Top tipsHere’s my top tips for getting responses that will help you be more effective in your work:

  1. Diary it. Put it in your diary: when you sent your request out, when you need to response and your deadline. When I worked for NATO they had an American phrase called a ‘Suspense’ diary that acted as a register and a record.
  2. Plan ahead. Always ask for it the day before you need it – so it gives you a bit of wiggle room.
  3. Timing. Always consider the time of the month regarding other people’s work pressures.  Asking Finance for something by the end of the month or at the end of the month is always going to be problematic! This is due to the end of month budget pressures and requirements.
  4. Think format. Just asking for some views etc. might cause people to put off your request.  Give them a form or a framework to complete and you might just get it a little quicker.  I was having a problem getting a HR report for the Board Meeting, however when I asked for it to be put in their regular form it came within hours. 
  5. Be prompt. Make sure when you are asked for comment or returns by your colleagues, yours are always in on time or when you are asked for help – you respond quickly.  This makes your colleagues feel obliged to do the same for you.
  6. Offer help.If you are asking for returns within the Head Office take the opportunity to pay them regular visits to see if you can help with the return and of course to see how they are getting on.
  7. Take an interest. Visit them at their work station not in the kitchen – it shows interest in what they are doing
  8. Explain why.When you send out the request also take the opportunity of saying why you need it! How their important piece of information will be  used and/or how integral it is to the meeting.  Team Leaders are often demoralised by how many requests they receive and never see any evidence of how it is used or how it has benefited people.
  9. Remind – gently. Follow up with gentle reminders. With a statement saying: ‘you know how busy they are – this is always appreciated!’
  10. Response or consultation? I know this sounds obvious but………do you need to ask for it? Is this more about consultation?  “If you have any ideas, problems etc. then let us know by…… otherwise we will assume you are happy”
  11. Does it really matter? Is it critical to you and your boss if you don’t get a return? It  might be you are wasting lots of energy for no good reason.  I have recently asked a number of people for ideas for the PEST analysis following our recent Board Meeting.  Given people’s work priorities I am not expecting anything and will be pleasantly surprised if I do, but at least I asked – I can just as easily do it myself.
  12. Nothing matters, too. Always ask for Nil Returns!
  13. Be specific. Do say if you have not received a contribution by…… you will record it as a nil return for your meeting
  14. Record and reward.Keep a chart of your returns from who – it is always interesting who gets theirs in on time – its nice every so often if you send out a thank you letter and copy in your Boss – everybody likes recognition
  15. Record and report! Keep a chart of those who don’t get there returns in on time highlighting those who don’t even apologize – this is bad form and  doesn’t show respect (if it is persistent).  You do need to report this (however you do need evidence otherwise it is just a moan) to your boss as this is clearly a performance issue which you can’t address!
  16. Remind. Recently a manager asked me for dates of our Board Meetings for the year so that she could diary them in and therefore could prepare reports in good time. By sending out regular schedules for when reports need to be complete it provides a regular and often much needed reminder.
  17. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – for your returns from senior managers discuss with your boss the need for a KPI on returns and papers.  I could happily give you a format for this
  18. Have a KPI for yourself
  19. Your boss’s KPI. Your boss might like to consider her own KPI ie. “On a 100% of occasions Board Papers go out within 1 week of the meeting.  It is important this is circulated so everyone knows their part in this.
  20. Acknowledge each return and use this as a prompt to remind others for theirs.

Good Luck! Let me know if you have any other tips that work for you.