Email is nearly universal in the global business world. It's a wonderful technology that gives us the ability to communicate asynchronously. While working in the US, I can request information of staff in China and Germany during my normal business hours, go home at the end of a normal business day and have a reply from both the next morning when I arrive for normal business hours. It generates incredible speed in the workplace. You can get work accomplished in one day that used to take weeks and months at far greater expense. As useful as email is as an enabler, complaining about it is almost as universal as its presence. This tipsheet is all about how to make the most of this technology. There are two parts to the successful practices tipsheet , volume and content.
Volume. This is the most common complaint. It can take an enormous amount of time to sort through dozens of email one receives in a day to determine which are important and which aren't. Tips include:
1. Recognize your own role as a multiplier. For every email you send as a leader it is likely to be amplified by a factor of 5 or 10. Be prudent about what you send in this medium.
2. Limit the use of the :cc function. If someone needs to be an addressee make them an addressee, but don't include everyone who might have a passing interest in the subject as a :cc addressee. I had one colleague who had an autoreply on his Outlook that said "I don't respond to :cc messages."
3. Don't use the :bcc option. This has a dishonest or sneaky feel to me. When you use this function you are sending a copy of an email to someone and you don't want the addressees to know about it.
4. Be prudent about the use of "reply to all" function. I want to say don't use it at all but there are occasions where this is appropriate. For large scale multiple addressee messages it's appropriate as the sender to say "Do not 'reply to all" on this message".
5. Use the terms "Action" or "Info" as a pre-amble in the subject line of a message. This helps the receiver prioritize their review of incoming messages.
6. Use group mailing lists. This is a way of focusing content to a specific community in a company. There is a possibility of overuse of this too. Be selective on what groups you choose to be a part of and de-select when appropriate.
1. Clear corporate rules on inappropriate content. Jokes and links to videos or external websites with inappropriate or offensive content can't be tolerated. Corporate IT can also help by blocking access to certain websites.
2. Messages should be no longer than a single screen. If you've got more content than that, place it on your Sharepoint or other collaboration tool site and send a one liner referring to it. I had one colleague who had a two or three sentence rule.
3. Pick up the phone when you are "bouncing email back and forth". If you are on-line and exchanging email near simultaneously, pick up the phone rather than sending two or three exchanges.
4. Walk down the hall. This seems simple but it's surprising how many times I found myself exchanging email with someone in my own offices.
5. Use your "drafts" folder when you are angry. Before email you were advised to "write a letter and put it in the desk drawer' for a day before mailing. The "drafts" folder has the same function. The electronic medium is a "hot medium" when it comes to emotions. Better to wait until you cool off to communicate about emotional subjects.
6. Be simple and direct in your use of language. The English language is loaded with idioms, figures of speech and sports metaphors that can be mysterious and bewildering to those for whom English is a second language. A quick review of the attached links and avoiding their use in a global context can help avoid confusion.