People leaving useless voicemail? Whip 'em into shape by setting clear boundaries.
John in Austin, Texas called in a question:
I have a question for you. People leave voicemail all of the time with no name, number, or subject that says, “please call me back”. My outgoing messages say to leave a name and number, but they skip the greeting. What do I do? I waste a lot of time on these poorly left messages. Thanks for a great podcast, hope to hear about this soon.
The quick and dirty tip is to set a firm boundary, Communicate it clearly, without blame, and make it clear everyone benefits. Tell people when it takes effect, and then follow it utterly.
Don't you just want to blame people? "Grr... you left a vague, unhelpful message!" Unfortunately, blame rarely works, even if they deserve it. Let's be enlightened. Most likely, people are as busy as you. They're talking to your voicemail as if you're there in person, and probably don't even realize their message is unhelpful.
So it's up to you to teach them. You've tried an outgoing message and that hasn't worked. So now it's time to change their behavior by changing yours. You, my friend, need to set boundaries. If you continue without boundaries, you'll lose time to phone tag. You'll either get less work done or you'll have to stay later. If you stay late, you'll miss dinner with your family, or more importantly, you won't be able to join your Warcraft guild for tonight's Kharazan raid. (Just kidding, the family's more important... Mostly.)
Or, you can set a big, honkin' boundary. Boundaries are a paradox. They separate us in ways that help everyone get more of what they want. When you can make sure your needs are getting met, you can better meet theirs.
Once You Set a Boundary, Communicate It
Boundaries are simple: you tell the other person where your line is, and what will happen if they cross it. Don't communicate in anger; that's called a fight. Set a start date and frame your boundary as a way to help you help them. Choose a start date at least two weeks away. Between now and then, talk or e-mail everyone who might leave voicemail and communicate the boundary.