Norton: In our personal and professional lives, are we choosing the right battles? (column)

Michael Norton
Valley Voices

The scene is a local coffee shop. It’s midafternoon, and there are no customers in the shop. The three baristas are standing behind the counter looking at their telephones, texting or checking out social media.

The store is spotless, the inventory restocked, bathrooms are clean, display cases arranged perfectly. The manager returns from running to the bank and sees the employees on their phones, heads down. How does the manager respond?

The scene is the same, midafternoon and there are still no customers in the shop. The three baristas are still behind the counter preoccupied with their phones, but the store is in disarray, the floors need to be swept, the bathrooms are filthy and the display cases are more than half empty. The manager returns from the bank and sees what’s going on, now how does the manager respond?

We know that in the first scenario, the manager was probably very good at setting expectations and communicating policy around use of cellphones at work. And the staff knew the rules. There were probably consequences outlined for people who were on their phones when there was work that still needed to be done. The staff felt good about the fact that they could use their phones when the store was quiet and when all the work was 100 percent completed.

Conversely, in the second scenario, which seems to happen more and more and frustrate managers and owners with increasing frequency, we would probably find that there was a “my way or the highway” management style, a lack of clearly articulated goals and expectations and no enforced or reinforced consequences when it comes to keeping a clean shop filled with proper inventory and well-displayed products. There is probably high turnover here, as well, with employees and owners and managers becoming equally frustrated with one another.

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And this is not just happening in local coffee shops or retail environments; this is happening all over corporate America, as well. So, we have to ask ourselves, which battle is it that we are choosing to fight? Is it the fact that we see our staff or team members with their heads down on their cellphones that bothers us? Or should we be asking if their work is 100 percent complete and have they already done more than they were asked to do?

Again, if clear office policies and procedures are communicated and enforced, then these should be nonissues. If consequences for being distracted during work and not meeting deadlines are carried out, then these also become nonissues. And this is not only happening at the new employee or younger employee level. We are seeing more and more senior leaders and managers on their phones, as well. It’s the way we are communicating in our world. Many of the CEO’s and executives I personally interact with prefer communicating via text. It’s faster and more efficient.

The point is this: Let’s not get so hung up on the person looking at their phone. Instead, let’s focus on their productivity, their contributions to the team or project, their attitude and their overall performance.

The battle we choose to fight should be based on these criteria and not because someone has their head down. They could be texting a customer, researching a problem, watching a quick work-related video or keeping up with current events. And yes, they might be texting or on social media, too, and as long as its not distracting others or impacting their performance, it shouldn’t be the battle we have to fight.

So, how about you? Does watching someone on the phone just get you all twisted up? Have you clarified your own policies around the use of phones and technology at work or at home? Either way, and as always, I would love to hear your story at And when we can set proper expectations and choose the right battlefields, it really will be a better-than-good week.

Michael Norton is the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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