What’s your response time?
Communication is essential to leadership. To communicate well is to influence others into making a difference. Most leaders understand the importance of communication, and they spend a great deal of time on what they want to say and how they want to say it. Unfortunately, many emerging leaders do not understand that WHEN they respond is as important as their message, and in some cases even more.
A leader must master responsiveness.
The story of NASA’s Apollo 13 mission is a highlight in history of how leadership emerges during times of trouble, and how great response time identifies leaders within an organization and in life. The story of Apollo 13 mission is full of heroes, but what I love most about it is how the men in mission control, not just the astronauts themselves, are proven to be heroes for responding timely. They emerge as leaders.
In a world dominated with the ability to communicate quickly with smart phones, laptops, and social media sites, it is sad that so few do. Calls are not returned promptly. Thank you cards are never sent. Emails fill inboxes. Text messages hang in limbo. Assignments miss their due date.
What is the consequence of not responding timely?
Much. You may not be leading a mission to safely return wayward astronauts from a mission gone wrong, but you really should respond to every message with a sincere level of diligence and importance.
Remember, you’re not replying to a message, you’re replying to a person.
How do you feel when you wait on hold, an email remains unanswered, a call unreturned? If you’re like me you begin to question whether it was received, question the person on the other end, become frustrated or worse.
When questions go unanswered people fill in the gaps. They often assume the worst. False information is spread, and negative impressions are formed. Am I not important enough to merit a reply? Is my question less important than others?
Some leaders mistakenly believe that to respond quickly (aka promptly) is a sign of weakness: they’re afraid it will show they don’t have more important activities, and that others will judge them inferior for too quick of a response. But what does a quick response mean to the person receiving it? It tells them, “Hey! I matter. I’m important.” We like people that recognize us, spend time with us, and reach out to us. We admire them. We become enchanted. We want to do business with them. We want to help them. A quick response is endearing. It fosters loyalty. It matters.
I’m hoping that the leaders that dig these communication moats around their castles don’t mistakingly believe they are protecting themselves or their business by delaying their response. They’re not. They are, in actuality, creating more problems, creating more work and damaging the positive image they work so hard to make.
The solution: Respond Timely.
But I don’t have time to respond to everyone. Wrong! You can’t afford not to.You will be surprised how little time it actually takes.
What does a leader need to make timely responses? Some courage, some time, a good attitude, and most importantly a plan. In a future post I will address some productivity secrets that I have gleaned from the greats, and some I probably mistakenly credit to myself. These will be helpful, but you have to convince yourself of the need to respond to the people that contact you.
Great leaders in all walks of life master the timely response. They don’t react. They don’t shoot from the hip. They measure, weigh, and time their response accordingly. Please consider your communication habits and see if timeliness is an area you may wish to give some greater attention.
Kelly Croy is a chalk artist and professional speaker. He has entertained and amazed audiences across the nation including corporations, schools, churches, conferences, and anywhere people come together to be entertained and inspired. Please consider booking Kelly for your next event.