Was helping some members of a large organization whose higher echelons call the shots pretty exclusively. One area manager remarked that other than some blanket directions, specific responses from the CEO were not a possibility, so his area had to assume, act, and hope they didn’t cross any boundaries. I heard several people echo the sentiment that this person was not accessible to them, and most of them only attempted access through his personal assistant. Since I have had multiple interactions with The Chief, I found this simultaneously interesting, astonishing, amusing, and sad. I made the comment that I send direct email to this person several times a month and get personal replies, usually within a day. They were stunned to find anyone would get such a response from this perceived recluse who reigned from on high. In this case, a communication reputation had been established and people acted on the reputation and not the truth.I once worked with a consultant in high demand who basically didn’t answer emails or phone calls. He just felt that most email he was receiving was anecdotal or informational and didn’t require a response. It didn’t take long for his clients to get the opinion that he was “too busy for me“, with predictable results. Once he was made aware that people avoided him because they perceived he wouldn’t respond, he changed his way, again with predictable results. His consituency expected a response, and when it was not received, labeled him as a person who ignored them.One of the key elements to any communication strategy is to understand what is expected. Mike Sansone at ConverStations blogs about this today. One of the reasons we are easily offended by (lack of) communications is that we don’t clearly outline what we expect. When I send an email that just alerts someone to a fact, a link to a comic, or purely just information, I preface it with “No response needed.” This lets them read in peace knowing that they can respond if they want to, but I don’t need one. Conversely, if a response is expected, it’s good to include exactly what you expect (and when), and what the default action will be if you do not hear from them. This allows for action to continue even in the face of no communication.And if you’re one of those people who is too busy to respond, I’d warn you on the longterm effects of what the attitude cultivates. Communication is the lifeblood of any organization, and healthy expectations and delivery on those expectations is key to sustained health and growth.
Ask for and deliver clear communications in a timely manner.