You’re scrolling through your phone, and suddenly come across a text that someone sent to you a month ago. As your heart skips a beat, you open the text chain to double check…yep. You completely forgot to text them back. Not only that, but this individual was asking you for your insight on a particular topic. Maybe they wanted to partner with you on a project, or pick your brain on a leadership topic. Maybe they just wanted to get coffee and catch up.
A sense of guilt washes over you as you hurriedly type out a sheepish apology…
Been there before?
We all have.
In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the platforms and methods of communication. There’s good old phone calls and text messages; but in the last ten years, the advent of social media has added on half a dozen more ways of contacting one another. You have Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct message, Twitter DMs, LinkedIn messages, Snapchat, Marco Polo…sometimes, it can feel like you’re in a batting cage of messages, swatting away, trying to catch your breath. We live in an overstimulated, text-happy society.
But here’s the deal: as a leader, the way you respond to (and send) messages in our digital age matters. Why? Because your response time, whether you want it to or not, communicates a certain level of respect for your recipient.
Whenever somebody sends you an email, a text message, a WhatsApp message, you’ve got to respond quickly. Why? Because it tells the other person several things.
1. A quick response tells the other person that you’re on it. You understand their request. You see their message. You care about them, and you care about responding to them.
2. It tells them you are responsive as a person. Whether they’re looking to you as their leader or not, the way we communicate tells a lot about our character. If you’re always late to calls, never respond to texts, and generally forget to get back to people, that ultimately reflects on your competency as a leader.
3. It adds a respect factor to the other person. It communicates value and a sense of healthy urgency when it comes to responding. You bestow value on someone when you give them a speedy reply.
4. Finally, it tells them you are ready to engage with them. Not only are you present on the other side of the message…you truly want to be in this conversation. You even want to take it further, go deeper, and get to know them better. All this is communicated in a quick response.
Now, that quick response can be an “I’ll get back to you later with an answer,” if their request is more detailed. Many times, I do this with leaders I coach who have questions for me. I have a 24-hour policy for myself — but that doesn’t mean I have to drop everything I’m doing to find everybody an answer today.
Use your discernment to figure out the best way to respond; but respond quickly. Because your response time communicates respect — or a lack thereof — whether you want it to or not.