Let me ask you a few questions:
Who are your internal customers?
What do they need from you?
What do they want from you?
Could you say what their key priority is right now?
How much time do they want you spend with them?
If you can only guess at the answers to the questions above you are not close enough to your key internal customers. And if you are not close enough to your customers, this is when urgent ‘fire fighting’ issues occur. This leads to you being distracted from your well thought through plans for the day or week ahead. Also if you are unfortunate, your irritated colleague can cause a lot of disturbance that reaches your management team and requires them to step in to calm things down.
But I don’t have time!
If this is your conundrum and you have a ‘to do’ list that seems to grow rather than shrink it is still worth making your investment of time with your key customers. There is an amazing amount of value to get out of just asking questions about what they are working on, their deadlines coming up, the information they need and the decisions they will need to take.
Remember to actually listen to their answers, not just to the words, but the way they are expressed. You will certainly be able to differentiate between what they need (facts; figures; analysis etc) and what they want (to get a decision made with little fuss; appropriate backing and reassurance for their plans; help positioning internally to gain buy-in etc). Their wants are a much more powerful motivator than their needs. Knowing their wants puts you in a better position to negotiate what work needs to be done and in time frames that work for you as well as them.
I have worked in many high pressure corporate environments. In one role, key business customers could make demands for significant commercial proposals with a 24 hour turnaround. In this situation it paid dividends for the sales manager and me to be already aligned. We were able to react quickly and coherently to get the best deal possible.
Spending time with your internal customers is an investment with a significant personal ROI for you. Building a rapport helps when you need to get their support. It’s also useful when you need them to hear your rationale as to why not to go ahead with a poor decision. They build their trust in your expertise and also know you will be there when they need you most.
Have a look at your diary and get some time in now, dedicated to getting close to your key customers. Commit to keeping the appointments and get ready to find out what was in store for you that you never knew about.