In most situations, if I need something from you, I would prefer you to be responsive and take a week to deliver, rather than be reactive and take a day. That’s right, I would prefer that you took longer, but manage my expectations appropriately.
You see, one of the most important elements in our working relationship is trust. And I find it harder to trust reactive people. Reactive people jump on urgent (or seemingly urgent) issues straight away most of the time, but the nature of their reactive workstyle means that sometimes they drop the ball, and let things slip through the cracks.
They might react to emails the minute they come in but are also likely to forget about emails that they did not react to immediately. Others then need to chase them up, and suddenly they are in reactive mode again because now your request is urgent. In fact, I reckon this is why some people have a reactive approach to email. They worry that if they don’t deal with it straight away, they will forget. Lack of a good organising process should not be a reason to work reactively in my book (literally in my book, Urgent! which you can find in all good bookstores now).
Responsive people do not react to requests the minute they come in. They respond in a timely way and manage expectations. If they cannot deal with the request immediately, they acknowledge they have it in hand, and set an expectation about when they might be able to get back with a solution. This may mean you do not get an instant turnaround on your request, but you probably did not need that anyway. It does mean that you have peace of mind that the request is being dealt with by a trustworthy person.
In my early twenties I was always impressed by a few of the barmen in my local pub in Dublin. On a Friday or Saturday night the pub would be heaving with people, and the ten-metre-long bar could be six deep with merry punters trying to order drinks. An average barperson would keep their head down and just try to serve the person right in front of them. They would avoid eye contact at all costs. When this happened, people got a little feral and tried desperately to get to the front of the crowd to get noticed.
But there were a few barmen who really knew their stuff. Rather than look down to avoid eye contact, they looked up and caught the eye of the people in the queue. And with a simple nod, you knew you were on their radar. They did not serve you next, but you knew they would get to you in a fair and timely way. I reckon I would happily wait ten minutes after getting the nod without becoming frustrated.
This was a great example of professional people working under pressure but managing expectations really well. In our corporate workplaces, we can take a lesson from this. Our brand is on show all the time, and people will want to work with you if they can trust you. They will be more forgiving and open to negotiation if you are trustworthy.
So, if I ever need something from you, look up, give me a quick nod, and I will happily give you extra time to deliver what I need.
Smart Teams – Urgency Culture Online Session
If you and your team feel you are working in a reactive environment, and would like to explore some practical strategies that can help you to moderate the urgency and create a more proactive culture, let’s have a chat about how our
Smart Teams Urgency Culture session can help.
We run this 2-hour session online for groups of up to 25 participants as a part of our Smart Teams series. The session comes with an Urgency Playbook, and 10 team agreements that will start to shift your team culture from reactive to proactive.
Reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss how this practical online session could help your team in these challenging times.