Growing up, when the phone rang at our house, my brothers, my sister and I would battle for the privilege of getting there first.

Boy, have things changed.

The other night (around elections, so the phone was ringing non-stop with Republican and Democratic robo-dialers) my husband and I became downright apoplectic.normal night we check caller ID before deciding whether to answer.  We never pick up if we’re watching “House,” or NFL football of any kind on any night.  Well, okay, yes if it’s our daughter.  Maybe if it’s my mother.

What’s happened?  The ring that used to make our hearts sing has become the bell tone we loathe.  It’s an epidemic. Our antipathy is unrelated to being introverts or extroverts.  We all feel this way.

Once upon a time talking on the phone was like oxygen.

What does this mean for leaders?    

Some obvious issues:

  • Employees come to believe that a good communication with a client is sending an email and waiting for a response;
  • They feel increasingly annoyed when the phone rings and are far less patient when they have to manage a complaint
  • They wait to get on the phone until an issue is out of control because of miscommunication that happened in cyberspace 
  • Mucho time is wasted doing stuff that would take 1 minute if everybody just got on the telephone and worked it out 

Okay those are obvious.  But there’s something else.  Something more - subtle.  We’re in danger of losing the art of conversation.  The muscle has atrophied.  We aren’t as good at starting conversations, listening or responding “impromptu.”

In our workshop on Executive Presence I often have the group do an exercise.

I did NOT say I want a raise this year.

I did not SAY I want a raise this year.

I did not say I WANT a raise this year.

I did not say I want a RAISE this year.

I did not say I want a raise THIS YEAR.

Try it.  That’s right. One change in emphasis transforms the meaning.  

So I’m not standing apart here – I am just asking the question – as we avoid the telephone – what will be the impact?  

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