A major factor for a positive professional brand, and in turn, a successful work life, is responsiveness. In today’s workplaces, hardly anyone works completely independently and alone. This means that people need to be able to depend on you.
Because responsiveness is about perceptions, it is either noticeably visible or blatantly absent. Think about your co-workers; who would you want to work with on a high-stakes assignment? It’s probably someone who is quick to respond to emails, someone who takes the initiative and doesn’t need someone to specifically direct them, and/or consistently offers solutions to difficult problems.
Responsiveness is an indicator of good time management skills. It shows that you have it together, but it also shows that you also care about the person—building powerful trust.
Act quickly. Procrastination works well only until you earn your degree. When others are depending on you, delayed responses to requests looks disorganized, unprofessional, and inconsiderate. If it takes ten minutes or less, just do it. For everything else, do what you can to avoid being a bottleneck.
Show concern for the outcome. Working hard is not enough. Working long hours does not make up for failing to deliver meaningful results. Perfection is often not valued as much as progress. Act in a way that shows you are interested in everyone’s success, not just your own piece of the puzzle.
Follow-up pre-emptively. Responsiveness is not only a behavior; it is a communication style. Most people feel at least somewhat awkward when they must check-in with ‘hey how’s that project going,’ especially if they have to do it more than once. Since you probably don’t want to associate your work with such negativity, give updates when things have stalled or a new priority suddenly emerged.
Keep all parties involved. Any time someone connects you, refers you, or delegates work to you, they have a stake in what happens next. Their reputation is on the line so they are interested in hearing from you. Keep them in the loop with your activity, your progress, and your results. Until you have a long-standing, high-trust relationship, they cannot determine whether you have represented them well unless you let them know.
Have an organized system. When you are busy, it is so easy for things to fall through the cracks. Create an organized system that works for you and your projects. Similar to a to-do list, you may want to have a to-follow-up list. Just as you may have a project management spreadsheet, you can have a communications spreadsheet, or when you've outgrown a spreadsheet, project management software such as Intuit QuickBase. A methodical system keeps you from getting stressed and frazzled and makes it effortless to plan ahead for meetings and conversations at a moment’s notice.
You tell people by your actions what they can expect from you in the future. Think about your past week or month; what message have you been sending?