When do you need it — yesterday?

I’ve been noticing lately, that a lot of my clients seem to have high expectations around responsiveness. For example, when I get an email, a 24 hour response time is not good enough any more; the sender expects to hear back within a few hours. Of course that becomes increasingly difficult when you are dealing with a high volume of email every day.

Now maybe this happens to me because I’m in a big city, or maybe it’s because people with smart phones are replying to emails all the time, or maybe it’s because of the speedy response times of the hard-at-work millennials. Regardless of the cause, the ‘bar has been set’ and, as leaders, it is our job to figure out how to best manage expectations — of our clients and our work teams.

Now to start dealing with your ‘moving inbox’, unless you are in an all day intensive meeting without breaks, you should have an opportunity to scan your emails on your phone (or your watch!). This will give you an opportunity to respond immediately to high priority communications. Your response can be as simple as ‘Got it,’ or it can be ‘I’ll get this to you by this date and time’, or it can be the actual information that the sender needs.

For your next set of email responses, if you are fortunate enough to have this as an option, you should delegate. So you forward these less urgent types of emails to the appropriate people on your team, with a brief set of instructions.

Lastly, you’ll have a set of emails to delete or ignore, which generally means you hope to get back to these people as soon as you can but you are not sure when you will.

What did you just do? Well, you started managing expectations. Some people will be pleased because they expected quick responses. Others might be over-serviced because they didn’t expect a fast response but you didn’t want to risk it. Others will be calling you or resending an email because they didn’t hear back. Next time you will have to decide if that last set of people should get a faster response time in the future.

This process and your decisions are not always easy, but they’re a part of life and of business. You should think about communication priorities because you don’t want to inadvertently jeopardize relationships. And if you need some support in this, communications are our specialty. Feel free to reach out any time — unless you are giving yourself some well-deserved downtime over the long Memorial Day weekend.

All my best,

Aruna

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