Is there anything more frustrating than sending a fourth or fifth follow-up email that starts, “We’re still waiting to hear from you so we can….”?

Yes, people are busy, but not getting a response when you need one can be downright infuriating.

When projects are at a standstill waiting for input, it can be tempting to either pester someone several times a day or simply give up trying altogether.

Instead of becoming the office nuisance, try creating alternatives to waiting to hear back.

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with updating your Code of Conduct. You’ve got a working group with eight members on it, each of whom is supposed to give you feedback on the outline, draft, and design.

You could chase each one of them six times and end up near tears waiting to get either the final comments or confirmation that the members didn’t have any. Or you could take back control.

The Alternatives to Waiting for a Decision.

Choose to Control the Timeline

The trick is to set up the situation so you can control your next move as well as the timeline.

Let’s say you’re at the point where your Code working group needs to review the second draft. Your timeline has you sending the final draft to the graphics team in two weeks.

Rather than saying, “please get your comments to me in the next two weeks,” try

“I will take all of the edits and comments I have received by next Friday and use them to complete the final draft.”

When you tell people when you are going to make the next move and promise to include only feedback given during the feedback period, you take control of the timeline.

If you set yourself up to wait for others to respond to you, then you give up control of your timeline.

Failing to control the timeline will create failure to deliver your projects on time and reflect badly on you.

Choose to Control the Outcome

Another way to control the situation is to control the outcome.

You do this by stating what will happen if you don’t get feedback by the deadline.

Let’s go back to our Code working group. It’s now time to choose the font for the Code. You could ask everyone to vote on it and wait for responses, or you could write that Cordova font will be selected unless anyone would prefer a different one, and if they do, they should tell you by close of business today.

By doing this, you’ve made the most likely outcome your preferred choice.

The Risks

There are, of course, risks to this approach.

If someone in your working group gets 200 emails each day and then gets mad that the Cordova font was chosen, that might put you in an awkward position. People may be unhappy if they were called out of the office or went on sick leave because their ideas weren’t heard. Others may feel you’re simply too pushy.

Consider those risks, but don’t let them stop you too often. Getting things done in an expedited manner sometimes requires a bit of elbow swinging.

Putting Responsibility where it Belongs

Ultimately, all of us give our attention to the things which we choose to prioritize.

If someone isn’t responding to your emails or requests for comments, then they have chosen not to take the opportunity to steer the outcome or decision.

Instead of giving up your power to keep things moving, take it back by clearly dictating the timeline and outcome of failing to respond in the allotted timeframe.

By taking responsibility in this way, you’ll set yourself up for success.

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