Responsiveness as a Key to Success

by J.D. on 29 March 2010

Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is often asked, “What’s the secret of your success?” His answer: “Responsiveness.”

So many people I meet are unresponsive. They don’t return their phone calls promptly. They don’t answer their emails quickly. They don’t complete their assignments on time. They promise to do something and never follow through. They have to be reminded, prodded, and nagged. This behavior creates work for everyone else and eats into their own productivity.

I, too, have encountered folks who are unresponsive, and they frustrate me. Or, to be more precise, I’m constantly delighted when I find somebody who is responsive. Certain folks answer their e-mail almost immediately, or return calls within just a few hours. Some people follow through on their promises without follow-up, and even go beyond what they’ve committed to do.

It’s a pleasure to work with them.

But, on the other hand, I know that working with me can be a mixed bag. Some of my colleagues — Gary Vaynerchuck, Chris Guillebeau — go out of their way to respond to every e-mail, and to do so as soon as possible. I can’t do that.

It’s not that I get more e-mail than Gary V. and Chris G. (because I don’t), but that I’m not mentally capable of juggling the mail I do receive. I want to give everyone a thoughtful reply, but thoughtful replies take time. So I put off answering most of my e-mail. What starts out with good intentions — giving personal attention to each sender — turns into unresponsiveness.

I encounter the same problems in other areas of my life. I have so much to do, and I want to do it all well, that sometimes I just never get started. I procrastinate, or I find other things to do. This lack of responsiveness is completely counter to my goals.

Michael Hyatt has more to say on this subject:

Reality is that we live in an “instant world.” People want instant results. They don’t want to wait. And if they have to wait on you, their frustration and resentment grows. They begin to see you as an obstacle to getting their work done. If that happens, it will begin to impact your reputation.

Your actions affect how other people see you. If you’re unresponsive, people will look for other ways to get their job done. But if people know they can count on you, they’ll seek your assistance in the future, and you’ll be rewarded with increased reputation and responsibility. Hyatt writes:

The truth is, you are building your reputation — your brand — one response at a time…You can’t afford to be unresponsive. It is a career-killer. My basic rule is this: respond immediately unless there is a good reason to wait.

I’m going to try putting this into practice. And the side benefit? By responding immediately, I’m clearing mental clutter. There’s less on my mind and people get their replies from me in a timely fashion.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica @ Life as I See It 15 April 2010 at 1:28 pm

My husband is working on creating a product he plans to launch in a couple months, this is great advice and I think I might just step up and do the communications stuff for him – freeing him to spend more time developing his ideas, and yet giving the image of him being an “instant man”.


2 Ben 15 April 2010 at 2:24 pm

I agree. In a work environment unresponsive people make terrible co-workers. Who wants to work with or help a co-worker who can’t do the courtesy of returning a phone call or email? Why should anyone help them when they ask for help?

On the other hand, if you’re responsive, people will want to work with you. You don’t have to be thorough, often times a simple “I’m working on it” right away (or a “no, sorry I can’t help you”) and then a more detailed response later on can do wonders.


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