Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On getting back to routines.

I'm back in my office on this rather warm NYC day, after a nice long weekend. Hope yours was good, too.

Not gonna lie, though; I'm having trouble this morning with the re-entry. Does any of this sound familiar?

"Oh, of COURSE checking Twitter counts as work." (I'm @millercallihan, if you're interested.)

"I should really say hi to everyone in the office before I sit down at my desk."

"I'm just going to read my email before I do the three things I promised myself I'd get done before lunch."

And so on.

Really, though, part of the reason I'm stalling is that a lot of what I need to do this morning is to make phonecalls-- especially chasing payments for my clients-- and it seems cruel to call anyone the minute they get back from their long weekend. (After all, there's a Twitter feed to catch up on!) And presumably some of them, when I do finally call, will still be traveling, extending that nice long weekend just a little bit longer.

So I fear today won't be as productive as I'd hoped.

Fortunately, I have a backup plan: a long list I made before the long weekend (hooray!) of all the things I want to tackle this week. Chief among them, after the phonecalls, is to catch up on my reading, especially my clients' manuscripts. And that I can do no matter who's available.

Which leads me to another topic: professionalism and communication. One of my authors was good enough to email me to let me know she's going to be out of town, and out of email contact, the rest of this week. Hers is one of the manuscripts I need to give feedback on this week, but now that I know she's away for a few days, I know I can have until Friday to get back to her with my notes, leaving me to concentrate on other things in the meantime.

My work life is packed with these kinds of decisions, and I am always, always grateful for updates like J's.

Your turn: tell me about someone who's impressed you with their professionalism, or something you strive for in your own professional life. These needn't be writing- or publishing-related; I'd like to think behaving like a pro translates across all industries, no?


Anonymous said...

I think the Internet has really changed a lot of people's ideas about professionalism. There are so many agents, editors, and authors blogging, and e-mail feels so informal, that it can be tempting to think you're already everyone else's best friend. But business relationships in publishing are like business relationships anywhere else: business first, relationship second.

And, uh, get off my lawn, you kids!

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

I agree, Brian-- so messy. And everyone's got a slightly different standard for what's "too informal," especially in correspondence. I know a very senior editor at one of the big houses who is a strong believer in the colon (as in "Dear Brian:") but he is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

Re: the Internet, there's a delicate balance, too. I want to have an "Internet presence" but I don't want to send the message that I spend all my time on the blog or on Twitter and none of it on my clients' projects...

adelaida said...

After a few years of doing research and writing-- so isolating--I am certainly benefiting from reading blogs, checking Facebook pages, etc. It 'feels' as if I am connected. But Brian is right, the easygoing tone misleads. I wonder too, if the apparent informality and friendliness does not make things difficult when the time comes for straight talking between agents and writers.

Aaron Niskodé-Dossett said...

I dislike seeing business letters signed "Sincerely" and always use "Very truly yours" myself.

Unknown said...

Professionalism is tied to culture. I am only 41, but I remember the days when everyone who was "professional" wore a suit, tie, uniform, etc. Our culture today stresses relationships over substantive formality. Formality breeds professionalism, but often dulls communication and true connection.

However the converse is true. Taken to an extreme (or even a slight excess), informality becomes unprofessional. Informality in communication, in dress, in manner often give the perception of being less serious, less successful and less dedicated.

But every individual responds to different stimuli. Some authors, agents, publishers, editors, marketers, et cetera, desire business relationships that are deep, meaningful and personal. Other personality types prefer professional but friendly. And there are those individuals who prefer professional business relationships that are more distant and formal.
To each their own and to all those who are attempting to be all things to all people: good luck.

Sorry for the long comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Robert Michael: every individual responds to different stimuli.

One of the great things about the internet (among oter things) is that there's so much information out there to enable people to make a choice. There was a time when professionals needed to be "all things to all people", and clients needed to "like it or lump it". Now, there's much more opportunity for casually-minded people to connect with more casual professionals and formally-minded people to connect with formal professionals.

I'm only 34, but still feel uncomfortable with a someone in a professional role behaving/dressing/speaking to me over-casually in the context of our business relationship. When it comes to my hairdresser, on the other hand, that's a different story.

Amy said...

When I was working in an office and communicating regularly with clients and contacts (not that long ago), the most important thing that someone could do professionally, in my opinion, was to let me know that they received my communications.

I know everyone is busy. I was happy with receiving a quick note saying "I received your email," or "thanks for sending that along" when I submitted something. That was a nice, professional thing to do, and I'd try to do the same in return.

It got more tricky when asking questions. Everyone is so busy, it was rare to get answers to more than one question per email. There were times I had to structure my emails as terse, brief, and almost rude queries to get my main points across.

The thing that would drive me nuts most was getting a one-line answer (often in poor grammar), signed "sent from my blackberry" to a three paragraph email on a super important issue--then no follow up later. The mobile device has severely cut into professionalism. Sigh.

What I would have liked in those case was just a brief email saying "I'll look into that and get back to you when I'm at my computer." With a follow up. But that never happened (okay, probably not never, but no example pops to mind).

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

Jessica Brockmole said...

I agree that communication is key. I know how easy it is for an email or a phone message to become buried, especially if it's a lower priority, but I've been on the other end, waiting for a response. I always try to stay on top of those emails/messages as I appreciate correspondents who do the same. I'm lucky to have an agent who is excellent at staying in touch....