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Have We Been Too Vague?

By Joey Havens

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Pile of colorful paper notes with question marks. Closeup.

We have a 7:30 dinner reservation at a nice restaurant in Vegas and actually arrive about five minutes early (Yeah CeCe). The hostess (not extremely friendly) takes my name and phone number.

Handing me a pager, “this will vibrate when we have your table ready.”

“We have a 7:30 reservation and everyone is here, how long do you think it will be?”

“I will get back to you shortly.”

Wow, that’s irritating! Smiling, I bite my tongue and begin enjoying visiting with CeCe and our friends. [20 minutes later] “What about our table?” CeCe inquires. So here I go back to the friendly host.

“I’m Joey Havens, party of 4, with 7:30 reservations. It’s 20 minutes past our reservation, can you update me on the status of our table?”

“I will let you know shortly.” There it was again SHORTLY.

“I’m sorry, but I need to know what shortly means. Is that another 20 minutes?”

She glances down at her tablet, confers with another hostess behind her and looks back my way.

“I should have you at a table within five minutes.”

Great, now I know what shortly means. I was hoping that my comment (delivered very softly and professionally) would maybe trigger her to understand “shortly” is very vague and certainly not on the best practices for customer service in any business.

Our leadership thoughts today spring from the fact that I am too often just like my hostess above. I give responses at work and home that really are simply fuzzy with less commitment on my part. Whether it’s providing updates on deliverables to clients, team members or superiors, we should provide our best estimate of when we are truly committed to being done. Not our rosy “hope” or what we think they want to hear, but what is our commitment level where we can state it with confidence and apply our best self to get it done? That’s how we want to communicate. Can you think of times when your commitments are too vague or lead to missed expectations?

Heading back to the group, I inform them we have at least five more minutes. “Which one is our hostess?” inquires CeCe as I can see the red easing into her cheeks. Whoa CeCe, let’s wait these five minutes as she gave us an actual wait time when I inquired for an actual estimate. Expectations…

Coming in 2023, my new book Leading with Significance breaks through the limiting barriers of common culture theory and demonstrates, with great transparency, the real human emotions that elevate a culture to one that is genuine, enduring and magnetic. Sign up today for updates at