Responsiveness is identified as one of Matter’s top soft skills that is linked to performance and career success. Contrary to popular belief, soft skills like responsiveness can also be learned and developed just like any hard skills. Matter helps professionals tease out blindspots and areas for growth in skills like responsiveness through regular peer-to-peer feedback.

What Is Responsiveness

Definition of Responsiveness: Provides follow-up to peers’ requests for information or assistance without delay.

Responsiveness is a must-have in your communication toolbox. You show responsiveness through prompt attentiveness when your peers ask you for something, even if that response is temporary. A response of “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I will find out and follow up” is friendlier and more professional than leaving a peer’s question ignored. Your responsiveness, even when you can’t provide a complete answer, shows your team that you are listening to their concerns and are actively invested in helping them.

Responsive Leaders You May Know

Patrick and John Collison: While creating and growing their company Stripe, the Collison brothers made the responsiveness of their customer support team one of their top priorities, providing the best possible response times and customer experience. Now Stripe is a multi-billion-dollar company.

Susan Wojcick: Under her leadership, Youtube has managed to endure a number of growing pains related to the type of content it allows and how to control what gets spread through its platform. Wojcick has been consistently responsive to concerns from content partners, advertisers, and the public, enabling the social network to attract more than 1.5 billion users.

Oprah Winfrey: Throughout her career as an entertainment executive, Winfrey grasps that responsiveness is an essential part of good communication. People trust her because she listens very well, asks thoughtful questions to uncover deeper issues, and gives candid responses that feel authentic.

Why Responsiveness Is Important

  • Respect: Without timely responses and prompt follow-ups, you can leave your team feeling whether you respect their time and work. This can make them wonder if helping them is even a priority for you.
  • Trust: Responsiveness is also one of the most effective ways to build trust among your peers, develop a rapport within a team, and create better professional relationships all the way around.
  • Productivity: Your ability to quickly respond to your peers’ requests for assistance or information can prevent avoidable project delays and mistakes. Responsiveness leads to better team collaboration and performance.

What Responsiveness Isn’t About

  • Perfection: Avoid waiting until you have all the answers to reply to an email or text. Waiting until you have all the answers just leaves your peers in the dark and makes the more anxious.
  • Avoidance: Don’t change the subject when you have something else you want to discuss. That conveys disinterest toward your team’s concerns and creates the impression that their needs are unimportant.
  • Overpromising: Rushing toward an answer just to retain the illusion of control should be avoided at all costs. Instead of overpromising, acknowledge that you don’t always know the answers, but will do your best to figure them out.

Abilities That Lead To The Mastery of Responsiveness

Acting Quickly: When others are depending on you, delayed responses to requests looks disorganized, unprofessional, and inconsiderate. If it takes ten minutes or less, get it done at the moment. For everything else, do what you can to avoid being a bottleneck.

Eliminating Distractions: Distractions prevent you from responding to important issues. Even if it’s just a few minutes, throughout the day that time adds up. Take steps to avoid unnecessary distractions like application notifications to keep yourself from being distracted. Find ways to focus and get things done.

Following Up Preemptively: Responsiveness is not only a behavior; it is a communication style. Most people feel at least somewhat awkward when they must check-in with ‘Hey, how’s that project going?’ especially if they have to do it more than once. Since you probably don’t want to associate your work in that way, give updates when things have stalled.

Keeping Everyone Involved: Any time someone connects with you, refers you, or delegates work to you, they have a stake in what happens next. Their reputation is on the line so they are interested in hearing from you. Keep them in the loop with your activity, your progress, and your results.

Making it Easy to Respond: Make sure the channels you use to reach out are open in a way that makes it easy for people to respond. Asking someone to call you back and not providing your phone number is frustrating, inconsiderate and unproductive.

Managing Expectations: Everyone communicates differently and has different response expectations. Ideally, these expectations are defined at the start of a working relationship but this rarely happens. In that case, when things get busy and your response will likely be delayed, send a quick note to let people know when you’ll get back to them in a clear time range.

Responding in a Timely Manner: If the other person has to follow-up, it’s a good sign your expectations are mismatched or you dropped the ball. Instead of waiting for them to ask again, contact them. For example, “I just wanted to acknowledge that I received your email. I am traveling this week, so it will likely be the end of the week before I can respond.”

Explore Roles That Benefit From Responsiveness

Who can benefit from practicing responsiveness? Matter is helping professionals at all levels get actionable feedback to improve their responsiveness.

  • CEOs who are looking to become better leaders and cultivate company culture
  • Software Engineers who aspire to become a tech lead or manager
  • Designers who want to grow their professional and soft skills
  • Freelancers who work without a traditional team and want feedback
  • Project Managers looking to improve their cross-functional collaboration skills

Explore Complementary Skills to Responsiveness

Responsiveness shouldn’t be practiced in a vacuum. Improve your responsiveness by exploring and developing these complementary skills.

  • Analytical Thinking: Applies logical thinking to solve complex problems
  • Candor: Communicates in a truthful and in a straightforward manner
  • Communication: Clearly conveys information to others (written or verbal)
  • Listening: Attends to the speaker in a way that displays interest and enthusiasm
  • Supportiveness: Listens and provides help for individual or team in an encouraging, sensitive manner

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