Responsiveness is different than responding. Responding is an acknowledgement like “Okay, I’ll get right on that.” Responsiveness is a substantive communication, such as, “I’ve reviewed the materials you sent me and I think we should go forward.”
We spend much of our day responding to others, but it’s when we’re truly responsive that we’re being productive. Seek ways to improve our communications to make them as responsive as possible. Moreover, eliminating the unnecessary responses – “Okay, I’ll get right on that” – will increase the amount of time you can produce responsive communications.
Communicating with Effect
Try some of these simple suggestions to make you more responsive, instead of just responding more:
- Leverage All Communication Tools Appropriately. Technology has increased the number of ways we communicate with each other. Each has its place and each can be fine tuned to increase productivity. Here are some thoughts. Asynchronous communications – e-mail, texts, and tweets – are terrific tools for providing one-way communications, such as an analysis of a topic or delegating a simple assignment. They are NOT good for discussing intricate issues or developing complex ideas. Phones provide a great way to do these higher-order efforts when distance is an issue. Of course, meetings are the very best way to get things done collaboratively – if done appropriately (a noted caution here.) Applying each of these tools appropriately demonstrates responsiveness to all those with whom you work.
- One Subject Per E-mail. The rest of these suggestions drill down on e-mail since it’s the most used, and often misused, communication tool today. A major mistake many of us make is to group subjects together in a single e-mail. This greatly increases the risk of confusion by the recipient, which leads to more unproductive time clearing up that confusion later. Discuss only one subject – no matter how trivial or complex – in each e-mail. They’re free! Moreover, when it comes time to file that e-mail, it will be much easier because it will only belong to one subject.
- Leverage Subject Lines. The subject line is like the RE line in a letter. It’s one of the first things a recipient sees when the e-mail is received. Leverage that first glance by providing detailed information there. What’s the e-mail’s subject? To which project or matter does it relate? Is there a (clear) deadline involved? These are the things most recipients really want to know when that e-mail hits their Inbox, so make it easy for them. In addition, it’ll be easier to find later if the need to refer back to it arises.
- Minimize the Use of Reply All. Reply All is the most overused button on the toolbar. Consider whether everyone who originally received the e-mail needs to see your reply. If not, just hit Reply and include only those who need your information. This will reduce the overall e-mail going around by a little. And a little bit now aggregates into a lot later.
Doin’ Yer Part
Being more responsive is not just more efficient. It also increases the amount valuable information being passed between people. Consequently, more people are better informed about whatever the subject of the communication is. That’s a good thing!