Before vacation, her children sat down with her and had a serious conversation.
“Mom - are you bring the third child with us on vacation?”, asked the oldest.
“What third child?,” she replied. “I only have two children.”
“No, you don’t,” answered the youngest.
“The third child is your cell phone, Mom,” said the oldest. “You take it every where and you are constantly answering phone messages and e-mail on it. You take care of that phone more than you take care of us some days.”
“So,” asked the youngest, “are you bring the third child on vacation this year?”
There are days, note James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book, A Leader’s Legacy. Jossey-Bass, 2006, when “we operate on automatic pilot, not really noticing what’s going on around us, believing that we know everything we need to know, viewing the world through established categories, and operating from a single point of view. Many leaders are not really “present” at all. The body may be in the room, but the mind has been turned off.”
We all know this place. We are in the meeting but our mind is some place else. We are not attuned to those around us, and we are not attuned to ourself. We are personally and socially unaware.
Years ago, on a flight out of Phoenix, I listened to a woman talk about her son’s girl friend. She told me that this young woman made her son want to be a better man. One key to being more present is to have allies and confidents in our life who can share with us at a deep level. With these people, we are open and willing to receive feedback if necessary. Through thoughtful dialogue with these people, important insights are gleaned. Our challenge as leaders is to surround ourselves with friends and family who make us want to be a better person.
This week, I encourage you to cultivate these deep relationships. The cell phone does not need to be the center of the universe.