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"Quick Action Response" and Jargon


I was on a client call on Friday and we were talking about how a client of hers questioned her turnaround time for delivering to him a proposal. He wanted to work with her, and he also wanted her to know that it confused (and probably annoyed) him that it took a few months to receive a proposed scope of work and price. To teach her his lesson, he explained how in his time in business he learned that the most successful people - the ones getting promoted quickly and rising up the ladder - had what he termed as a "quick action response." Of course, being me and generally disliking and not knowing the language of cliched, business rhetoric and jargon, I had to ask "what does "quick action response" mean? She explained to me that it meant 'fast turnaround, immediate answers.'

Deep breath, here we go. (Why do people talk like that?)

Three reasons (of probably several) that I hate expressions like that are (1) they oversimplify and automate human behavior in a way that isn't useful or healthy, (2) they keep people from actually talking about what is true, and (3) people nod like they know the meaning but half the time they have no idea what is the meaning.

So, I said to my client, "Let's reframe this (from a feminine perspective*... yes i did say that) to see why he wanted to give the lecture and what you can do differently moving forward."

In their conversation about him wanting to "teach" her about "quick action response," her newest client was actually telling her "I want to be acknowledged better, differently, and in a tighter timeframe. I want to know what I can expect from you." We don't need cliches and jargon to explain or express this. All we need to do is talk about closing communication loops and setting better expectations. Most importantly, we're also talking about putting you in a position of (healthy) control in dynamics with your clients, co-workers, and bosses. It's actually simple leadership technique.

Whether working with clients or with teams, setting expectations is a principle leadership strategy. Nothing too fancy here, right? Ok, so how? When you are in a conversation with someone and the outcome of that conversation is an artifact of some sort e.g. a proposal, a memo, a report, an email, a follow-up call, set good, boundaried, clear expectations about when the recipient will receive the artifact from you. The reason for doing this is (1) to get done what needs to get done, (2) to set a clear timeline for yourself for getting done what needs to get done, (3) to establish a realistic timeline for the recipient to receive it, and (4) to acknowledge the person you are committing to delivering the artifact to that they and the work you are doing together, in fact, matter.

You take care of yourself (rather than avoid) and the other at the same time.

Here is the (healthy) control:

1. Set (and sometimes you might be negotiating) a timeframe that is realistic to get the work done well. Don't commit to something that isn't doable. If you have to say, "I cant do this proposal for 3 months." That is fine, but say it out loud. In doing this, you are seting appropriate expectations.

2. You are acknowledging the other by allowing them to understand what is your context and timing, as they are a part of the conversation and feel held by having an expectation of delivery plus clear and upfront communication from you.

3. You are allowing the other person to understand how you work, how you show up, how they can rely on you to communicate 'what is,' and how they can depend on you in the context of the expectations you are setting.

4. You are committing to what is doable and workable rather than leaving it open and ambiguous or over-promising in a timline that doesn't work - and then not delivering.

Avoiding naming expectations leaves everyone with ambiguity that undoubtedly ends up in anxiety and some version of pain. Seriously, it's hanging over the head of the deliverer who will likely feel the weight and pressure of not getting something done and it's also leaving the recipient feeling ignored and unacknowledged.

Forget about "quick action response" or "avoiding". Just set clear expectations instead. You actually acknowledge yourself and the other in the process.

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