Listen to the audio version of this post here.
Funny, the things that can spark a debate.
There are plenty of major life-and-death issues on which opinions differ dramatically. And then there’s … online scheduling software.
I set off a firestorm the other day with my thoughts about Calendly and company.
Namely, it rubs me the wrong way when I hope to open a conversation with someone and they reply, “Here’s a link to my calendar.”
It always makes me think of those ‘60s ad guys we watched on Mad Men. You want my attention? Have your girl call my girl.
I’m my own “girl,” of course—I do the meeting and the scheduling at Catherine Johns Ltd. And I like to do it from a position of equality. Your time is valuable—and so is mine. “Go to my online calendar” sends an entirely different message.
It struck me that I might be too sensitive. If so … there are many other professionals with the same sensitivity. I was surprised that so many people agreed with me: “Here’s a link to my calendar” is off-putting.
The response to my post was voluminous. And vehement. And a few things stood out.
A gender divide showed up clearly.
Typical responses from men:
- “I think the efficiency is what is really nice about having calendar software.”
- “Five years ago would probably be in poor taste but now has been so normalized I wouldn’t characterize it as impolite.”
<li”>And my personal favorite: “Sign of the times, kid.”
What did women have to say?
- “While scheduling software does help move conversations forward, it still feels impersonal, not very inviting.”
- “Asking me to “link to your calendar” makes me feel like one of the masses instead of someone special.”
- “If you just point someone to your calendar and say, “Choose a time to speak with me” – well – that makes someone feel like they’re inferior to you and a little like their subordinate.”
- “There is an air of ‘I am too busy/important to schedule with you.’ It breaks that alliance you’re hoping to build immediately.”
Yes, there were some women who touted the efficiency of online calendars. One said she “couldn’t disagree with me more.” She’s “grateful for the efficiency and time zone conversion that my Calendly link – or theirs – gives.”
And a few men expressed doubts. One guy called the software a “pet peeve,” and added, “I understand having the tool on your website for people who want to schedule without calling in, but to force people to use it because you don’t want to open your calendar is rude.”
I’d guess we also saw some differences in communication style.
Professionals who are more outcome-oriented and more time-conscious are all in for the scheduling software. It makes the process of putting a meeting on the calendar simple, it’s cut-and-dried, and by taking out the human element it avoids a lot of back-and-forth.
That makes online calendars perfect for someone who wants to just get down to business. “It does feel more transactional (like booking business.) But the approach can save a massive amount of time in scheduling, so I’m not offended.”
She’s right about the transactional element, isn’t she? If I already know I want to hire you or buy from you, I’m happy to book time online. If I’m hoping to open a relationship with you, I might feel differently.
Those who are more relationship-focused prefer a conversation or at least an email exchange about setting time to get together. “I use the conversation about dates available – to build a relationship and get a better idea of what we’re going to discuss during our scheduled time. I actually have a conversation or an email exchange and we agree on a date, time and agenda.”
And some go seriously retro: “I like to pick up that tool thingy we all have … a phone!”
Maybe we can split the difference.
I heard from a few people who take a blended approach: “I use a calendar link. I also state, ‘Here is a link to my calendar if it’s convenient for you. If you prefer, please send me times that work for you.’”
That makes sense, doesn’t it? When I get so busy, I have to use a scheduling software, I’m going to flip that around. I’m thinking something like this. “Let’s talk live, shall we? Send me a couple of times next week that work for you … or if it seems easier, you can put a conversation on my calendar here.”
My guess is that most people would opt for the ease of the online calendar. And they’d do it without the sense that they’ve been assigned the admin work because they’re just not as important as I am.
What difference does it make anyway?
A couple people suggested there are much bigger issues to worry about. Undeniably true. At the same time, communication is critical, and this kind of nuance fascinates me. Especially now, because we’re doing so much of our business online.
We see each other on screens that flatten our images and distort our features.
We hear each other on phone lines that compress the sounds of our voices, eliminating some of the richness that gives each of us our own sound.
And instead of walking down the hall together, sharing a cup of coffee, sitting next to each other in a meeting room, we gather online where those aspects of camaraderie are lost.
I want us to be mindful of all the ways we communicate … and of the messages we send.
You may have thoughts about scheduling software and convenience vs. connection. (A lot of people do!)
Share them in the comments below.
Catherine, I opened your informative weekly email this morning at 7:00 a.m. and was delighted to hear your charming voice and felt as though I was having my coffee with you. Thank you for sharing your time with me! I loved your message and, yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have an online scheduler on my website for the convenience of those who want to schedule a meeting or phone conversation right then and there. And I’ve had a few people use it and they liked it. If someone decides to pick up the phone and call, it is me who opens my calendar and is more than happy to schedule a meeting. I am put off totally when someone sends me a link (feels like their throwing me a bone) and tells me to “get on my calendar.” You know what? I usually don’t. If someone doesn’t respect me enough to open their own calendar or make me feel like an individual, are they worth my time? And, you know, Catherine, sometimes that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If they don’t see me as a professional adding value to their overarching goal or objective in the beginning, are they ever going to see me as a professional? I loved having my coffee with you this morning, and look forward to the day when we can again share a lunch looking at eachother face-to-face and talking. You are a true professional. Thank you for always hitting the nail on the head.
It’s so interesting, Debbie, how differently people respond to “Go to my online calendar.” A friend suggested yesterday the MBTI explains it. And he might be right. He LOVES his online scheduler — his profile is INTJ. You know how I feel about them. And mine is ENFP.
