We all work with other people. We depend on others to do things, and in turn others depend on us to get answers for them. We can categorize our responses to other people in three ways:
Good News – This is the easiest to deliver. “Great news, that huge discount you asked for was approved!”
Bad News – Clearly much harder to deliver but definitive nonetheless. “I’m sorry to say our application can’t do that. No, it’s not on the roadmap, either.”
No News – This third category is far too often not used and is very much under appreciated in business today. I have to give credit to Mike Steinberg, the founder of Relyco, who has preached for years that “no news” is just as important as the other two categories. In some ways, it can be even more important. If you want a reputation as someone who is responsive, dependable and attentive to other people, then you’ll deliver “no news” the same way you deliver the good and the bad.
It’s very simple to do by saying something like: “I haven’t heard back from Mr. X., but I am following up today and will let you know what I find out”.
Or saying this works too: “I know you are waiting on me for those TPS reports. I’ll get them to you by the end of the day tomorrow.” As a technicality sometimes I leave out “business” day to give myself until midnight if things are particularly busy.
Delivering no news is simple, but the importance of it seems to escape so many people in business in our hyper-hectic work lives. When I don’t hear from someone, I wonder if they have totally forgotten about me. My mind wanders, assumptions are made and before you know it I have written my silent partner off as having given up on helping me at all. Even when that is not the case, it can seem that person sees me as such a low priority that I’m just at the bottom of their list.
Perhaps it is true and I am on the bottom of their list. They key is to not make anyone feel that way. If you tell someone you are going to get back to them, take a minute to tell them that you don’t have an answer but you are on top of it.
Its part of the same concept Dale Carnegie had back in the 1930’s – make other people feel important. When you don’t get back to someone, you are not doing that.
So deliver the good news, deliver the bad news, but don’t forget that no news can make a huge difference too.