Have you ever spent a ton of time jumping through hoops for a project, client or proposal, and wondered, “Is this really worth it?”. I had one of those horrible experiences recently. Here’s what happened. Maybe you can relate?
The hoops I jumped through (ugh).
About eight or nine months ago, a colleague advised me that a certain organization was looking to hire a bunch of trainers. So I took a look at the requirements and qualifications and thought, “Hey, I’m a pretty good match. I think I’ll throw my hat into the ring.”
In the next few days, I pulled together the extensive information they required — descriptions of several sessions, along with learning outcomes, program outlines and references for each. I alerted my references that they may be called. I brushed up my resume and bio and tailored it to the proposal requirements. In short, I jumped at the chance. Little did I know it would digress to them shouting, “Jump!” and me saying, “How high?”.
After days bled into several weeks, I followed up asking how the process was going. I was advised that they were still working their way through the proposals received and that I would hear within a few weeks. I didn’t. So I followed up again and was again advised that it would be several weeks.
Do you ever get impatient with the process or with people saying they’re going to get back to you and they don’t?
I was doing what I advise my clients to do – be proactive. I continued to politely and gently question the status. I wanted to make sure I was still on their radar. I also wanted to manage my expectations about when I could expect a response. Would I be chosen for the sessions? Would they want to talk to me? I was uncertain and they weren’t responding.
A couple of months into the process, the rep contacted me. She advised that I was selected to participate in an interview. Perfect! We nailed down a time and a week or so later, we chatted on the phone for an hour. Every question you can imagine was asked. At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I answered pretty well. At the end of the phone conversation, I asked when would the decision be made? She said she’d be getting back to me in a few weeks.
A couple of months later, after a few emails from me asking about status, the rep asked if she could attend one of my sessions to see how I present. Well, first of all, my sessions are private to my corporate clients – we often discuss confidential matters and communication challenges. I wasn’t too comfortable with having her there. Secondly, the conference where she might have been able to see me present happened the week prior to her contacting me.
Funny how she gave me little time to respond, yet she took weeks, nay … months … to reply.
We settled on the less preferred option of me presenting to her online by Skype. The process required me drafting a detailed learning plan (really?), submitting that along with a slide presentation, and then delivering the presentation about the learning plan to her online. I couldn’t see her (her video wasn’t working), but she could see me. Talk about a psychological disadvantage! It took me about three days to prepare everything. And then, after the interview was over, she promised that I would hear “in a few weeks”.
After a month had passed, I contacted her and was advised that I would hear the final results in a month. I heard nothing. So guess what I did? Yup, I contacted her again to ask for a status update. This time … about nine months into the process, she responded the next day.
Here’s what she said …
Thank you for taking the time and showing interest in the (speaking opportunity). We interviewed a large number of qualified candidates and have unfortunately decided to proceed with other applicants who more closely fit our needs at this time.
We appreciate you taking the time to submit an application and meet with us.
We wish you the best of luck.
Are you kidding me? This two-sentence reply and update, received only upon my prodding, that’s what they give me after the weeks of preparation and months of time? How would you have responded? Maybe you would have remained silent and said nothing. Or perhaps you would have thanked her politely and left the door open for future opportunities. Nope, not me. Given the requirement to jump through so many ridiculous hoops, the disrespect to me was shown by the lack of response, and the inordinate amount of work I’d done for them gratis as part of this procedure prompted me to reply.
Here’s the email I sent back:
I’m glad to hear that you found your ideal candidates. I’m disappointed to be advised only upon my inquiring.
May I suggest in future that you build into your hiring procedure a courtesy email to final unsuccessful candidates to advise of status. This would position your organization as courteous, respectful, and acknowledging the candidates’ significant effort required to participate in your hiring interviews, mock learning plan, and session delivery. For your consideration.
PS: why do you consistently respond to emails with a stand-alone email vs. simply “replying” so I can see the previous email that I sent? Again, a suggestion to improve your communication procedures. No response required. For your consideration.
I share this story with you for several reasons. I want you to know that I experience some of the exact, same communication frustrations that you do. I also want to assure you that how you respond to these frustrations will make or break your outcome. During this screening process, there were several times when I got that little voice inside me saying, “Is this worth it?”.
LESSON #1: Listen to that voice inside you. It’s communicating your truth.
Even if I’d been the selected candidate, I’m not sure I would have fully enjoyed the lower fees, the traveling, or the audience (they were from a sector that I’ve known to question and challenge everything that’s presented. Delivering a session to them is not for the faint-hearted or novice presenter. It’s work). The bureaucracy and tangled web of procedure that this organization required for just its speaker selection process did not bode well. “If that’s what they’re like before you start working with them”, I reasoned, “what on earth would they be like after?” Imagine the amount of documentation they would require? Instead of spending my efforts developing and delivering the best sessions to respond to the needs of each particular group, I feared I would be drowning in red tape. Scissors, please!!!
LESSON #2: It’s all about “fit”. If it’s too much work, it might not be for you.
My response was finite. I don’t expect to ever hear from this organization again, and I’m OK with that. They have told me, through their actions, that this is an organization that doesn’t value great communications, and that in turn, tells me that they don’t value their people. This is not the type of organization I want to work with.
LESSON #3: Know if you’re burning a bridge. And if you decide it’s the right thing to do, leave a vestige for improvement.
After I got my hot dogs and marshmallows ready for the bridge-burning, I pushed “send” on the email above. I’m completely comfortable with having no further communications. They’ve taken enough of time. I’d rather spend my efforts on clients and colleagues who value respectful communications and people’s efforts.
I doubt that they’ll receive my “suggestions” as worthy of implementation. And that, too, is alright.
LESSON #4: Get the message out of the mess.
When you are the recipient of bad communication, it’s a solemn reminder of what you don’t want to be like. Grab the lesson. Get the “message” out of the “mess”. I sure did. Did you? Because if the answer is “yes”, it’s been worth the painful ride. Here’s to minimal hoop-jumping … except for the people you choose to serve.
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Helping biz people find solutions to workplace communication challenges.
Better communication, better business, better life.
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
© 2014 Marion Grobb Finkelstein