The Lady in my Smart Phone has a Thing for Me…

Are Smart Phones Better Leaders Than Some Bosses?

Human evolution can’t keep pace with technological evolution. Humans appeared in the Stone Age 2.5 million years ago, and we still look and act pretty much the same. Contrast that to the telephone that, in less than 15o years, has gone from a fixed, hard-wired device requiring 1.5 billion miles of cable in the US alone to wireless, anywhere/anytime capabilities. Has the time come when technology can provide better leadership than humans?


Smart Phone: While jogging in Virginia recently, I discovered that the exercise program I use on my smart phone, MapMyRun, talks. When I hit the START button, a lady spoke from inside my phone. At first, I thought I must be hearing things. But then I heard it again. And again. In fact, she kept talking during my entire jog.

Most Bosses: Human bosses tend to provide plenty of communication at the onset of a project or launch. Then they disappear completely, or reemerge only because something has gone terribly wrong.


Smart Phone: Whether she’s saying, “You have run one mile” or “You have been running for one hour,” her voice rings with a familiar, unbeat tone–a little throaty, yet educated, her General American Dialect crisp and somehow delicate, resonating with a slightly raspy vibrato. Her tone inspires me, and I find myself hanging on to her every word. It’s like…she really knows me, you know?

Most Bosses: Humans get snippy and short at times, resulting in the use a negative, frustrated voice tone, especially when they’re SMoTHered (Sad, Mad, Tired, or Hungry). Being SMoTHered can lead to a boss sending out snippy emails that read, “Let’s pretend that we are all decent, grateful human beings on this team, and, as such, we don’t need to hit REPLY TO ALL to say ‘THANKS!’ when all the other person has done is provide somewhat obvious or even downright meaningless information to begin with….” Ah, sarcasm with a touch of condescension, the combination of which turns someone who’s merely unlikeable into someone completely unbearable. [And yes, the email is a real example]


Smart Phone: The lady in my phone makes me want to crank out my best performance.

Have a good run!

That’s friendly and motivating, isn’t it? It’s like a saying, Have a good day!

Most Bosses: Humans bosses sometimes think, “I don’t need to coddle or encourage you. That’s what the paycheck is for!” Many bosses lay out goals at the beginning of a period, and then don’t provide feedback until the next performance cycle…which can be a whole year! It’s hard to stay motivated for a year with little communication, little performance feedback, and little encouragement.


Smart Phone: The lady in my phone pays attention to my performance and keeps me focused.

You have run one mile. You’re doing great! Don’t stop now!

You can’t tell me she talks like that to everyone! I mean, she cares enough to watch me…and then she let’s me know she’s watching. The Hawthorne Effect takes over, and I start running harder, because I know she’s paying attention to my every move…but not in a creepy or stalkeresque way.

Most Bosses: The human mind multitasks, which of course means “doing (or thinking about doing) several things at the same time, most of them poorly.” So don’t take it personally when your boss walks by you in the hallway and gives you nothing more than a pinch-lipped smile that never reaches his eyes. Why? He can’t help it. He’s human. His mind is elsewhere. And besides, he didn’t even see you.

Measurement-Based Feedback

Smart Phone: The lady in my phone gives me performance feedback based on measurable, objective data.

You have run 2 miles! Your best time on this run is 27 minutes and 42 seconds per mile! That pace is your third fastest ever!

She doesn’t offer empty, meaningless praise or compliments. She tells me how I’m performing based on measurable performance and based on what I am actually doing.

Most Bosses: Humans bosses often offer subjective feedback like “Looks pretty good” or “I’m sure it’s fine.” Feedback like that is meaningless. I mean, feedback is designed to help one improve performance. How can that feedback help anyone improve anything?

Ask Yourself

  1. If you manage people, are you a better leader than the lady in my phone?
  2. If you manage people, would your employees prefer you, or would they pick a communicative, warm, encouraging, attentive smart phone capable of providing them with meaningful, performance-based feedback?

Look at that list of 5 traits that “the lady in my phone” does really well. If the smart phone bests you in those 5 areas, make a plan for improvement. Otherwise, when technology can replace you, it will.



0 Comments Add yours

  1. David R. Troutman says:

    You’ve got a much smarter phone than I do. I’ve got Siri on my iPhone 4S and she’s dumber than dirt. In the year I’ve been dealing with Siri she’s gotten very few things right. If I wasn’t a better manager than she is whatever she is, I’d have been fired years ago.

    1. scottcarbonara says:

      Ha! Point taken. Some smart phones are better managers than others! I’ve since learned that the lady in my phone is so good that she moonlights doing regular GPS gigs when I drive anywhere.

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