How we choose to communicate with each other can be the secret recipe to business relationship success.
I landed at Yahoo in mid-2000, and my new boss was Anil Singh. Right away I could sense he was frazzled, and grew frustrated with mounting interruptions. He received a few hundred emails a day. His phone rang non-stop, and any gap of silence was closed by a drop-in meeting. It was the kind of chaos that you have when business is booming.
He gave me some sage advice: “If you want me to love working with you, put everything in an email and make it fit in the Preview Pane.” He wasn’t a phone guy and meetings grated him, especially when they had no agenda.
I followed his advice to a tee. I made a game out of under-communicating with him and when I did, it was a punchy email.
He would either reply to the transactional requests or walk over to my cube when he had time to talk. Over time, I gained more access to him than anyone else—the Norm Of Reciprocity in action. It changed the trajectory of my career, and by the end of 2001, I was named the company’s Chief Solutions Officer.
Now as a professional speaker and startup CEO, I have customers and partners that are more harried than Singh—dealing with email, voicemail, Tweets, Facebook messages and a non-stop barrage of incoming noise.
Whether you are planning a meeting or working with a new meeting professional as a client, setting communications preferences can be the secret recipe to business relationship success.
Some will prefer email, some instant messenger. Others, like myself, prefer phone calls or short emails. Younger contacts may prefer a text or even a Facebook message.
One of my business partners prefers a monthly phone call with an outline sent in advance. My speaking manager doesn’t mind an email for every occasion and a phone call every two weeks to catch up. Knowing this is important, because if the frequency is too high or low, your relationship will suffer.
In Case of Emergency?
In every project or business relationship, you need a backup plan when things fall apart or time is of the essence. Generally a phone call would be the best way, but again, you’ll be surprised by their response.
My system works both ways. I send an email to my colleagues or new contacts stating my communication preferences. I ask them to reply with theirs, promising to play by their rules.
Not only do most reply with their secret sauce, they thank me for asking. Better yet, they honor mine. They call me when it’s complicated and then email otherwise, putting their key request in the subject. That’s lovely for me, as now I feel like I’m more in control of my business life than ever.
“What’s your communications preference?” is the new “What’s your sign?” One+
One+ August 2012