It's possible that email is the Great Time Suck of our professional lives.
I'll cop to (possibly) having lost control of my inbox now and again, swamped by the waves of incoming missives flowing over the transom. Yet it still remains one of the most convenient and speedy forms of global communication.
That said, we could all probably do less of it. Much, much less. But here are six email types worth the electronic ink:
The Big Vision
Are you a leader in your company--or of a business? People like to be in a ship steered by a visionary captain. Trouble is, they won't know the shape of your vision unless you tell them. And you'll need to take a cue from the advertising world--where you hear slogans over and over until they're inextricably linked with their product and you're left wondering why you just can't bear to live one more second without that new iPad. Retention is the name of the game. Employees need to hear your message over and over--so when a milestone happens, publicize it internally and link it back to your vision. When someone does something great for the company, recognize them and reinforce how it helps bring that big picture into better focus. Continually connect the dots.
The Gratitude Message
There is always a reason to say thank you. The employee who went the extra mile. Your entire workforce at year-end. A family member who picked up your kids when you were stuck or the friend who was there during a personal crisis. An investor who made a pivotal connection for you. Try sending one around established holidays, typically a more relaxed time when a personal message is likely to resonate more. A quick, heartfelt expression of gratitude says someone else's efforts, good deed or positive intentions did not go unnoticed and was, in fact, very appreciated.
The Relationship Repair
Leaders can hose it up like anyone else. If you're prevented from saying it in person, an emailed apology--brief, sincere, and clear--can go a long way to mending a relationship that's been dented by your bad mood, bad call or bad act.
Move things off your plate! Good leaders are always striving to make the biggest bang for their buck. That's true with financials and it should be equally as true with your time. If you understand your team's individual strengths, delegating should be short work for you. And if a project seems to be just on the margins of a person's current ability, give it to that individual anyway. With the proper guidance, a stretch assignment can light a fire and fuel growth for a person.
I've written about this before, but one of the best things you can do is introduce people who ought to know one another. Perhaps they share common professional goals and interests. Maybe an investor is looking for the next big thing in health tech and it so happens you know an enterprising entrepreneur whose idea needs funding. Or perhaps it's an established professional and a person new to the workforce who could benefit from mutual mentoring. A quick intro and you've paid your professional karma toll for the week.
The Polite, Pointed Smackdown
There are times when it's useful to have a clear, direct expression of your unhappiness on the record. There's no need to be a jerk about it--however, when someone has not met the expectations you've outlined, it needs to be noted. It's sometimes best to convey these hard truths verbally--but there's also a time and place for the well-devised electronic missive. Be to the point and remind the person of your mutual understanding (e.g. Supplier X, in all our communications to date, we were clear the delivery date was last Friday). Outline why the lapse is not acceptable (e.g. As we've discussed, a late delivery puts our entire schedule at risk and incurs a penalty cost with our end customer of 15 percent). Make it clear what resolution you expect and in what timeframe (e.g. We expect the delivery no later than Wednesday along with a 50 percent refund.). Remember--you are not out to ruin someone's day by being pejorative or unfairly harsh but it can be within your rights to put that person squarely on notice.
What are the most useful emails you send?