In my personal life, I am an unabashed optimist and someone who barrels through situations with abandon. I’m not dangerously impulsive, but particularly when it comes to communication, I just lay my feelings right out there. I express my thoughts freely both verbally and in writing. When I’m emailing or texting with friends and family, for me, it’s all part of an ongoing conversation and I can “hear” my loved ones’ voices through their words.
But when it comes to business, I’ve learned that as a leader it’s imperative to proceed with caution. When I began my tenure as President of my organization, I was eager to be available and responsive to my team and my constituents. When I received an email or text, I would jump to respond, usually without considering the consequences. But unfortunately there is no “unsend,” button. Early on, I received an email from a member of my leadership team asking for an opinion on a policy issue. I instinctively responded with my usual cheery encouragement to just go for it. BAD MOVE! I casually mentioned my decision to my predecessor who informed me a decision had already been made, before my tenure, to move in the opposite direction. Oy!
After doing some damage control, I gave some thought to how I could better handle these types of situations. First, and most obvious, is to control my urge to respond immediately. While it’s important to be timely, it’s equally important to be thoughtful. I need to take a breath and really consider the options, try to look at all sides of a situation and analyze the “what ifs.” I also need to seek advice before issuing an opinion. There are plenty of resources available to me and a good leader takes advantage of resources. I can always give a quick, “I’ll get back to you on that,” response and then do my homework. But it doesn’t serve anyone if I’m too eager.
So what’s the takeaway? When you’re called upon for input, advice or to problem solve, especially when it’s via email or text, stop and think. You have the luxury of taking some time to consider your answer, do your research, and consider your options. I can’t count how many times recently I have started an email only to realize I wasn’t ready to answer, and hit the “delete,” button. Don’t be afraid to take your time. And remember: Think before you “send!”
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors. Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com. If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.
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