A reader asked if I would post an article on, what he called, “business courtesy.” His premise is that, since we now have a huge number of communication media at our disposal, common courtesies such as returning phone calls, emails and other communiqués should be a no-brainer. Yet, he claims, we have – as a people – become ruder and ruder in this regard.
Though I’m not sure the level of rudeness is any greater than it ever was (because, actually, if often was), I still think he brings up an excellent point. What’s interesting to me is that in discussing this with some friends, the responses – from those who actually returned my calls, emails and tweets – 🙂 were framed mainly in terms of time management. While that’s important – and certainly an area in which I myself certainly need improvement – I think the problem itself runs a lot deeper. I don’t believe time management is the core issue.
In my opinion, this actually has less to do with time management and technology and more to do with what one values. For example, everyone knows I return all telephone calls and emails and – assuming I’m in town or have access to email – I do it on a timely basis. Right or wrong, it is a value of mine; it’s something I believe is important and thus it happens.
On the other hand – and this is a biggie – my sense of time-management stinks and I definitely need to better manage the way I respond so that it allows me to be as productive as possible. I can easily get caught in the “non-productivity via non-productive communication” mode.
Others simply don’t place a value on this. It’s the way they are, it aligns with their value system, and that’s just the way it is. Some of them are not as successful as they could be because of this. Others are extremely successful – in my opinion – in spite of this. However, they are equal-opportunity “non-responders” so, you either like them or you don’t; you do business with them or you don’t; you associate with them or you don’t, by your own choosing; understanding that’s simply the rules they live by.
The ones that perhaps…for lack of a better term…offend my sensibilities are those who are “selective responders.” These are the people who respond only to those they feel can “do something” for them or serve their own agendas in some way. Of course, many would say that the person doing that is simply wise. Obviously, since it runs contrary to my personal philosophy, I would disagree.
I do believe that it is important to manage our time correctly and certainly not be a slave to every person who tries and contact us for their own agenda.
My feeling, though, is that, while modern technology has actually made time even scarcer because it’s given us so much more to do (again, my opinion only), it also makes it quite simple and painless to at least courteously respond, even if it’s just a quick email (NOT an autoresponder).
Depending upon the situation, it could say something like, “I’m so sorry; time right now doesn’t permit me to have a detailed correspondence. However, please know that it’s nothing personal and, if you can briefly provide me with some basic information, I can then determine if we should take it to the next level.”
With someone with whom you have an already familiar relationship it might be, “Pat, I’m sorry; have some time challenges at the moment, but didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you. 🙂 ”
With that said, by and large, I find I can always take at least two or three minutes to speak with someone who really wants to speak with me. I do find myself more and more having to politely set “time boundaries” before these calls. And, that seems to work just fine.
Again, though; I’m really not sure I have this one completely correct and I’d love to know your opinion.