Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why comms leaders need to be able to take the call

I had to chuckle when I saw the article That time Bill Gates answered a tech support call...and crushed it. It brought me right back to a time when my communications team had agreed that all incoming phone calls should be answered in three rings or fewer. Not long after that, I was standing out in the office bullpen, and the phone rang. Once, twice, no one answering, despite the availability of many. So I picked up the phone on ring number three. "Communications, may I help you?"

The reporter on the other end told me she was calling from the Wall Street Journal and wanted to pursue a story on a topic for which we weren't covered enough--one that would be meaningful to us. "I'd be happy to help you with that," I said. "And who might you be?" was the reporter's somewhat snide rejoinder.

"I'm the director of this office," was the only reply possible. That seemed to suit her, so she proceeded with the details of her request.

In Gates's case, he asked to field some support line calls, and, as the article notes, didn't give away his identity, naming himself as "William" to the caller. But when the customer called back and asked for the "nice" rep named William, he was told it had been the CEO who answered the call.

Our two stories have their differences, but the article's point is the same as mine: Communications leaders *should* be able to field incoming calls of all types, and handle them appropriately, even if my team members were mortified when they figured out who'd caught the call. It certainly helped make my point about why it's important to answer calls promptly--you'd hate to have missed the Journal's call. But I know my team members also were impressed that I could "still" do it.

Go one step further, and spend a few hours a month answering calls or fielding emails. See what comes in over the transom, and then ask the people who do that on the regular what they notice. Tell them what you notice. Are there gaps between what you think is a well-handled call, and what they think it is?  And if you don't know how to field and direct incoming calls, get your team to teach you. It's leadership perspective that can work for you as well as Bill Gates.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by OnInnovation)

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