I wrote recently about the Howard Tech effort to build “White Space” into our schedules, and to minimize interruptions. Specifically, we’re working hard to minimize how often we stop by someone’s office unannounced or otherwise push things to others that aren’t scheduled. This got me thinking about how I communicate with others, and how they reach out to me.
There are countless ways to connect with people in the 21st century, and examples include calling by phone, text, email, instant messaging, social media, walking in and more. Each of these methods has an associated level of intrusiveness or interruption of the person I’m trying to connect with.
There are many times I receive a call on my cell phone that is less than urgent. Was that necessary, and how often do I do that to others? This caused me to consider the various ways I reach out to others, and how often I might annoy friends or contacts by interrupting their focus.
The following is a list of approaches to reach someone and how pushy each one is relative to the others. I’m trying to figure out what I’d like to follow in terms of intrusiveness, and when an individual method might or might not be appropriate.
- Letter – typed or handwritten letters are not quite so common, and take time to both prepare and for the sender to receive. Obviously low on the pushiness scale and it’s been a while since I’ve written one!
- Email – these can be written quickly and delivered almost immediately, yet we have no control over when the recipient will either receive and/or reply. It’s more “pushy” than a traditional letter, but still very appropriate for non-urgent issues. It allows the recipient to respond within their own schedule and with appropriate detail.
- Office phone call – there are times when I need to reach someone a little more urgently, and so I might call her at the office. Of course the person might send my call to voice mail and it could get lost with other messages, but it’s a little more intrusive than an email.
- Instant messaging – we are using Microsoft Teams for quick questions and trying to figure out the right balance in using it. A message will popup immediately on the recipient’s screen so it’s certainly intrusive, but often appropriate for easy questions.
- Text – many people send me texts (and I send them as well), and for me they are more intrusive than a call to my office. When I’m sitting in a meeting and my cell phone vibrates from a text, it’s so tempting to take a peek. I often wonder if the issue could’ve been addressed through a less urgent means, such as email or office call.
- Cell phone call – many of my clients have my cell phone number, and I welcome them to call me if needed. Of course I’m trusting them to use this judiciously (and not post it online!), but sometimes people use a high level of intrusion on non-urgent things. A cell phone call is a more direct intrusion that should be reserved for ‘fire’ type situations.
- Walking in unexpectedly – my team and I are trying to build a culture of only stopping by another’s desk when we absolutely must get something done ‘right now’. This is a very high-level of intrusion, and I’ve been guilty of abusing this courtesy many times.
All of these likely resonate with you to varying degrees, and perhaps there are other methods of connecting with people that I’ve left out. I don’t use FaceBook or Twitter to reach people but you can include these and others into your own assessment. I’m simply trying to consider what level of pushiness I’m applying to others, and creating a culture at Howard Tech that is more respectful of everyone’s time. How about you? What is your office culture, and are you giving each other enough “white space” so that people are able to focus and get things done?
Once last thought. While sometimes people use a more urgent communication method for a non-urgent issue, I’ve also seen plenty of situations where a non-urgent method is used when something more urgently might be appropriate. For example, my kids might text me that the house is on fire (not really, but texting is how they communicate) when in fact, they should call my cell and/or find the most urgent means of connecting with me for such a crisis. I’ve seen our clients and vendors send an email about a critical issue, when they might have utilized a method that conveys greater urgency.
I’m very motivated to get business done, and I want to be sensitive to those around me. Wishing you great success as you find your personal and business balance in this quest.
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