Oftentimes, I wonder how many voicemails I have left in my career. A message on my own cell phone recently was a stark reminder that I have fallen into a bad habit of not checking and thereby not listening to my voicemail. I know this because I got the not so gentle reminder that my voicemail was “90% full”. I certainly had no memory of listening to that many voicemails. And alas, the blue dot filled the screen; multiple voicemails that I’d not heard. I instantly felt guilty as I wondered how many people had my voice recorded on their voicemail and they had not heard my message. A message that was important enough for me to make the phone call in the first place, using valuable time to reach out to another person.
I decided then that I would begin listening to voicemails. As it turns out, there is important, time saving information on those recordings! Information that several people felt important enough to attempt some voice on voice communication with me.
You see, I had gotten in the habit of merely calling back missed calls without listening to voicemails. It seemed faster that way, but rarely did I actually catch the person on the call back; and you guessed it, I left a voicemail. So, as the guilt set in when my phone indicated to me that my voicemail was “90% full”, I wondered, “what would happen if we all slowed down a little, and communicated like human beings instead of machines?”
Certainly, most of us are busier than we have ever been, but are we achieving more success because of technology like text messaging and email? Have we lost the ability to build relationships with those with whom we seek to share communication? I think we all know the answer to those questions. The answers: a resounding NO, we are not more productive and YES, we have are losing the ability to build and sustain relationships with real people. We have not become more successful, if anything, we have lost the ability to communicate on basic levels.
I felt a little hypocritical that day because I could not count the times I have been frustrated by “you can not leave a message for this person because their mail box is full”. That always seemed unprofessional to me; and just because I beat my voicemail to the punch didn’t mean that I was any less unprofessional as those who frustrated me. The fact of the matter is if I care enough about you to leave you a voicemail, I deserve for you to listen to it; and certainly people that leave me voicemails deserve the same treatment.
We have had candidates who lose opportunities because they do not return phone calls. When we reach out to them (usually by text because they never answer their phone), the response is almost always “o, you know what, I did have a missed call, I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t call it back”. When we ask the question, you know where I am going, “did you listen to the voice mail?”, the answer is almost always “no”.
What would happen if all of us got a little better about this? What would happen if we relearned how to “listen” to people? Would be become more productive? Would we create and sustain better working relationships?
It’s worth a try, don’t you think?