October 18, 2006
No excuses: Return phone calls
How can responsible adults not return phone calls in a
timely way? Arrogant and rude, such insensitive people
irk me. Any suggestions?
No, because they upset me too! "Closing the loop" via
phone, where possible, is courteous and professional,
whether with family, friends, customers, suppliers, competitors
or investors. It makes good sense, personally and professionally,
to handle issues - positive or negative - thoughtfully,
efficiently and graciously. Dial the number!
Excuses of those who procrastinate:
- Too busy.
- Unable to reach consensus with colleagues and refuse
to complicate follow-up communication with partial
or incomplete responses
- Afraid of hurting feelings by delivering bad news.
- Intimidated by potential for confrontation.
- Problem just might go away if ignored a little longer.
- Want to demonstrate that personal timetable will
not be altered by the intrusive impatience of another.
- Not very concerned by what upsets others unless it
causes personal problems.
- Believe no news is good news and others ought to
feel the same.
These explanations are seldom adequate for those who
have not heard back. Silence or feelings of being ignored
can generate powerful and negative emotional reactions,
few of which are constructive or productive. When the "loop" is
not closed appropriately, in a timely way, and deafening
silence fills the empty space, then Fear, Uncertainty
and Doubt will Guarantee Exasperation.
We call this the FUDGE factor. There can be legitimate
reasons for delays in follow up. But periodic updates,
reassurances, even apologies for taking so long to resolve
an issue can reduce stress. Connecting via phone often
reduces the risks for demoralizing and destructive misunderstandings;
helping to avoid costly conflict.
Dr. Donald C. Kleckner, a retired Navy officer, reminded
me of wisdom he learned from his superiors. To prevent
him from getting sideways with his colleagues, he was
told to communicate, constantly or risk falling victim
to: "When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles,
scream and shout." Having never captained a large
Navy ship, but only a sailboat that was less than 40
feet in length, the ocean (and life) can make it is easy
to want to share fears, loudly.
But, smart-money says clarity in communication, along
with calm, is most effective.
E-mail and voice messages resolve many communications
issues. But, except for face-to-face meetings, there
is no better technique for demonstrating responsiveness
and genuine concern for others than with the telephone.
Connecting can be cumbersome and time-consuming, but
persistence at "closing the loop" builds
confidence, confirms relationship integrity, re-establishes
trust and increases productivity (and probably profits
Returning phone calls promptly is integrity in action.