Are you Ready to Succeed? This is the title of Professor Srikumar Rao book; it promises to provide unconventional strategies for achieving personal mastery in business and life, as a paraphrase of the subtitle suggests. And it delivers, if you're willing to do the work. (The link above is to the 800CEORead podcast with Rao.)
Rao outlines how our perception of reality shapes everything; how the mental chatter we have in our heads drives decision-making; how we are all motivated by self-interest, always, although some of us come from an 'other-centered' place while others from a 'me-centered' view; how we always create our job description to match our skills in our job. The book is about finding joy in all aspects of our life. That is why it needs an investment of a good deal of time and emotional energy. It is meant to bring about profound change and that will only happen if you do the exercises.
So why isn't email perfect?
Before you hit that 'reply to' button ask yourself if you have picked the right communication channel for the message being sent. See if it passes the test:
- Is the message brief?
- Is it non-emotional?
- Is it the preferred communication channel of the intended audience?
- Is it part of a well-organized communication trail?
- Is it clear when we are asking someone to do something, or merely informing them?
Most people receive between dozens to hundreds of email messages per day and they'll be grateful you have tried the test above. If your email passes the test, how can you make the message more effective?
- Brief means 1 to 3 key points. Use bullets or numbers to improve the visual legibility. Most people scan emails. If you must include an attachment, explain what the attachment is for in the beginning of the email. Pretend you're a journalist, work on a subtitle.
- Are you really angry? Frustrated? Hold on to that draft. Pick up the phone or walk up to the person you need to talk to and sort things out live. The difficult messages and the ones you deliver when you're not sure how the recipient will react are best delivered in a more personal way.
- Sending your message through the preferred channel is a tremendous courtesy. A very powerful sign that you are listening to them that may well predispose your recipient and audience to listen to you. There's a very complicated way of finding out: just ask. In the absence of that, you may safely mirror the other person's communication style.
- In companies this happens a lot. Someone starts a trail by copying in a whole bunch of people on a 'need to know' and also 'cover my tail' basis. If this is a problem in your organization, a policy should clarify the rules. Email etiquette, especially over listservs, is usually to retain only the part of the message we are directly referring and responding to in our email.
- Craft a punch line with action steps. Do not assume it is clear to the recipient you are asking them to do something unless, well, you ask.
Some more ideas to consider:
Confirm you have the correct recipient name and intended distribution list before you hit the send button. This is very helpful when dealing with listservs that are set up to reply to all automatically and need an extra attention step to send only to sender.
Avoid the use of all caps. It makes the message very difficult to read and indicates 'yelling' in email code. Also use bold sparingly and only to call out specific pieces of information.
Use a more descriptive and specific title in the subject line. This will alert the recipient(s) to the message priority to them.
Check your spelling and grammar before sending. The computer will know that the word form is a valid word, but it will not know you meant to write from. You are the writer and the editor.
Email is not perfect. It feels like a conversation, it is more like a letter. Since it is in writing, it may not convey all the subtle signals you intended to wrap around it. It is on record, permanently; ask the lawyers, they'll be happy to tell you. It is one more way through which you communicate your personal brand and build your credibility.
Before you hit the send key, do the exercises. You will see your communications improve and that will bring you joy in addition to making you more effective.