Thursday, November 22, 2012

When You Offer To Help, Make Sure You Follow Through

(WARNING:  Slight Rant Ahead)

I attend lots of seminars and meetings.  Last month, it happened again.  The speaker said he would be happy to share his slides with anyone who sends him an email.  I sent an email that day to the address he gave me on his business card, thanking him for the seminar and asking if he could share his slides.  And sure enough...nothing.  No response, no slides, no nothing.

If this had happened on only one occasion or maybe even multiple times with a single individual, I would excuse it for sake of "he was busy, he lost the email, he forgot".  However, this has happened to me literally dozens and dozens of times...easily more than 100 times.  This last time caused me to say enough is enough and I need to write (vent...ok, rant) about it.

Let's first rule out a confounding factor...time.  Did I get the speakers enough time.  I feel definitely yes.  In the latest case mentioned above, one month is plenty of time.  Looking back at the whole history I have with these events, there are some requests that have over 20 years outstanding...I think that's enough time.

Let's now rule out a second confounding  Are my requests rude, intrusive, abrasive, or asking for too much?

While I can't show you all of my email requests, I can assure you that I am always polite, express my gratitude for their talk and insights, and kindly request the item they said they would share.  I never ask for more than they offered.  This is important because many people can see an offer to share something as an open door for any request.  I, and you should too, avoid making this mistake and do not overstep my bounds.

So my advise to all...when you offer to share anything, whether it is your slides, advice, time, knowledge, connection to a friend, and someone takes you up on it...follow through.

As the great old project management adage goes, "Say what you're going to do, and go do what you said".

So why do I think people don't follow through?  Surely there are a variety of reasons.  Some people really do forget.  Some don't get the email because of spam filters or other innocent reasons.  But I bet there are some that do it for not so innocent reasons.

Not so innocent reason #1:  People want to look good.
I think people like to appear more open and giving than they really are.  It's so easy to offer things when you're at the center of the audience's attention.  The seat of power.  The position of authority and expertise.  It feels good to yourself and makes you look good to others when you offer to share things.

Not so innocent reason #2 (the flip side of #1:  People don't want to look bad in front of the audience.
This happens a lot.  Someone in the audience asks the speaker directly if the slides will be available and rather than say no, even when the reason to say no is very valid such as for confidentiality reasons, the speaker falls upon the easy "send me an e-mail and I'll send them to you".  They look good in public and know they can later hide behind the "I never got your email" shield later on in private.

So that's my lesson (rant) for today.  Do what you say you're going to do.

I wouldn't go so far as to say "Don't lie" because I don't think most of these people consciously lied.  I'd like to think that on the spot they were geniune in their offer, but later on had second thoughts out of laziness, reconsideration, or other.

What are your thoughts?  Let me know if this has happened to you.

In fact, let's make a game out of it.  The next 5 times someone gives a seminar and offers something if you email them, send them an email request even if you don't want it.  Just see how many times out of the 5 that the person really does deliver.  Let me know what % you get and I'll do the same.

1 comment:

Timothy Grammer said...

Status Update:

2 out of 2 people have followed through with sharing their slides since I wrote this blog post. Very pleased to see this and hope it continues.

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