This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.


I’m opting for short and sweet this week for two reasons: (1) this tip neither needs a lot of preamble nor interpretation (2) I honestly find myself really low on steam right now. (That second part is curious since I haven’t sprinted through an airport or “done much” since late February. But I digress.) Today I feature the brilliance of a colleague who has found a creative, informative, and humorous way to manage her own clients’ and colleagues’ expectations during a most unusual time.

The brilliance belongs to Kristin Abele, who runs all things diagnostics-related for Trusted Advisor Associates. Since March 20th, Kristin has had the following email auto reply running 24×7:

“Like most of the world, I am working from home in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With that, I am also suddenly finding myself adjusting to our ‘new normal’ for the time being – which includes becoming a wholly unqualified homeschool teacher on top of my daily job of running our TQ Diagnostics Department.
“I am still hard at work during these times – but may be a bit longer in my response time via email. I do welcome any communications direct to my cell phone in the event you would prefer to talk directly or have an urgent or pressing request.
“Please reach out directly at <mobile number here>. Otherwise, I will respond as soon as I can.
“All best and please stay safe. Kristin”

See how she’s cleverly managed a trust quad there? The message itself boosts her reliability. Her honesty builds credibility. Her vulnerability and humor increase intimacy. And her dedication, accessibility, and well-wishes show low self-orientation. It’s a great template for any of us, completely customizable to suit our own circumstances.

For years, I’ve extolled the virtues of an out-of-office reply when it comes to personalizing your interactions with others, and being in touch even when you’re out of touch.

Thanks to Kristin—and a global crisis—I’m now singing the praises of an OOM for a “normal” day in the office.

Make It Real

This week, consider how you might bring a little more candor and creativity to your expectation-setting efforts, email and otherwise.

Learn More

Check out this “best of” collection of Coronavirus parenting memes. I bet it will make you laugh, whether you’re a parent or not.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).