According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speed is a central factor in 25% of all traffic fatalities. A friend of mine who is a Pennsylvania state trooper echoed the same warning. According to him, most of the highway fatalities he has dealt with involve excessive speed.
But when it comes to leading and relating to others, there are three instances in which a speedy response is imperative. Lack of speed in certain instances can “kill” a relationship.
We must be quick to engage in these three circumstances:
- To say thank you.
- To apologize.
- To respond to a question or inquiry from a customer, employee, or teammate.
Humans must depend on other humans to be successful. We do not operate on an island, and leaders do not have all the answers all the time, which is why leaders have teams around them.
Relationships are the currency of the 21st Century. When someone helps us, we must be quick to say thank you. One of our greatest investments is taking the time to thank those who have assisted us. However, we must do so quickly. The longer we take to thank someone for something nice they did for us, the less meaningful it becomes.
I have found that a “thank you” does not have to be extravagant, but it must be sincere. It could be a simple email, text message or telephone call, but mailing a good old fashioned hand-written note is a great way to make an impact when you say thanks. Of course, everyone must gauge the situation and sometimes sending a small token of appreciation such as flowers or a book can go a long way.
I Am Sorry
When you make a mistake or break trust with someone it is extremely important to seek that person out, acknowledge you made a mistake and apologize. As with thanking someone, this must be a humble and sincere gesture. There should be no hint at trying to place blame elsewhere. One thing we quickly learn to say in the Army when we make a mistake is, “No excuse, sir.” That phrase makes a great deal of sense. No one really wants to hear an excuse.
To increase your probability of repairing trust if you break it, you must be very quick to acknowledge your mistake, take ownership of it, and apologize. You should also go one step farther and explain how you will correct the situation, so it does not happen again.
When a customer, employee, applicant or other stakeholder sends an inquiry, we must reply very quickly. When we take an inordinate amount of time to reply, we DO send a message, whether we realize it or not. The message we send is that they are not very important, we do not care, or they do not belong on our team.
Sometimes we may not have all the information at our fingertips to provide the information requested. In a case like that we must still reply and let the person know we value their inquiry, and we are working on acquiring the information necessary to provide an accurate response.
Then follow up by digging in and finding an answer and get back to that person quickly. If you cannot help or assist, the next best thing is connecting that person with someone who has the knowledge or expertise to assist.
On the highway speed kills. But when it comes to relationship management, speed is essential. When we take our good old time to thank someone, apologize for making a mistake, or reply to someone who has a question, our lack of speed could send that relationship to the human relations graveyard.
So be attentive to our relationships. Remember, the currency we should value most is our personal relationships. They will continue to pay dividends if we manage them well.