I’m working on a project with a co-worker from another division. We started our work together in sync and in step. When I sent an email or a text, she had a prompt response. The project has faced some challenges in the last few weeks, and with these challenges, my co-worker became less responsive. As the leader of the project, this frustrated me, but I knew she had a lot of other work responsibilities.
I assumed that her lack of responsiveness was explained by her prioritizing other areas of her workload, so I began to back off on my communication to her. I began to question if she wanted as many updates from me. I began to make more decisions on my own. With the reduction in communication from me, she concluded that I was taking the lead on making the decisions because I was not valuing her input. And she became even less responsive, because why should she prioritize responding to me when I was not prioritizing communicating with her?
Sound familiar? Of course, it does. This has either been you as the leader or the co-worker, or you have been the one chosen to mediate between the leader and the co-worker.
I’m reminded today that our biggest challenge on the path to inclusiveness is time. It takes time to continually include someone who isn’t responding. It takes time to pull them along and keep them updated. It takes time to make sure they feel included. It takes time to hold them accountable. And because time is our most limited resource, we preserve it. We think we are saving ourselves time when we limit the updates, but in reality, we will spend more time catching them up. We will cost ourselves, our co-worker and our project productivity.
As leaders, we need to be the “assumption busters” and the overly inclusive communicators. If someone starts slipping in responsiveness, we need to go to them and ask why. We need to tell them that we need their input to make our team better. We need to hold them accountable...for their own good, our own good, and the success of our project.
Inclusion takes time. It is an “up-front investment” that if you choose to ignore, may feel faster in the beginning. Don’t be fooled. It will catch up with you in the end.