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Mind the Gap

If you’ve been on the London Underground (the Tube as it’s affectionately called) you’ll recognise the phrase that booms out of the station tannoy and the carriage intercom as the train approaches the station. “Mind the Gap…...between the train and the platform”. Believe it or not people have fallen into that gap, prams have been caught within that space and people have seriously hurt themselves. Strange to think that they miss the gaping black hole between the two surfaces…… the funny thing is that this space presents a great lesson to us all in how we deal with colleagues and clients.

Where are we going with this? What has this got to do with professional services? Everything.

Think about a time when you were expecting to hear something from someone.

Time passed

Time passed

Time passed

And you didn’t hear from them.

Think about that time. What happened to you when you were waiting to hear from this person? How did you feel when they either finally got in touch with you or you made contact with them because you couldn’t wait for them anymore.

As a species we have expectations. We expect that you’ll get in touch when you said you would and when you don’t our brains mostly go into overdrive ….. Is there a problem?, I bet there’s an issue! I imagine that this is going to cost me more money? I wager (not sure who uses that term any more, but I’m into Blackadder, so it works for me) that something has gone wrong…..

We wind ourselves up with a bunch of assumptions when there is a space. A gap in the communication.

Some of you may have heard me speak about my flat buying experience last summer. In short, I was expecting to hear from my solicitor to confirm that we had exchanged and the flat was mine. It had been a complex journey (when isn’t it!?), I was so emotionally and financially invested in this property and I was so excited. I was told that someone would be in touch with me at 11am to confirm.

11am - no news. My mental response: OK, they are busy ‘doing the do’

11:05 - no news. My mental response: OK, things are busy, they must have a lot on today.

11:15 - no news. My mental response: Right, there is something wrong with my email. Turn the computer on and off.

11:30 - no news. My mental response: What? There’s an issue. Such and such has held this up, I bet that’s the case.

11:45 - no news. My mental response: Why? Why hasn’t this company called me, or emailed. I have paid them a shed load of cash and I have no idea what they are doing.

11:50 - no news. My mental response: I call the solicitor. I get to leave a frustrated voice message.

11:55 - an email. Thanks for your voice message. You have exchanged. We have been really busy. Someone was meant to let you know.

11:56 - I call the main switchboard of the solicitor and make my feelings understood. An apology of sorts and a deflated flat exchange.

For the record, those 55 minutes felt like a lifetime. We are emotional creatures and we have the luxury (and the burden) of a fantastic imagination. I thought of all sorts of scenarios in those 55 minutes. Every possible conceivable scenario went through my head. Cortisol (the stress hormone) was washing around my body and let’s be honest, that no good!

For clarity. When we expect to hear something and we don’t …….we make stuff up, we wind ourselves up, which means that when you do get in contact with us or we reach out to you, you have to do extra work with us to reassure, explain, apologise and restore our faith in you. It’s a trust thing.

So the lesson is simple. Mind the Gap.

Call clients back when you tell them you are going to - even if your message is that it’s taking a little longer and you’ll be in touch at xx time. Email them when you said you would, even if it’s to say that there are a few more things to do. Make contact when you said you would. And if you think something is going to take longer than you thought, stop thinking that we’d rather you just got on with it than tell us!

Mind the Gap otherwise you’ll do yourself, your colleagues and your clients an injury… the trust between you will be dented.

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