Friday, April 1, 2016
‘Leadership and communication are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.’
- Claude I. Taylor
Well, in the times of smartphones and amidst all the social media apps, good old email is still alive & is very much relevant (at least in the corporate world)..! And while everybody would have sent/received at least few thousands of emails, there are still some things, some of us might be blissfully unaware of. (We never know what we don’t know…! Right?)
Personally, I’m a big fan of emails. And why not?
• It is the unobtrusive way of reaching the recipient (s/he could be in a meeting or on vacation – s/he still will receive the email).
• More importantly, you have all the time in the world to construct/write the email with all the points you want to bring out without any interruption (unlike in a telephonic or face-to-face discussion, where the other person may interrupt / may not give you any chance to put your views across or you could forget some things in the heat of discussion)
• It is for the records. (The best documented evidence)
• I personally have worked on many projects/proposals with team spread all over the world from US to Europe to APAC to Australia. Without meeting even once, we used to complete the work purely using emails and conf. calls. (& of late, video conf. calls / skype)
First things first:
Any email should have following structure.
• Recipient? (whom to send / whom to CC)
• Subject line
Recipient – Choose your recipients carefully. No need to copy all the associates/managers all the time. Unless there is a reason (say, escalation or giving visibility to a great performer), avoid marking CC to senior Leadership. Usage of BCC needs to be avoided unless there is some strong reason.
Subject line – It is too important to leave it blank! Put some meaningful subject relevant to what you’re going to write. Use Keywords in Subject line, like -
• Action: Prepare slides for 'scope' by June 17
• Info: Update on E-mail Etiquette Presentation
• Confirmed: Presentation will be ready for review on June 6th
• Delivery: Slide deck for June 17th Leadership meeting
Salutation – This varies from organization to organization and from countries to countries, so difficult to generalize. Go with the flow (& choose Dear or Hi, whatever the majority is using). But certainly, no salutation is seen as curt or even rude.
• Talk about one subject (rather, relevant topics) per email message. (Don’t mix unrelated topics in one email)
• Format your email, break message into sections (paragraphs), bullet points
• Action summary – What is the point of the e-mail?
• Background – Detail, but organize into key points
• Close – Next steps or actions items / actionable
• If you include attachments, give explanation of what they are. (Insert attachment before writing the text in body. This way you won’t miss sending attachment)
• More importantly for business communication –
• Include facts / figures. Make it crisp, preferably bullet-point list.
• Avoid emotions / arguments / lengthy sentences / colourful background / jazzy fonts
• Avoid emoticons
• If sending excel file, try to include a snapshot/table in the body of email (Very few recipients will bother to open the attachment)
Signature - Include your name & contact details. (Unless you don’t want to disclose them). And do you really want to include that motivational quote in signature?
Take another look…before you hit the ‘send’ button.
Is this email needed? (Does the recipient need this email to do their job?)
Is the content appropriate? (Professional, inoffensive)
Targeted (right usage of To/CC/Distribution Lists)
Did you insert the attachment you were referring to in the email?
Some Do’s and Don’ts:
· ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING
· So is over punctuating!!!!!!
· Not using capitalization or punctuation makes e-mail hard to read
· Text messaging abbreviations r confusing 2 ur co-workers
· Avoid emoticons (You’re not on Whatsapp chat with friends/family)
· Explain Acronyms (Don’t assume that client knows RICEF)
· Check spelling and grammar before sending (Activate spellcheck)
· No slang
· Mind the spelling of receiver’s name. Everybody is sensitive about his/her own name & doesn’t like seeing it misspelt. (e.g. Daniel or Danielle, Srinivas or Sreenivas)
· Avoid asking acknowledgement of ‘read’. (Don’t request a Read receipt. You can configure a Delivery receipt though. )
· Set your system clock (Date, time zone) right. (Make sure you don't send messages from 1980)
Some more wisdom..
• Don’t mix external & internal email threads. (i.e. don’t use long internal email thread as a base when writing to a client. Similarly, unless required, don’t copy your internal DLs (Distributed Lists) when writing to a client. If you do that, someone, from some DL would inadvertently be sending email like ‘I’m not aware of the issue / nobody is working on it’ etc. without even noticing that the client is also marked on the same email!)
• 3 Volley Rule- If a topic is bounced back and forth more than 3 times with no resolution seen, it is time to pick up the phone or schedule a meeting/conf. call.
• 24 Hour Rule- It is okay to write a heated e-mail, just save the draft, wait 24 hours before you send it. (And chances are, you will edit it OR will not send at all!)