It's Not About the Phones

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It's Not About the Phones

If I hear this question one more time… I won’t be surprised. “How do we get these people to get off their phones and get their work done?”

First point: it’s not about the phones. The phones are irrelevant. They simply represent yet another distraction, and, let’s be honest, a tool which most of us (irrespective of generation) have rendered pretty much indispensable.

Second point: Please don’t rely on the law to solve this problem for you. It has little potential to do so.

In a day and age when we ask people to be electronically available more or less 24/7, we can’t really ask them to put away their phones when we want them to, but take them out when we need them to.

Last week, before speaking to an audience of 900 farming professionals in Chicago, I heard some sage advice from a successful entrepreneur whose farm provides fuel, food, and fibers to a large portion of the US, regarding this very subject. Here’s what he told me:

“I tell our folks, ‘You have a job to do. Here’s what we need, what we expect. I’ll reward you generously for meeting and exceeding our production goals, and for doing it the right way. Falling short will cost you. Because it costs me.

‘If you can do this job while you’re texting your sweetheart, playing a game, facebooking or tweeting, or standing on your head for that matter, knock yourself out. But as good as you are, I don’t think you can.

‘One reason I pay you a salary, with production bonuses, rather than by the hour, is because I may need to text you, or call you sometime, when you’re not actually on the farm, working. I’ll try not to abuse that, and I always appreciate your responding quickly, when you can.

‘I also appreciate that you use the Internet, from your phone, to check on weather conditions, commodity prices, and to read up on the best ways to do things around the farm. I expect you use it to look at other things, too. Don’t look at anything you wouldn’t show your mother, and we’ll probably be ok.’”

This farmer told me that one day last year, a 20something farm hand was looking intently at his phone, when the farmer walked over to him. Without trying to change his screen, or hide what he was doing, the farmer saw that his worker was watching a YouTube video on how to make a minor repair to a piece of farm equipment. The guy fixed it himself, and saved the farmer a service call that would have amounted to more than $1000.

“I own a turnip truck,” the farmer told me, “but I didn’t fall off it yesterday. I just make the standards clear, pay them for getting the job done, and I let them know I trust them. A few people have proved unworthy of that trust. They don’t work for me anymore.”

I hope this bit of farm wisdom helps, regardless of the setting in which you harvest your crops.

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