Responsiveness Does Not Equal Effectiveness

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I get trapped in this bad habit sometimes of believing that a person’s speed in response to my emails or phone messages equates to their capability or even dedication to their job. Anyone make that same mistake?

The thing is, I know better. As someone who preaches and teaches mindfulness in leadership and in corporate settings, I always ask people to pause and be thoughtful before responding. I also believe in mindful prioritization. That means, understanding your goals and the mission of the organization, or project, deeply enough that you are clear on what needs to get done. What comes next is just as important --having the courage to stay on track, every day, even when everyone around you is being reactive to the latest flare up. Not to mention, not everything is a 5-alarm fire. Your organization needs that level-headed person who can help the rest of the team really see issues for what they are and prioritize the tasks that advance your mission instead of reacting to a dumpster fire.

The result of favoring reactivity over thoughtfulness is chaos. Chaos abounds when everyone in an organization is trained to believe that their value is tied to how quickly they respond, make a decision or outsmart their colleagues.  This usually happens because leaders reward this behavior instead of demonstrating value for true strategic thinking or well thought out points of view.

It’s easy to lead in this way. In our fast-paced atmosphere, it’s tempting to indulge in the quick-fix solution. Don’t get me wrong, there is enormous value in being able to think on your feet and make quick decisions. But that can’t be the standard. Most of the time, it’s OK to take a step back and really think through all the implications of a decision or even something as simple as our word choice. The time is there. Trust me. If you stop yourself mid-reaction and see the situation in context of the bigger picture, you will quickly separate the emergencies from the regular day-to-day realities of making a business run.

So, count this as a quick 415-word reminder to take a pause, gather all the facts and check your biases and emotions before crafting that next response. And don’t be too harsh on the person that doesn’t get back to you right away. Maybe they value your request enough to be truly thoughtful about their response. This is one easy step toward cultivating more thoughtful, self-aware and strategic work cultures.

Mory FontanezComment