How much time do we spend waiting for other people to do something?
I know a guy who just had a new floor installed in his house, and he was waiting to hear from the installer about completing the job. The moldings that connected the floor – a beautiful bamboo – to the carpeted areas had not been put in place, and by Week 3, he was losing patience.
Actually, his wife was losing patience. “What’s taking so long? Why don’t they call back? How long are you going to wait?” The nice new floor was turning into a major annoyance for housecleaning and it wasn’t helping marital peace and happiness much either.
Husband calls Installer and leaves a phone message. Waits 2 days. Husband calls again and sends an email. The next day, Installer sends an email to the Lumber Store Guy asking if the bamboo pieces are in yet, copying Husband. Husband returns an email to both (“Copy All”) to stir up some urgency. The story goes on, but you get the idea.
But here’s the Big News Flash: Not everyone on Planet Earth has learned to:
- Check their phone answering machine and email in-box every day;
- Make agreements for when they will follow up or get back to you – get a Good Promise; and/or
- Actually follow up or get back to you even if they said they would do that.
So people don’t know or do these things, and we wait. I’ve decided to step things up a bit: I’m going to ask for timelines with every request. Plus, I’m going to notify people that I will follow up. And I’ll tell them when I will do the follow-up.
One last thing – when I hear someone complaining about waiting for something, I’m going to tell them to make a Request: Say What you want + When you want it + Why it matters. Then ask when they will have it for you, and tell them you will follow-up at that time.
It looks like we’ll need to train the people around us in how to make life work for everybody, one Request & Promise at a time.