The One Practice that Will Make You Stand Out Among Professionals

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“This guy often neglects to answer his email. Once, he told me he deletes anything older than two weeks old.”

These were the words of friend lamenting the communication he has to have with a colleague.

Deleting anything more than two weeks old may sound efficient (after all, who wants an overflowing in-box?) But NOT when you haven’t ANSWERED the emails! (As you might expect, my friend’s workflow was hampered due to the lack of response from his colleague.)

One of the key marks of an outstanding professional as compared to a mediocre one is the level of responsiveness.  It is amazing that with all the tools we have to stay in touch, there are so many people and businesses that do a poor job of answering questions, getting back to customers, or following up on leads.

Granted, each of us has a different level of expectation on ourselves and others, and some expect too much. However, there are steps you can take to develop a reasonable, courteous approach to responding to others, and start standing out from the crowd.

Consider your role.  Depending on the type of industry with which you are involved, your reasonable level of responsiveness may be different than someone else’s. For example, with my work being heavily focused on administration and Virtual Assistance related, I tend to monitor email throughout the day because it’s part of the job. For several of my clients though, it’s better that they check email at scheduled times.

Determine a reasonable level of responsiveness.  Some people answer emails, text messages and calls, immediately, while others never seem to answer them at all. Both responses are extreme. In most cases, answering a business email or call within 24-48 business hours is a helpful guide–(perhaps faster if texting.) If a colleague needs timely information in to move along in their work, then respond as soon as possible.

Share your approach to responsiveness with others.  I have a client that informs others that she checks email at _____ and _______ each day. That’s helpful for the people who interact with her.

I also remember many years ago being advised to communicate with people in a way that best matches what they would respond to (i.e. sending an email over putting something in their mailbox.) At the time, I thought people should grow up and check the places where they receive information, and not expect special treatment, but I’ve softened on this. You can communicate more effectively when you know where people tend to look at first so there’s wisdom in letting people know your pattern as well. (Hint, for me, it’s email.)

Respond for your own good! Responsiveness is a make-or-break characteristic. Have you ever booked a service with a different company because the first company you called didn’t respond? How much business is lost by simply not being available and following up on leads?

These days, simply being available and not making people wait an unreasonable amount of time can make you stand out from the crowd of other overwhelmed professionals. Make it a priority, come up with a good system, and implement it regularly. You’ll find that people will enjoy working with you, recommend you, and possibly seek you out!

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Beth Beutler is the Executive Director of H.O.P.E. Unlimited, a small business offering collaborative virtual assistance and business soft skill education to Help Overwhelmed Professionals Excel. She has over 25 years experience in administrative assistance and office management, soft skills training, and writing.