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Monday, November 10, 2008

Slow Poke

I'm going to rant here just for a few words. Its been coming for a long time and I'm overdue so forgive me just this once.

I am fed up with unresponsive people.

I bet you know what I'm talking about. Those people who are supposed to return your calls but don't. Those people who receive your emails and may send you a reply a week from next Tuesday. Now, if they want something from you its urgent, maybe even a matter upon which rests the fate of the free world. Its a culture issue in some places; nobody gets back to anybody else. In other places, its an individual attitude: their time is more valuable than yours. They are more important than you.

If you call out this behavior you'll hear some interesting excuses: too overworked, don't have a laptop, don't have a blackberry, wasn't properly trained, technical problems so they didn't get your call (or email, or the post-it note you left on their desk, or the pink message slip from their colleague who took your call). I'm just waiting to hear, "My dog ate your Twitter."

Here's a reality check; slow response time has two root causes and only two. They are the result of poor work habits and/or poor leadership.

Work Habits
Most people who know me and have worked with me for very long know that I don't carry a blackberry, nor do I own a laptop. I use a Nokia flip phone similar to the one pictured to the right, except that mine is much older and Nokia doesn't carry a picture of it on their web site any longer. I use web mail from home and stay in hotels with business centers where I can use web access.

People also know that my "brand" is that, for all my many faults, I respond quickly. If you work in HR you know that part of your performance expectations are that you return calls and emails and give great customer service. And Gentle Reader, if you ever find that not to be the case you can contact me at ext. 1400 or and tell me all about it.

So if I can return all phone calls in the same day and zero-out my inbox each night, why can't staff members with laptops and blackberrys not get back to you sometime before the spring rains? It comes down to how bad they want to get back to you, how much of a priority that they place on communication, and how hard they want to work. Responsiveness is a choice and a work ethic and a measure of how much a person respects their colleagues. It has nothing to do with technology and everything to do character.

Poor responsiveness flourishes where its allowed to, and that's a leadership issue. A business unit leader who values collaboration and mutual respect will insist on responsiveness. If they don't, their boss needs to hear about it. If their boss doesn't get it or the situation doesn't improve, their boss needs to hear about it and on up the chain until you reach Mike Hyatt. Our CEO models responsiveness as well as anyone in the workforce.

Remember, when someone contacts you they are probably waiting on an answer. When you don't answer, you cause them to make repeated contacts, or go around you to get what they need. This is inefficient and just plain unnecessary when you could just as easily have answered the phone or returned an email. And remember that whenever a phone rings its usually a customer on the other end; either an internal customer who needs you as a colleague or a paying customer who needs assistance. As such, nobody is too important to answer the phone.

Ahhh....I feel better now.


Ron Edmondson said...

I agree. Honestly though, I think much of unresponsiveness is laziness and unorganization, which stems I'm sure from poor leadership as you mentioned. Either way it drives me crazy!

I tried to get this comment to your post here as quickly as I could.

Ron Edmondson

Bill Carrington said...

While I certainly agree with your comments, and have seen some of these people in our own organization, I truly believe it is a matter of motivation. People are ALWAYS motivated. They may be positively or negatively motivated, but they are motivated to take action. The action they take is dependant on their perceived pleasure or pain. If a response has a perceived pleasurable return then they respond quickly. If they perceive pain, they may well put it off as long as possible. Other actions have a higher place on the order of "things to do" because folks perceive a higher level of pleasure. It is somewhat like a diet and our ability to stick to it. We eat ice cream because of the immediate pleasure of it. The longer term pleasures of a diet are lower on our list of desires.

mrman said...

(1 Th 5:14 KJV) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

davidpleach said...

Now you've done gone from preachin' to meddlin'

Powerful1 said...

After reading your post I have decided to become more responsive to what is being read.