveness of cell phones as the new reality. But it doesn’t have to be this way: we can do a better job of living in the moment and building real face-to-face relationships. In fact, we need to do a better job at these things if we want to be successful in our professional lives (and in our personal lives, too).

Your Competitors Are Stealing from You


In December 2017 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the national unemployment rate was an astonishing 4.1%. This low rate means that many companies have unfilled openings because there simply aren’t enough people looking for jobs. More likely, though, they’re struggling to fill open positions because the type of people those companies want or need to hire are already employed by their competitors.

In the current employment market, whether your competitors sell the same products or services that you provide is irrelevant. The important thing is that they're competing with you for talent. If they're hiring the people you need, that action has the same negative financial impact on your business as cutting into your customer base.

After all, you need good people to make your company run. If you can’t continue to produce and distribute your products or services because you don't have enough employees, your business is in danger of failing. In this situation, what can you do?

There's actually only one viable option: to make your company more attractive than those that are competing for your talent. Essentially, you need to steal your competitors' talent. (That sounds a bit ruthless, but it's not called a "war for talent" for nothing!)

The key is to offer more attractive options. Start by looking at issues such as pay, working environment, perks, and schedule flexibility—all areas that can make or break a candidate's interest in an organization. Find answers to the following questions: Why did our top performers accept the job with us? Why do those employees choose to stay with us? What advantages (real or perceived) do our top talent competitors have over us? Let that information guide you in crafting your own incentives.

Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that has a quick fix but one that requires commitment to a long-term strategy. If you want to win the talent war, 2018 needs to be the year you step up your hiring game.


Deep Truths About Culture


(This is a guest post by Richard Fagerlin of Peak Solutions.)

The following four quotes are deep truths about culture. A proper understanding of each statement will help drive you, your team, and your organization to success. They also are – very tweetable.

Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.- RICHARD FAGERLIN

Looking at this quote, the one word that stands out for most leaders is RESULTS. However, if you want to impact your team or organization you must change focus from results to DESIGN. Both the good and the bad results you get are not on accident. You are perfectly designed to get the results you are getting.

If you want to change your culture, change the things that make it up. Your organization is designed to do exactly what it does.

GOOD: Evaluate your good results and determine how you got there. What of this design should you fight to keep? What do you need to replicate? What do you need to protect?

NOT SO GOOD: Evaluate the not so good results and determine how you are designed to get these results. What of the design needs changed or eliminated? What needs improved? Determine if you truly have a design failure or an execution failure. Don’t be too quick to change design. Evaluate first, make minor changes or tweaks and be committed to determining which design tweak makes a result change.

Disciplined people, in disciplined thought, taking disciplined action, create greatness.- JIM COLLINS

Good things rarely happen by accident. Those who are willing to take a purposeful, thoughtful and disciplined approach to life will achieve greatness. Focus on your highest point of contribution.

You might ask yourself, “If everything else stayed the same, what one change or area of focus would have the greatest impact right now?” Identify this one thing and commit to the disciplined pursuit of making it happen.

Discipline isn’t just about doing hard things or doing things the hard way. Discipline is about clarity, focus and intentionality. Discipline may come in the form of taking action and it may come in the form of being patient.

Culture is the sum of what you permit and what you promote. #CULTURE- RICHARD FAGERLIN

I don’t know who said this but it is true. Culture isn’t created by leaders or policies or visions or mission statements or general good will. Culture is a result of what leaders (and their teams) do.

What we do can be summed up in the things we permit (allow, support, create) and what we promote (encourage, expect, design). If you are not happy with the result of your current culture, you must examine what you are permitting and promoting and make changes to your if/then formula.

Culture isn’t something that you change, it is a result of everything that you do and it proves that what you put in is what you get out. If you want something different as an output you are going to have to change your inputs.

Don’t be upset with the results you are not getting from the work you are not doing.- RICHARD FAGERLIN

Culture is the beating heart and living soul of your team or your organization. You must nurture it and be intentional with it. If you haven’t defined what good looks like in terms of your ideal culture, how will you know if you are doing the right things to get there? Be a student of your team and of your organization. Determine the formal and informal things that account for your success and are responsible for your poor results. If you aren’t the one to focus on your culture then who will? If not now, then when?


