Do you remember the days before answering machines, pagers, voice mail, email, and texting? No? Well I guess that demonstrates one of the massive cultural divides between baby boomers still in the work force and millennials who probably can’t imagine life without the tools of today’s technology.
Today, there remains a divide in the expectations we have for one another and between organizations for timely responses or what we can call “responsiveness” as a common topic of professionalism. As long as the business world continues to believe in subjects like ethics, professionalism, politeness, and diplomacy, responsiveness will differentiate one person and one organization from another.
Do any of the following experiences resonate with you?
- Phone calls not being returned
- Emails seemingly ignored
- Your phone is blowing up with texts
- You’re frustrated with your team members not responding to you in a timely manner
- You’re frustrated with the expectations others place on you when they ping you through phone, text, or email
All of these experiences are symptoms of a virus creeping inside your organizational culture. It’s a culture not aligned due to mismanagement of expectations. Alignment of expectations and values do not happen by accident. It is an intentional process of working toward cooperation and agreement.
Here’s the problem: advances in technology and innovation continue to disrupt the norm. What was possible and expected years or even months ago have changed and will continue to do so. It seems that if a message, regardless of its channel, lands in one of your virtual “in boxes” (this used to be a literal tray on one’s desk), the sender’s expectation of your response time will not match yours. To make matters worse, you may not feel a need to respond at all.
It’s time to align expectations with your core team, your vendors, and your customers. It may sound petty but it’s not. We all appreciate working in alignment with others. To develop healthy and professional relationships, follow the following process to align expectations for responsiveness:
- Identify what relational categories need to be aligned: core team, customers, vendors, etc. Decide what channels you will open (or close) to receive messages for each relational category: phone, text, web inquiry, various email sources (email, social media channels, etc.). Remember, when you open a channel of communication, you invite conversation.
- Collaborate a win-win expectation with each relationship category.
- Communicate generally agreed upon expectations (alignment) for each channel and relationship category. For example, a voice mail can relate these expectations while directing them to one or more relationship category. An auto-response for email inquiries can accomplish a similar goal.
- Consider establishing organizational norms for responsiveness. Record, evaluate, and adjust as needed. Make aligned expectations for responsiveness part of your corporate code of ethics or professional behavior.
Being accessible to others is still within your realm of control and is one element of how your character will be defined by others. Be accessible to the right people. Be responsible. Be professional.