Completing the project is crossing the entire thing off the list, eliminating the chunk of work completely. It’s moving a project from development to maintenance.
Closing the loop is different. It’s eliminating the dependency that someone else has on you – or at least updating them on the state. Every project has dependencies, and if you are pushing for excellence your role is most likely key to the projects success.
Leaving others hanging is the worst thing you can do. It’s when someone’s dependency on you becomes a blocker to the project or a drain on the projects momentum.
And it’s one my biggest faults.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. I love when things are complete and I can deliver them to a teammate or client. I also struggle to switch between different contexts or projects: it’s easy for me to forget to give a status update on something that I’m currently working in.
When something isn’t a top priority (e.g. a side project) it’s easy for me to treat communication around that project as less than top priority. To not spend the time on responding and communicating but instead concentrate on “doing work” on another project.
A trusted mentor recently gave me some very direct feedback on this:
You have to close the loop: don’t leave things hanging for hours or days if you can send an update. Even if you can’t deliver what you promised, make sure you close the loop and keep the momentum building by being relentlessly responsive.
Ouch. I’m off the mark in this area and here’s what I’ve done to fix this:
I’m viewing responsiveness as part my personal brand
Your personal brand – how people perceive you and how you work – is one of your most valuable assets. It’s important to protect this.
I want the people I work with to say “Mike is a great communicator. He responds to email within 24 hours and makes sure to update us on progress, even when the progress isn’t as quickly as we expected”
I want people to know that if they email, call, or text me they will get a response and it will be prompt. It may not always be complete or comprehensive, but I won’t leave them hanging.
I’m all-in on InboxZero
InboxZero is hard. Processing every single email in your inbox is not an easy feat.
But it really does create clarity. Getting everything out of my inbox and either 1) handled or 2) into an external system that I can trust is huge. It creates the mental peace that “everything is under control” – all my todos are properly organized and schedule, I can plow ahead and executing the next segment of work without worrying about missing something.
Four weeks ago my inbox had 800 items in it. I’ve been archiving 50-100 messages a day and slowly cleaning up all of my inboxes. Getting to zero is really possible!
I’m communicating that I’m behind
When I’m behind on a project or getting back to a contractor or vendor I’m going to let them know before I’m behind. This isn’t always comfortable, but it’s the right thing.
I’m being creative about pushing the ball forward
Closing the loop – being responsive – doesn’t mean giving a complete response. When responding my goal should be giving the most value to the other party with minimal input on my end.
If I don’t more than 1 minute to respond to this email, what could I say that would move the ball forward? Can I ask a clarifying question that I will need the answer to later? Can I offer a link or article that articulates what I would want to say better?
The art of moving the ball forward without allowing others to set your priorities is incredibly important.
I’m going to be ok with grammatical mistakes
I’m not a english major. I’m (insert New York accent here) horrible at English. I believe spell check has destroyed my ability to spell. I got a 10% on the state spelling exam.
I need to improve my English, and it’s something I’m actively working on. However, it’s not going to happen overnight, and that’s ok.
Making sure spelling & grammar is correct on every email and blog post takes time. If it’s a choice between sending a response or putting it off till later and ensuring the grammar and spelling is correct, I’m going to press send.