A question I love to ask while presenting my Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings is, “Who’s busy? Please raise your hand”. Inevitably, every hand goes up… because it’s true; every leader, manager, and front-line employee is “Busy” with their own stuff and by their own definition. Each person and department also tend to believe they’re the busiest and their job and contribution is more significant than everyone else’s. Now, in great organizations, this is not the case… every leader, employee, team, and department understand the value each brings and works together to stay within the vision to move closer to the agreed-upon goal. However, I’m sure there’ve been times when you’ve worked on a project and have done all you can do, but need an answer or response from a co-worker in another department to bring it home and meet a deadline… only to have your email ignored for days or weeks! Perhaps they’re “Busy” and didn’t see it… or they’re “Busy” and did see it, ignored it, and now it’s war… I’m joking, but it happens!
If you’ve read my book, 7 Ways to Lead, or have seen my videos; you may remember the concept, A Leader’s Priority Quadrant, to help prioritize tasks: High Priority/Handle Now, High Priority/Handle Later, Lower Priority/Handle Now, and Lower Priority/Handle Later. How do we best lead when our High Priority/Handle Now is someone else’s Lower Priority/Handle Later?
The first key is so obvious it can get forgotten and will simply take adding one small “Get-To-Do” to your busy schedule… and that’s scheduling a random “Hello” email to the co-workers you’ll eventually need something from! A “Hello” email may sound something like, “Hi ___________, Happy Monday and I hope all is great with you, yours, and your department! I simply wanted to reach out to say hello and Thank You for helping me out in the past. Let me know if there’s anything you need. Have an awesome week!”. Perhaps you know more about your co-worker due to past conversations and working together and you decide to ask about their kids, their work, etc.
Think about it: how do you feel when you only hear from someone when they need something? Exactly! Therefore, be mindful to connect intentionally… you can put it in your calendar to connect with co-workers, clients, or customers 1x per month, every other month, or quarterly to impact connection. It never ceases to amaze me how much more people will do for you, with you, because of you, and forgive about you interrupting their “Busy” with your requests… when they feel a connection with you!
Validate & Follow-Through
The next key involves our understanding, willingness, and Follow-Through. It’s hard to get what we need from others when we haven’t validated their points, effort, or contributions. Perhaps your organization has departmental meetings or a regular Leadership Meeting that includes leaders or all departments. What a time to practice what I call a Leader’s Circle… Have you listened with the intent to validate their point, rather than to argue yours? What are they right about? Have you listened to hear which idea is best for RIGHT NOW and best fits the company’s Vision & Vision Factors… or is your idea always best and what MUST be accepted? Have you left a meeting irritated that someone else’s idea won and was still leader enough follow-through in assisting them in closing the project; propelling the company forward? Remember, when it’s your idea’s time and your High Priority/Handle Now is someone else’s Lower Priority/Handle Later you’re going to want them to validate, celebrate, and follow-though for you!
Preferred Method Contact
Everyone has a preferred method of contact; especially for emergencies. When something is a High Priority/Handle Now for you and you need assistance from someone else, it’s important to know how they preferred to be contacted. For example, I prefer to be contacted via email; however, in cases of emergency, a text message is much better. Therefore, it makes sense for my team and companies I do work with to be aware of this… and to be on the same page of what constitutes an emergency!
First, be clear on what’s an emergency so you or they don’t become an annoyance and someone to be avoided! Second, finding out their preferred method of contact may sound like this, “Hi ___________. I know you’re busy and I’m busy as well, and I don’t want to pester you. What’s the best way to contact you when I have a question or would need something that has a close deadline?”. Listen to their answer and follow through. Also, offering the best method to contact you when necessary.
When the time comes to reach out… use your email etiquette: I like to start my emails with “Happy Monday or whatever day it is”, then get into the meat of why I’m reaching out, the question I have, or providing the information that’s needed. When the situation is urgent, share the urgency with the person and include a date you need the information by… preferably a few days before you actually need it to account for life happening. Maybe they have a vacation coming up, will get sick, have a kid issue… or perhaps you will… Be Mindful!
The point here is to keep your email, text, etc. short, clear, positive, and thankful. People are more willing to assist your High Priority/Handle Now when this is the case. Also, a written request will help protect you if the information isn’t provided; as an undocumented conversation never happened!
Let’s face it, you can do all of this and still receive no reply and still be waiting! So, what to do? In the case of a co-worker, client, or customer not getting back to you… Check-In with them via email, text, call, or whatever internal method your organization uses to communicate and ask if there’s anything else they need from you to best move forward… restating the urgency and deadline dates. This will help you either get things moving or prove you weren’t just sitting at your desk with your feet up letting time pass. I know that’s not what you really would be doing… however, a poor leader at the top may have that as a fleeting thought… and you don’t want that to be the case!
What to do when you still have not gotten what you needed:
- Check-In with your co-worker: “Hi ____________, I hope all is great! I’m sure you’re busy with all you have going on. I’ve reached out several times regarding _____________ and haven’t heard back. I don’t want to go over your head about this to get it done or cause issues for you. I would need _____________ by I hope to hear from you by then or can you direct me to someone that can best assist. Thanks so much and enjoy your day!”.
- Check-In with your Boss: Leaders are proactive and work to protect not only themselves, their people, and the organization… but also their bosses from being blind-sided!
In this case, you have not received the help or information you require. It may be time to share this with your boss. Remember, leaders accompany their problems with suggested solutions. Share the issue with your boss and what you’ve done about it so far. Also, share you’re not asking them to get involved at the moment; as you have a plan to best address the person (as we just discussed in Check-In 1). However, you wanted your boss to know; just in case things go sideways and that individual or department comes to them. It’s also beneficial to ask your boss what they like about your plan and anything they’d finetune. This breeds buy-in and allows you to operate more confidently!
This keeps your boss “In the Know”, exhibits your leadership skills, and protects your boss from being blind-sided if the person or department you needed information from comes to share their side, protect themselves, or whatever they’ve concocted!
The most important thing is follow-through! Did you do our part? Have you connected? Have you validated and followed-through when co-workers needed you? Have you “Checked-In in a constructive manner? Have you protected your boss, department, and organization when necessary? That’s follow-through and how to lead when your High Priority/Handle Now is someone else’s Lower Priority/Handle Later!
“Leaders are proactive and work to protect not only themselves, their people, and the organization; but also their bosses from being blind-sided… Be Mindful!
– Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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