As part of the peer mentoring course I went to, one of the techniques we learned was to tell folks the best (and worst) ways to communicate with us so that when people have questions they know how to ask them in order to best get a valuable response in a timely fashion. As an exercise, here are my interaction preferences:
- If I am on the “To:” line, I will respond.
- If I am on the “CC:” line, I will consider it an “FYI” and will not respond.
- Put a real subject in the subject line. Do not put the whole message in the subject.
- If you need a response or if I have to do something, put “ACTION REQUIRED:” at the front of the subject.
- Do not use the “follow up” flag.
- If it isn’t high priority, do not use the “high priority” indicator. Do not abuse that.
- Make the first sentence a statement of the problem and the second sentence a statement of what you want. If you can’t do both of those in a sentence, I can’t help you. Provide requsite context after that.
- Don’t call me. Tech questions generally can’t be solved over the phone.
- Don’t leave me voice mail. I don’t get to it.
- Instant Messenger is good, but pay attention to the status. If I’m busy or in a meeting, don’t IM me.
- If my door is closed and/or my headphones are on, I’m in the middle of something. Don’t interrupt.
- The best times to catch me are before 10:00a and between 4:30p and 5:00p - first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Other times are not so great.
I think I’ll also do another of these exercises - “how to ask me a good question” - so folks know how best to ask things to get the answers they need.
Does this seem like a lot of process around something? Maybe, but you have to figure: the person asking the question (the apprentice) is only half of the equation; the other have is the person answering (the mentor). Every time the apprentice asks something, it may be valuable, but a mentor can’t teach if they don’t want to, and part of being a good apprentice/question-asker is to go ask a question the right way so the mentor doesn’t get burned out on answering and not want to answer anymore. I think that’s been part of my problem in the past - I’m so burned out with the interruptions that I just don’t want to answer anymore.