Every Single Interaction Matters in Some Way
I’m not very handy. Anyone that knows me at all can attest to this. I am exceptionally good at breaking things around the house, but not very good at truly fixing them…aside from what I can manage with my friend the roll of duct tape. Add to this the fact that I am a freak about time use. I know that time is essentially life. It’s our finite currency on this planet. I learned many years ago that if something is not in my strength zone, then it’s not a good use of time to be doing it, so I hire people to do the things I don’t like to do (well, actually I don’t like details either so usually it’s Mel who hires people:-) so I can spend my time where I want to and where it’s smart to.
This week, we needed to hire a few different people to take care of separate things. The calls went out to the people who did these things and since phones are rarely answered, the messages were left to get back to us about some work we needed done.
One call (Person A) has still not been responded to a week later. The other call (Person B) was responded to within a few hours.
Guess Who Will Get the Business?
Neither one of these issues was urgent, so the work didn’t need to be done right away. That’s not the point. The point is the response time. Person A will never get our business. Ever. And, in addition, Person A will never get a referral from us. And, even worse, if someone ever asks me ( and I am someone who interacts with lots of folks in business and speaks to groups) about this person in regards to doing business I will only be able to say that my experience was not good.
Perhaps Person A is swamped and has plenty of business? A short-sighted approach would be that he/she didn’t need the business, but that would be a naïve way to look at it. All business is cyclical. There are seasons of plenty and seasons of struggle. Sooner or later the tide will turn and Person A will be hoping the phone rings, or will be doing marketing campaigns in order to make the phone ring, or might even be the one making a call to see if there is anything that needs doing. All Person A had to do was respond in some way. A message or text or email or smoke signal that said “thank you for calling, we are so swamped we cannot handle anything at the moment” or that they would be in touch soon, or something…anything at all.
Person B on the other hand is going to get the opportunity to show what he/she can do. They have already passed the response test. Now we will get a chance to see the quality of the work. What we have seen so far speaks to the quality of the character of the worker, at least perceptively. Sure, maybe they have little work and are super excited to get a call, maybe they are an upstart and are hungry, the reason doesn’t matter…because maybe they just do business in the right way too. The bottom line is that if they just do an okay job, I will be able to say to anyone who asks or has a need they handle, that they are super responsive and deliver on time and I was satisfied with the work. Boom, I’m a referral source.
Reputation, Credibility, and Perception
These three words are potent and essentially are all wrapped together. Your reputation is based on your credibility which is completely a perception based on who you are and how well you do what you do. It starts with the first touch you have with someone regardless of how memorable or subtle. First impressions matter (here is a video on 7 Tips for a First Impression that I did years ago), and maybe more so than ever given the seemingly increasing degree of entitlement, and the lessening degree of patience in the general public.
As an individual and as an organization, you want to be someone that others speak highly of. You cannot however, control what others think, say, or do…you can only control what you do. You will often hear me say that we have to pick the side we will err on in life. I say this because there is no such thing as perfect and this is especially true when it comes to interacting with others. I believe in erring on the side of over-communicating.
I learned this the hard way of course, as not communicating enough cost me in many ways early in my career and life. I have a relatively simple set of principles in this area that I’ll share with you as a close to this article. I would encourage you to establish your own set of guidelines for your business life and some boundaries and guidelines for your personal life for your level of responsiveness.
For Business: The three primary communication mediums we use are phone call, text/direct message, and email. In general, a phone call is most urgent, then a direct message, then an email. However, this is MY view, and I know that others may look at the text versus phone differently than me. Generally I will respond to all calls and texts within the business day, and generally as soon as I can. Emails will be within 24 hours at the latest, but usually in the business day. If it’s a super busy time, and I don’t have time to fully respond to everyone, then I will use what I call an acknowledger. This is a simple and very effective thing to do. Send a response or drop a message to the person and let them know you got their message and you are up to your eyeballs at the moment and will get back to them as soon as you can. Easy to do and makes the other person feel at ease.
In Leadership: One of the best things you can do in a leadership position is tell the people you are leading exactly how you like to be communicated with. This will save a lot of emotional energy for everyone. You want the people you serve to WANT to work hard for you, as opposed to doing only what they have to and doing only enough so that you continue to employ them. Being responsive is one of the ways you do this. Being consistently responsive says to people that you care and value them. This is fundamental to them caring about the work and you. At the same time, you are very busy and dealing with lots of people. You are the one who knows what’s best for all things considered. Tell people exactly how to use which mediums with you and what they can reasonably expect from you from a timeliness perspective and you will make this a positive.
Personal Tips: You have to set some boundaries in today’s world of connectedness or you will have very little peace. This is so important…someone else’s urgency is not yours unless you make it so. Again, I can’t tell you how you should operate, but I will share what I do. If you call me and don’t leave a message, I probably won’t call you back. Leave me a message. If you text me, it doesn’t mean I have to text you back in one minute. If you include me in a group text I am not obligated to engage. When I am meeting with someone by zoom or in person, I will not look at my phone if it rings or buzzes unless I have made it clear ahead of time with the person I am with, that I am expecting something. If you Leave a message, I will call you back as soon as I can, unless you have made it clear that it’s okay to get back to you whenever. If you send me a text to ask when we can talk, I’ll reply as soon as I can with an answer. I put the phone away for hours at a time in general at some point everyday/night…and you should consider this too. If I say I will call you at a certain time, I will. If I say I will message you later, I will.
In general, be responsive to people in a way that is professional in business and in a manner that blends your need for peace and balance with your demonstration that they matter when it comes to personal stuff.
Below is a short excerpt on Ordering your relationships that may give you something to consider. This is not specifically on topic.
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