Recently I wanted to get some additional phone and TV services from my cable provider, so I called them up and after being passed along from one agent to another I finally asked to speak with a supervisor.
After hearing my frustrations and needs the supervisor apologized and promised to take care of all my needs quickly and effectively. There was one item that he couldn’t get for me in our call so he gave me his personal email address and again he pledged to get back to me ASAP with the resolution.
Several days passed and I didn’t hear from him so I emailed him a few times and eventually he responded, again apologizing for the delay and re-promising to get back to me soon. When I asked him “Why didn’t you get back to me?” he respond with “I didn’t have anything to report…”.
How many times have you been in a situation in which someone promised you to get back to you about something important and they didn’t or they took too much time to get back to you…. OR you left someone a message or email to call you back regarding a matter that was important to you, and they simply didn’t call or email or only did so after a very long time?
People don’t seem to get it. Responding to communications, getting back in a timely manner and overall being in communication is not merely about providing information. It is about establishing and strengthening your brand – especially your commitment, care, reliability, credibility and integrity. It is about building trust and partnership with others for whatever you are dealing with now, but also for future interactions and opportunities.
I frequently hear parents tell their kids “Please get off your device!” My wife and I do it too. I have a dear friend who is a very successful real estate broker. When we go out to dinner together he is constantly on his phone dealing with some deal or another. We constantly ask him to get off his phone and be present.
It has never been easier to communicate, yet the degree of lack of communication all around is astonishing.
In his book Fifth Generation Management, Charles M. Savage described this paradox in the following way:
“Although people are able to communicate across the hall or around the world at the speed of light with computers networks, human distrust slows real communication to a snail’s pace”
Why are people generally so bad at being in communication?
Here are some likely reasons:
- If you are on top of all your communications you may gain a reputation for being an effective, reliable and accountable leader. As a result, people may have higher expectations of you and even ask you to do more things for them.
- If you manage all your communications in a timely and impeccable manner you will create clarity around you about what you stand for and what you will and won’t do. This may make some people happy but disappoint others. It takes courage to be straight about who you are and what you can and can’t be counted on.
- If you manage your communications clearly and effectively more of your focus and time will be spent in a committed mode – on delivering what you promised to yourself and others. You may feel as if you have less commitment-free time or control over your own personal priorities and schedule.
- Being in communication often leads to deeper intimacy and trust with others. As rewarding as this may be, intimacy is not always comfortable.
If you want to hide or stay smaller, you will probably continue to not be effective at staying on top of your communications. However, if you want to be a powerful leader and someone who is known for keeping his or her word as well as getting things done, being in communication will be your natural mode. In fact, you won’t be able to sleep at night when you are not on top of your communications and relationships.
By the way, let me make it clear – I am not talking about being perfect at it. No one is perfect and perfection is not even a worthwhile benchmark (a topic for another blog…)
If you are that person here are a few principles to follow:
- In your communications always make clear promises, write them down and circle back on them with the people you committed to, or the people who are expecting your commitments to be delivered.
- Promise when you will get back to people and get back to them on time, even if you haven’t finished the task or you don’t have much to report.
- If you haven’t been in communication with someone that is important to you for a while, be in communication with them every so often, even just to say hello and see how they are doing. Always keep the channels of communication open and current with people who have been, are now and/or will be important for you personally and professionally.
- If you promised to get back to someone on a certain date or you know or suspect they may be expecting that, communicate with them even just to tell them that you haven’t forgotten and you will get back to them by a new specific time.
Be in communication and stay in communication. If you screw up, don’t beat yourself up, just be in communication about the fact that you haven’t been in communication, apologize and promise to do better in the future…. And then live up to that.