Glad you found the piece thought-provoking. And I’m delighted to hear that the audio hits the mark for you. I should have started doing that a long time ago, so this has been a good learning for me about just getting on with it, for cryin’ out loud.
I’m really enjoying your audio blog posts!
I’m so glad, Fred. I’m having fun recording them, and imagining how listeners are responding and maybe even talking back to me.
Your video intro is wonderful and really set the tone for the written blog. And, isn’t it hilarious that something like a scheduling tool invokes such widespread opinion. It’s a lesson in the fact that how we offer something really makes a difference. Thanks so much for sharing this. If I ever use calendly myself, it will be with your graceful approach as offering an alternative.
Thanks, Anne. You know adding audio to my newsletters is a pretty new thing for me. Putting a VIDEO on LinkedIn for this one was really a stretch. It’s a good time for that, isn’t it?
This exchange took me back to my talk show days, when it wasclear that seemingly insignificant issues could be the basis for lively and sometimes heated conversation. In fact, sometimes vigorous debate over something small is a welcome diversion from the truly terrifying issues we might talk about another time.
Thanks for bringing up this topic Catherine. As a recovering Type A, I used to use Calendly in a very cold efficient manner. Today I still have to use it because of the number of people I talk to during the week. But how I am using Calendly is very different these days. For new clients or networking meetings, I send the link AND I make it very clear that they can reach out to me directly to schedule a time. For existing clients I use the tool at the end of the meeting to schedule our next appointment. For those who have a meeting scheduled, it becomes a very easy way for them to reschedule if they need to. I am all about efficiency AND ensuring that we are treating each other as valuable humans.
Sounds like the perfect blended approach, Melissa!
I totally agree with you and, as always, enjoy your post. It is most aggravating to me when someone knows I am “my girl”, typically a woman, and has her assistant send me dates. It sometimes tells me how important I may be to the other person. Perhaps I too am taking it too personalsly. Would I like to be more important? I do not think so! I always had a personal touch, even when I was at a law firm and had an assistant. Stay healthy and safe!!
We may be taking it too personally, Ellen. And, we’re clearly not alone. I’m going to say that now more than ever, that “personal touch” is important…and very welcome. This whole question really speaks to the many ways we communicate and all the below-the-surface messages people pick up from, well, from just about everything! Healthy and safe? You do the same, my friend.
I like the split the difference options. They offer options and let the other person decide what works best for them. Practical. Other-centric. Nice approach. Thanks.
I like it too, Gretchen. And I can’t think of any good reason not to do it that way.
It was a pleasure hearing your voice, it’s so soothing during times like these. During my days of trying to find my next career adventure I have to agree that these scheduling tools just make you feel like another time slot. How do I build trust or even sincerity with a recruiter who pushes time slots. It’s much easier to ask for days and times that work, and I’ll always make my schedule work!
Looking forward to the next blog/audio discussion!
Oh, this is a tender time for a lot of people, Maria. You’re right, when we’re in transition we especially need to be treated with respect…and is kindness too much to ask for? Recruiters and hiring managers are busy, even overwhelmed. I can see why they’d go for the tool that makes things quickest for them. I can also imagine how that feels to all the people hoping for a bit of their attention.
Good luck with your search–give a shout if I can help.
Catherine, I blessed the day when I got my system to a point where I could easily display my availability and kindly send people to plug themselves in. I do make an effort to respond personably to an email inquiry before just shoving out a link, though. Maybe it’s that in-between you mentioned. My biz is built on assuring each person I work with that they are important. I also feel it’s much more important to spend time on YOU rather than the headache that used to happen daily simply TRYING to connect.
(Want to comb through your calendar and send me some days? Nope, none of those work for me. I’m only free between 8pm and 4am… Did you mean Tuesday the 7th or Wednesday the 6th? I can only do afternoons on full moons… and cloudy days in September… Three other people just grabbed the spots I said were open, so now they’re not… Oops, I’m EST not CT… Wanna just look at next month?)
Seriously, I do NOT miss that. And I consistently get feedback that my calendar is easy to use and professional, not off-putting. It literally freed up hours of time for me and my clients. I’m hoping that your post is really about impersonal robotic replying (which I agree is not cool), not the efficient act of allowing someone to act at their leisure to make a meeting we both know will work.
Sorry I wasn’t clearer, Meka. Yes, my post was about “impersonal robotic replying,” and I’ve seen a lot of that lately. Scheduling time with a busy professional is way easier and more efficient with an online calendar. I do that often, in fact I did that to set up a consultation with you.
What rubs me the wrong way is an early outreach, say a LinkedIn connection request maybe, that gets back — “here’s a link to my calendar.” And even more so, the people who reach out to me, suggest getting to know each other, and send me to their calendar to schedule myself.
So yes, I’m in favor of responding personally before,as you say, just shoving out a link. It sends a very different message.
Hi Catherine, I love your blended approach. It provides options to the individual interested in connecting with us. I’m going to use the blended approach going forward. I had not thought that giving someone my calendar link would seem impersonal. I really appreciate your insights. I also appreciate you providing a recording for your articles. I enjoyed meeting you at the fall NSA academy. Take care!
Thanks, Rosie — yes, I think it strikes a better note when we offer people an option to connect that fits their way as well as ours. I’m glad that seems useful to you.
Speakers Academy is such a valuable opportunity for people who want to develop a business that includes speaking. I hope you’ve been putting what you learned to good use.