Improving Our Responsiveness to Our People — John Keyser

Recently, I read an article about the key communication qualities of an effective leader. The article spoke about the importance of asking questions and being an attentive listener. I certainly agree. Yet, the article failed to mention responsiveness, which is certainly a very key quality as well.

If we are to help our team members feel appreciated, valued and heard, we must try to respond to their calls and emails and other forms of communication promptly. In my assessments of leadership and organizational culture, I often hear “My boss does not get back to me. He must not feel I am important and what I need or think matters.”

(Personal note: in my experience, women tend to put a higher priority on their responsiveness and how their team members feel about themselves than do men).

People all too often tell me that they have to follow up two or three times before their boss responds or maybe he never does. That lowers morale, organizational culture, and negatively affects our results over time. No question about that. Happy employees do better work.

When discussing the results of the assessments, the senior executives tell me “I know. I do get back to my people when I am able, but they need to understand that I am very busy.”

This is not acceptable. Everyone is very busy. We all have too many meetings to attend and a constant flow of emails and information coming at us.

When we receive an email or voice message and we cannot reply in a timely manner, we often can at least respond “I am very busy, and will get back to you first chance or in the morning.” This dignifies our team member, let’s them know we respect her/him and want to be there for her/him.

Yes, we are crazy busy. Too busy! Many of the meetings are simply scheduled automatically and way ahead and are not really necessary. Many of the meetings are inefficient and run too long.

Let’s do something about this! Ask our people how we can have fewer and more efficient and productive meetings. We must save time – our own and our people’s time.

And let’s develop a customized plan to manage our emails. The most effective leaders are efficient and have boundaries to maximize their productivity.

Delegate responsibilities and authority to free ourselves up to be more effective leaders. Conversations are the work of a leader. We want to have conversations, especially one-on-one conversations, throughout our day – letting our people know they are appreciated and valued, asking them for their ideas and advice, what they are learning from our clients, what they need, how can we help them, what we feel should be our priorities going forward, and other purposeful questions.

Let’s make our New Year’s resolution be freeing ourselves up so we can be out of our offices and meetings, having more time to walk the halls, and having more time for conversations with our people, and let’s make sure our other senior executives and middle managers also make their responsiveness a priority, as well. And the same goes for our home office being promptly responsive to those in the field.

Cathy Becker, an insightful and caring human resource professional, says “Leadership is how we help people feel about themselves.”

Timely responsiveness to questions, requests and needs definitely helps our people know that we care very much about them and that they and their work is important.

To learn more about the author and Founder of Common Sense Leadership John Keyser, visit commonsenseleadership.com. This article was published on Common Sense Leadership and is used with the author’s permission. 

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