Back in the dark ages when I started my career in banking, the pace of work and communication was entirely different. Imagine a world with no mail other than what came with a stamp on it or in an interoffice envelope (who remembers those?). Your phone messages came on a pink slip of paper and you dictated your memos. You could actually choose to leave your work at the office. Of course, the biggest change today is that you literally carry your office around in your pocket or a backpack. (Briefcases are gone as well.)
While I am not terribly nostalgic about those days, there are some lessons I learned early in my career that seem to have gone the way of office hours. One of those was the Sundown Rule, which was coined by Sam Walton - it worked well for him and Walmart as it was one of their four core beliefs and is still on the website. It was also in the employee manual of the dearly departed Wachovia Bank – where I spent nearly 20 years.
Simple. Elegant. Effective.
A Modern Day Challenge
As a practical matter, the volume of communication we receive and filter every day makes this rule challenging to execute. Nevertheless, what we prioritize we achieve, and each of us has to find a way to make sure that the messages that require response float to the top so we are professional and responsive. There are tools that can help with this, yet regardless of the method, being responsive pays huge dividends in terms of loyalty, trust and new opportunities.
While you may not have the answer, or be ready for the detailed conversation that might ensue, in almost everyone’s pocket today is a way to quickly say, “Thanks for your message, and I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow”. Perhaps not exactly by sundown, but you get the point.
Frankly, I have not kept this promise myself in recent years, so as of now I recommit to the Sundown Rule, in honor of my friends and colleagues from the old Wachovia.
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