Business people want to be successful. To be successful we must be organized and many of us are continually looking for ways to upgrade our productivity. I have 9 blogs relating to productivity in my aggregator. I´m continually on the lookout for new ideas so surfing through my feeds the other night, I was happy to see that Kyle, at Lifehack, had linked to Penelope Trunk´s Yahoo! Finance where she wrote a column entitled Top Tips For Giving Yourself More Time.
"Cool!" I thought. I read the first one: "Delegate stuff you like." Hmmm. I´ll have to give that some thought. Perhaps she´ll have more tips I can consider.
Then I read the second tip. My open mind processed the text and immediately warning bells went off! "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!" Every cell in my body, every lesson I´ve learned about being effective in my career told me that she was as wrong about this as people were who believed the earth to be flat.
Here´s her second tip:
2. Don’t use voicemail.
It’s slow, you can’t file it, people leave inaudible phone numbers on it, and reception is bad everywhere you need it to be good. Train people to not expect you to answer your phone and they’ll stop calling.
Answer emails fast and answer voicemails after someone calls twice. It’s rude, but you can be extra nice in email to make up for it.
Let´s examine her tip one sentence at a time. The first sentence is more of an excuse than a statement of fact. Sure, sometimes people do leave inaudible phone numbers, and sometimes reception is bad. But I´m betting the vast majority of your voice mails have no reception problems. For those of you who don´t work in an external customer-facing role, you probably already know the callers´ phone numbers anyway. Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and write down the message. Then, you can file the message.
Her next sentence sent me ballistic:
Train people to not expect you to answer your phone and they´ll stop calling
Later, she admits this is rude, to me it tells me that anyone who does this cares more about themselves and less about the team they work on, or for. So, I´ve flown a thousand miles to meet with customers. Right before the close, I´m asked a question I can´t answer but I know you can. I pull out my cell and I call you. But you´re ignoring phone calls. Way to be a team player!
Ignore the phone and people will stop calling you. They´ll also stop asking you to serve on their teams, stop promoting you, and, at some point, ask you to stop coming to work there.
The third and fourth sentences are:
Answer emails fast and voice mails after someone calls twice. It´s rude but you can be extra nice in email to make up for it.
I only hope the person who called you twice isn´t an important customer with a crisis, or someone in your company´s senior management.
Let´s step back a minute and think about how others will perceive you:
"She never responds when you need a timely answer."
"Every e-mail I get from him starts off with an apology for not calling me back."
"She´s never there when I need her."
This tip also contradicts what she wrote in a December 10th post on her blog.
Check your email on a schedule.
"It´s not effective to read and answer every email as it arrives. Just because someone can contact you immediately does not mean that you have to respond to them immediately,"
Either you respond quickly by e-mail or you don´t. And if you respond quickly by e-mail then you´re interrupting the project or task you´re working on. I agree with this last tip. I try to check my e-mail at the end of tasks, not as each arrives. Reacting to each e-mail as it arrives can keep you in a reactive mode all day long.
I answer the phone when it rings. If I´m busy on an important task, and I can’t provide the information then, I´ll tell the caller: "I´m on deadline; how soon do you need this?" Usually, it can wait, but in my life I have discovered that sometimes I can help my organization meet its goals better by putting someone else´s needs above my own. This is especially true if you´re a manager. If the caller has left a non-urgent voice mail then I´ll weigh her needs against my needs and decide when I´ll return it. I´ll make a point to call back that day, the sooner the better. This enhances the relationships I have with people who depend on me, regardless of where they are in relation to me on the org chart.
If you want to accomplish your career and other goals, you will need to build and nurture relationships with people, not computers. This means being there when they need you, even though you may sometimes be inconvenienced.
As Mark Horstman, at Manager-Tools.com said, "Great Success equals Great Relationships With Great People." Be a great person. Answer your telephone.
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