Responsiveness is Undervalued

by Nina Post

It seems like most companies spend all their time trying to find people who have the right combination of education, prior work experience, etc. They may mention something about looking for people who possess "strong attention to detail" and a "self-driven sense of urgency," but the attribute that's most often left out is responsiveness.

Responsiveness should be considered as valuable as everything else, but it's well under the radar. The nature of most work requires communication with both internal and outside parties, and keeping that communication going can make the difference between a project that's on-time and meets expectations, versus one that's plagued with delays and functional issues.

When it comes to getting complex work done and working effectively as part of a team, responsiveness is so valuable that it's arguably a better predictor of job effectiveness than nearly anything else.

How can we be more responsive? Here are a few tactics that anyone can implement right away:

  • If you're waiting to get the answer from someone else, or you don't know the answer, just say so. It's that simple (but incredibly rare).
  • If someone asks you to do something and you can't get to it right away, it's still helpful to tell the person who sent the request, "Got it - I'll let you know when I can work on this." Take a second to acknowledge that you received the email so the sender isn't left in the position of wondering if you did.
  • Don't run your inbox on a FIFO basis. Have enough flexibility and awareness that you don't blindly go through all of your emails in order. Say that someone sends you an email, you reply to them a few hours later, and then they reply to you right after that.

    Do you wait until you've made your way through all your other emails before looking at their latest reply, or do you pick up the thread and finish the conversation right then and there? The second approach is the more responsive one, and also has the benefit of reducing the time you spend switching from one task to another.