Interested in learning more about enhancing the culture within your organization? Join us on Tuesday, January 9th at 1:00 pm EST/10:00 am PST for a live 1-hour webinar with Richard Fagerlin called Building a Culture of Trust - the Cornerstone of Winning Teams! Click here to register for this exclusive event.

This webinar is valid for 1 PDC toward SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification.

This webinar has also been submitted to HRCI for credit and is pending approval.

Virtual Reality’s Place in Your Workplace


When Nintendo released the Virtual Boy gaming console in 1995, that early virtual reality (VR) device flopped both commercially and critically. In the past couple of years, though, several affordable—and successful—VR devices (such as Oculus Rift, Google’s Daydream, Samsung’s Gear VR, and the VR One from optics giant Zeiss) have hit the consumer market. Right now, the most popular VR applications are games and movies. But just imagine how VR could revolutionize recruitment, which faces the never-ending challenge of finding candidates with the right skill sets in a shrinking applicant pool.

In this digital age, consumers do their product research online before making purchases in stores. Similarly, applicants research your company before walking into your office for an interview. Take that approach one step further: what if applicants could take a virtual tour of your company? Or use VR to “try out” for a day the jobs they’re applying for? Educated consumers make confident decisions. Giving applicants a chance to explore their potential jobs and work environments could translate into higher interview-to-hire ratios and improved employee retention.

Now think about the possibilities for using VR to streamline the recruitment and onboarding processes. Video interviews are now commonplace. But with glitchy technology and camera angles that often force participants to look at screens instead of at each other, the current “remote interview” experience still leaves much to be desired. Because the point of virtual reality is to deliver as immersive an experience as possible, the use of VR is used in remote interviews can help participants have “face to face” conversations and feel as though they’re actually in the same room together.

VR can also be a useful assessment tool. Written tests have been standard for screening candidates for decades, but they can’t measure everything. With VR-based assessments, companies can test applicants’ skills in areas such as customer service, driving, and project or team management. Instead of answering questions about how they would handle workplace challenges, candidates can—through a VR scenario—demonstrate how they would actually respond to them.

Developers are just starting to explore the many possibilities of VR. Once they look beyond entertainment and turn their full attention to recruitment- and hiring-oriented applications, that shift will very likely turn the business world on its head!

Less Conflict, More Productivity!

(This is a guest post by our friend, Cynthia Clay of NetSpeed Learning Solutions.)


Is there more or less conflict when teams work virtually? You might think that once you work from home (or a remote office), there are fewer people to get on your nerves and therefore your work environment will be more peaceful and conflict-free. The reality is that conflict may be hidden for a time but it is still present. And in some cases, conflict may occur more easily because you can't see your coworkers and observe their activities.

Differences in style, personality, and work methods are present even when we work across geographic boundaries. A couple of years ago, when working with a virtual team, we had a virtual meeting to review a course we had designed. Two people on the client's team had spent many hours with an instructional designer working through a solid design process. At the review meeting by phone, a new person commandeered the discussion and proceeded to take the design apart, pointing out why she thought various elements were not important or not to her liking. She dominated the conversation which was frustrating to everyone involved. We received text messages in the background from the other members of the team apologizing for what was happening. The new team member didn't seem to understand her role, the process, or why she was asked to the meeting. Without being able to see our faces, because no one was on camera, she just went on a tear, literally tearing apart the course. When she finally ran out of steam, her coworkers thanked her for her input and the call ended.

If you examine the underlying causes of conflict in this example, four stand out: failure to clarify roles and responsibilities; lack of perspective or project history; personality or style; and finally, the inability to see each other over web cameras to read facial expressions and body language. This fourth cause is unique to working in a virtual environment. What organizations are beginning to recognize is that a project team's use of web cameras makes it possible to read non-verbal messages. That open channel of visual communication has the potential to minimize ambiguity, clarify communication, and reduce conflict. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to manage virtual teams, join us at our next one-hour, complimentary webinar, Virtual Leadership: Calibrate, Collaborate, and Celebrate, Thursday, November 16th at 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT. Click here to register.


Cynthia Clay is the President/CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions (based in Seattle Washington) and the author of Great Webinars: How to Create Interactive Learning that is Captivating, Informative, and Fun! as well as Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships. Her company helps people increase their effectiveness in virtual environments.

This program has been submitted to HRCI to be pre-approved for 1 HR (General)  HRCI recertification credit hour.