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Urgent vs Non Urgent

Lesson 5 from: Effective Communication in the Remote Era

Ari Meisel

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Lesson Info

5. Urgent vs Non Urgent

How (and why) you should treat every communication touch-point like a customer experience.

Lesson Info

Urgent vs Non Urgent

So the first thing that we wanna do in terms of identifying the types of communication that we're going through on a regular basis is look at urgent versus non-urgent. At the end of this segment I'm gonna have to actually write this down and figure out which ones are which, and that maybe sounds like a really obvious thing, but what is urgent to one is rarely urgent to another. and we see this a lot of times when you have new hires, for example, you have somebody that just joins the company or a team, and something relatively bad happens, maybe like an important client gets upset about something or a big sale might be pending, and that new person who has no context and hasn't experienced that before, thinks like, (gasps) "Oh my God, this is urgent, I have to go pull the boss out of the meeting that he's in and tell them what's going on," and when they do that, it turns out that it's actually not that big a deal and they've interrupted something that they shouldn't have. So for me, the ...

way I usually define urgent is anything that is urgent in my mind is something that I wanna be interrupted for. I'd say in my life, the only thing that I would consider urgent would be something maybe happening with my family, my kids, my wife, something like that. Like when school calls. PSA to anybody who calls from a school ever, the very first thing you need to say when the person picks up the phone, before they even finish saying hello is, "Everything's okay," that's what you need to do, it's really annoying when you see the the school's number pop up and then they start to say, "Is this so-and-so's father? This is so-and-so from the school," are they okay or not, right? You think about this almost like in a customer experience setting, it's bad customer experience, especially when it's something that really is benign. It's almost, knock on wood, it's a rarity that something really, really bad might happen. I've gotten calls before from the school nurse just to let me know that one of my kids came in, got an ice pack, and went back to class. Now, that should have been an email, I didn't need to get a phone call for that because I promise you, no matter what's happening in my life, if I see that number pop up from my kids' school, I'm gonna stop and I'm gonna answer it, because I consider that to be urgent. The switching costs that comes along with an urgent interruption is actually huge. We know from all sorts of data that if you interrupt somebody, it takes on average about 20 to 25 minutes to get back into the groove of what they were doing, it's just the way that our brains work. That's huge, if you think about in a day, given how little actual productive time most people get in a given day. Now, again, the things that are urgent to you are rarely gonna be urgent to somebody else, and vice versa. Oftentimes the more experience that we have with things, the less urgent things become. I've volunteered as an emergency medical technician for over 11 years, and I promise you that when I started, little cuts and bruises seemed a lot more urgent to me than the 20, 30-year experienced paramedics all around me. It's all relative, and we don't know unless we say it. And you're gonna see a common theme here in the things that I teach and the things throughout this course, that a lot of this is about explicitly stating the implicit. So we need to identify what's urgent versus non-urgent for everybody on the team, and you need to set that bar. Now, keep in mind, the difference between an urgency and an emergency is very different. Emergency is like if the building is collapsing, that's not urgent, that is an emergency, that's not what we're talking about here, we're talking about the things where it's like, "I have to tell this person right now and I will do anything I can to break down the door, bust the wall down, to let them know that their lunch is here." So what I need you to do is take a moment, pause this, get a piece of paper, and give yourself two boxes or columns on your piece of paper, one is urgent, one is non-urgent, and don't think about what it should be. think about what it is right now for you. Start with the non-urgent, what are the types of communications you go through, the types, right? So it's not the meeting with Bob, right? We're talking about status updates, new business idea meetings, sales calls, and then urgent might be, I don't know, it depends for your business. I really struggle to think of things that are truly, truly urgent in my mind, 'cause remember, these are things that you wanna be interrupted by no matter what, but hopefully you can come up with a list of maybe 5, maybe 10 if you're lucky, and write those down, look at that list, decide, does this really make sense? Is this really urgent? And it doesn't matter, there's no judgment here, the point is though to get this on paper and then give it to everybody else. Part of the training that everybody needs to receive in your business and as they come into your business, is what you consider to be urgent and not. But typical things that we might see on that urgent list for clients, or for the businesses I work with, is a complaint from your most VIP of VIP clients, right? That client's upset about something, you wanna know about it right away 'cause you wanna handle it personally. That's fine, totally fine. Another one might be a robbery, right? Maybe not a physical robbery, but maybe there's a banking issue, banking goes down. Actually let's say Stripe had an issue and we can't process credit cards today, and we need some sort of alternative. Now, I would argue that in a situation like that you should have a backup in place, but if you don't and that were to happen, then yeah, I think that would be something that you'd want to be interrupted for and get involved with. And then another one would probably be if there is some sort of internal, large-scale HR issue, right? So let's say that your COO is really unhappy and wants to quit. Yeah, that would probably be something that you wanna get interrupted for. Now, these sound like catastrophe situations, which they kinda are, so the good thing about that is that if you can identify those, we can start to plan for those in advance, but you also start to recognize that very few things actually fall into that urgent category, and that's a good thing.

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Ahmed Mostafa

I gained a clear understanding of the distinctions between synchronous and asynchronous communication techniques, as well as the best tools to use for each.

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