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 This article was published on Common Sense Leadership and is used with the author’s permission. 

Make Your New Year’s Career Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about eating healthy and working out. Consider making some work resolutions too to maximize your career. Apparently you are much more likely to achieve a goal if you take the time to put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen as is the case here). In the spirit of the New Year and in the hopes that posting these will make us that much more accountable, below are our staff resolutions. We hope they inspire you!Bridget Holmes, Senior Director, Career Initiatives
Be more organized.
I used to be able to remember my to-do list, birthdays, and my grocery list without even writing it down.  Now, with working full time and having two little ones at home, my memory is just not what it used to be!  Here are some tips:

1. Maximize your calendar.  Utilize your calendar system to keep track of all dates and deadlines that are important to you – even birthdays.  If you utilize Google calendar in particular, it makes it easy to share dates, deadlines, and meetings with colleagues.
2.  Maximize your email.  Color code your emails by category, file them to make it easier to find.  It’s the little things that can make a big impact. Use the task list in either your email or calendar to keep a running list.
3. File things.  Electronically.  While paper may never go away, having a scanned copy of some of those important documents can save you from a panic attack later.
4.  Take notes.   Meeting after meeting means you may not remember the action items from your 9am at 3pm.  Keep a notebook, take notes on your IPad, whatever works for you – just be consistent and keep it all together. Follow up meetings with typed notes to those in attendance to keep everyone on the same page.
5. Keep lists. To do lists, project lists, grocery lists, etc.  I never met a list I didn’t like.Sarah Hay, Assistant Director, Alumni Career Services
Time Blocking
Having both internal and external clients and stakeholders in addition to the interdependent nature of many of our projects makes it easy to get derailed from your daily to-do list. 2014 is going to be all about time blocking for me. Over and over again in the Webinar Program, we hear presenters discuss the importance of only checking email at set intervals, and not treating every request as urgent.  Some strategies for achieving this goal:

1) Update your to-do list. Often.
2) Prioritize. Check in with your manager to to understand prioritization of projects and deadlines
3) Respond to emails in order of importance/urgency, not time
4) Recognize first, respond later. If  you are coming close to the end of the day but need to respond to emails, send brief responses letting the person know you saw their note and will be responding soon.  If there is one urgent item in their email, respond to that and tell them you will send a more thorough response later.
5) Make more internal phone calls.  Sometimes a task can be crossed off quickly if you can speak with a colleague as opposed to communicating via email.  It only takes a few seconds to try someone’s extension!
6) Step back from the inbox. Close out of email while working on projects and on phone calls.  It is too easy to respond to things that pop up in your inbox!
7) Less meetings.  Do not schedule meetings for the sake of meetings.  See our blog post on the topic!
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