Email Etiquette Rule #6

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Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #6:

Say less.

Given their busyness, we cannot expect our readers to spend lots of time with our emails. We will have more impact if we limit both the length and frequency of the emails we send.

A good rule of thumb for the length of an email is one screenful. If our readers need to scroll, we may lose their attention. If you have more to say, set a meeting or pick up the phone.

The right frequency of emails depends on your relationship with each reader and the projects you’re working on. One rough measure of good email frequency is the number of times you’d speak to your reader if there was no email. Pretend it’s 1987 and no one has email. If someone sat 50 paces away from your desk, how often would you speak to them live or over the phone? Send emails roughly as frequently.

When we limit how much we email, what we do send stands out.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Of course, attached documents are usually longer than one screenful. If your email includes a request of your reader to review a document, make sure the text introducing the document stays within one screenful.

Email Etiquette Rule #5

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Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #5:

Cautiously Copy.

CCs are a pain. We receive tons of them and they often aren’t that important. Chances are that if we filter out the emails we are cc’d on, we will have significantly less email to handle without much negative impact.

So let’s give our readers a break and limit the number of CC’d email we send. Here are a few guidelines:

  • If you need someone to do something with (act on or respond to) your email, include them in the TO: not the CC:.
  • If you don’t need someone to do something with your email but simply want them to be aware, don’t include them on the original email at all. Instead, forward the email you sent with a brief explanation of why you think they need to read/watch/hear this information.  Yes, CCing is easier, but this approach is more likely to work.
  • If you are sending a CC to get someone in trouble or keep yourself out of trouble, rethink. Do you really need to throw someone under the bus? Instead of CCing to cover yourself, is there a conversation you can have with the person you wish to inform? Or is there a direct email you can send?
  • There is one very good use of a CC: CC someone when praising them to their boss.
  • Use BCCs with as much or more caution.

 

Think of CC as meaning Cautiously Copy.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #4

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Reading time: 1 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #4:

The “ask” goes first.

After writing a smart subject line, start the body of your email with your request (or “ask”) of the reader. If you want to ask a question, ask it. If you want to request an action, do so. If you wish for them to read, watch, or listen to something, say so in the first sentence. Follow the “ask” with any needed context or content to help them do what you’ve asked.

As with Email Etiquette Rule #3, flipping the explanations with the ask helps us focus our thinking and make our readers’ jobs easier.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #3

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #3:

Use one-word tags and short, meaningful summaries on subject lines.

Our email inboxes are so ever-full that we all struggle to get through them. Help your readers see and act on your email with smart subject lines.

At the beginning of the subject line, put a one-word tag that describes the type of request you are making in this email. To help it stand out, write the tag in all caps followed by a colon. Common tags are:

  • ACTION: An email with this tag is asking the reader for a specific action.Help them scan Focus self
    Rewrite and add tags to replies (as needed) and forwarded emails.
  • QUESTION: This email is asking the reader for an answer to a question.
  • READ: This email contains something you would like the reader to read but take no further action on.

Though you might find a need for other tags in your company, keep the set of different tags small for consistency and clarity.

After the tag, include a very brief but meaningful summary of the email. We can usually do this with 3 to 5 words selected to help your reader.

Examples of poor subject line summaries are, “Sales”, “Sales Meeting”, and “4th quarter sales meeting covering forecasts, staffing, and and customer service initiatives.” The first two are too short and generic. The last one is too long and detailed. But “4th quarter sales meeting agenda” gives just enough insight into the topic of the email to help your readers notice and handle it.

Because tags and summaries are so helpful, let’s use them to rewrite the subject lines on replies (as needed) and on forwarded emails.

Smart subject lines make our emails easier for our readers to process.  They also help us keep the body of the email clean and focused. More on that in the next Email Etiquette Rule.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #2

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 1 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #2:

No “See below”

When forwarding an email or email stream with perhaps a comment or two and the dreaded “See below”, we are wasting our readers’ time. They have to plow through pages of often repeated, out-of-sequence emails and try to piece together what it all means and what they are supposed to do with it. Many won’t even bother.

To forward an email well, take a moment to describe what is important in the forwarded email, why it matters to the reader, and what you recommend or request that they do with it.

This small investment paid ‘forward’ 😀 will help keep email safe and productive for all.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #1

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #1:

Use at most one emotional word per email.

If what we have to communicate is at all emotionally charged for us or for our recipient, we are much better to use email to schedule a live (in person or over the phone) meeting to discuss the issue.

Tempting as it may be to use email to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, don’t do it. Email (and all text) is a very narrow pipe for communication. It can’t handle –even with emoji–the nuances we send and receive in live conversation. We will be much more likely to miscommunicate, misinterpret, and misunderstand each other. And we will very likely fail to resolve the original issue without significant reworking and revisiting the topic.

Of course, we must have emotionally charged conversations. Just not over email.

We can express some emotion over email. If we limit ourselves to one word of emotion per email, we will usually be safe. Examples include, “I am very happy to hear that,” and, “I am frustrated at our lack of progress.”

 

In your corner,

 

Mike

PS: One way to tell if an email is emotionally charged is to ask ourselves how we feel while composing it.

 

Today’s photo courtesy of Free-Photos.

Show Me That You Hear Me

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 1 min.

Here’s a great way to drain away the drama that distracts and upsets us at work and in life: demonstrate that we understand their perspective. “This is what I heard you say. Did I get that right?” Then ask that they hear ours.

Here’s a great way to prolong the drama: try to outwit, out speak, or out maneuver them.

We all want to be heard. And when we are heard, good things happen.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo courtesy of Didgeman.

Make the Call about Team Members

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Hiring, Leading
Reading time: 1 min.

We can waste a lot of our leadership energy worrying or complaining about and then trying to fix the flaws in our team members. As we and they dance around our uncertainty, the whole company suffers.

So let’s make the call. Either we believe they can do it and we support them to get there or we believe they can’t and support them to find a better place. And if we aren’t sure, then let’s give ourselves a deadline for making the call.

All will be better off when we make the call.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: As you can see, we can make calls like this in line with our values and with full transparency & care. Or we can be jerks about it. Let’s not be jerks.

PPS: Here’s a magic trick you can use especially for people who you think are close but not quite there. Try believing they can do it even if evidence doesn’t yet support the idea. Make this call and watch them bloom.

 

Today’s photo courtesy of Alexas_Fotos.