Email communication – Help yourself by helping the recipient.

Do you use email effectively?

(Answer – Some of the time!)

Are you getting your message across? Do you get the responses you expect?

I started writing this a month or two ago, but managed to speak to most the people that needed it so stopped writing. However I have noticed various other groups with similar email issues so thought I would get it all down on paper. Also I received a copy of the ‘Jelly Effect – How to make your communication stick’, and wanted to write MY version of communication to see how it would change whist reading the book.

Every day we receive emails, some good, some bad. We reply to those that are easy to reply to and spend hours hunting for that one snippet that we know is there somewhere, or worse still forget,  ignore them.

Golden Rule: Where possible try to keep your emails to single topics (note I say topic rather than ‘Subject’ we will get to that later.)

Things to consider:

1.       Subject line
2.       Content – relevant to subject line, ie stick to the topic.
3.       All relevant details
4.       Direction to Action.
5.       Who to send to. To, CC, BCC.
6.       Use the Reply to button or create new email.

1. Subject lines.
Emails have a subject line so that the recipient can tell what the email is about, it also acts to assist in filing / finding the email at a later date. Therefore make your Subject line relevant and specific. The analogy that is often used is that of a newspaper headline. A paper would never be published without a catchy headline and once reading it you would have content that matched the teaser. Well with most papers anyway ;o) Bad Subject – ‘This Thursday’ Good Subject – ‘JCI – Board Meeting – Thurs 3rd June 2010’ This could even have – ’18:30’ or ‘Minutes’ or ‘Action Points for SW’ to help distinguish it further. Stick to the facts, make it easy to identify and people will reply quickly. By having a specific subject you also focus yourself on the content ( point 2 and 3) of your email and also the expected response (point 4)

2. Content. Make sure your content is relevant to your topic.
If your subject is ‘JCI – Board Meeting – Thurs 4th November 2010’ Then that is what you should  write about. This prevents information getting lost and ensures you have a focused email that is easy for someone to respond to. Avoid talking about other projects, or potential meetings, as this information will be hard to find later.

3. Content. Is it detailed and to the point?
How many face to face conversations have you had where the other person assumes you know what they are talking about? ‘oh that meeting last week’ hmm I had 3 meetings with you last week, ‘Which one, what was it about?’ when you are there you ask. In an email you don’t get that instant feedback therefore you need to pre-empt the questions to ensure your point and expected response is 100% clear. Otherwise you end up with a protracted email thread with information scattered across several emails. (This is a great tip for general communication anyway, actually tell people what you want them to know, not what you think they need to know based on your version of their existing knowledge) Bad Content – ‘Just checking you are ok with the meeting next week’ Good content – ‘To confirm we have arranged a meeting at 10am on Thursday 21st October 2010 at the Regus Business Lounge (Davidson house, xxxxxxxx) Where we will be discussing strategies to improve communication within the organisation. The meeting is scheduled to last no more than 1 hour with 3 attendees, CG, SW and LH’

4. Call to Action
Great, you have sent an email with a great subject line that contains the relevant and detailed content. So, Who read it? Have they done what you were expecting? Hmm so maybe we need a little more. Lets add a Call to Action. So what do you need to know? ‘Please read and confirm you accept the actions assigned to you’, ‘Please confirm by return that you are able to supply xxxx by Monday 21st at 13:00’ When using this be detailed, everyone has a different take on ‘by’ Monday. Is that the end of Monday, do you need it for a meeting on Monday morning, are you going to be reading your emails over the weekend, if not then do you mean by 4pm on Friday so you have a chance to read it before you leave? In the example I have also given an immediate action, ‘confirm by return’ I will therefore receive an email today and know that the task is in hand rather than receiving nothing at 13:00 on Monday.

5. Who to Send to. To, CC and BCC
To: This person needs to read the email and expected to reply
CC: This person needs the information but is not expected to reply (but may have valuable feedback) – potential grey area here, with large recipient list people tend to split it between To and CC
BCC: Blind Carbon Copy, This person receives a copy of the email without the others knowledge.

Does your email have lists of points for different people, Do you have 6-10 people to send it to?
Well ask yourself if the content is specific enough. It could well be, it could be an attachment that is the minutes of a meeting, so everyone does need it.  But if it is in the body of the email maybe you need to revise the content and send several specific emails to individuals. Even with minutes of meetings I would be happier to receive 2 emails, 1 with the attachment of the minutes (sent to everyone) and another with ‘Action points for SW’ (This is without doubt me being lazy, but if I have an easy to find list, there is less time wasted hunting for minutes, opening the doc reading everything to check if I need to do any of it etc) CCing This detailed ‘Action points for SW’ email would also be a great benefit to the Chairman of the meeting so CC them in. They can and will ignore it. Marking them all as read in one hit. Safe in the knowledge they when they next speak to XX they can quickly find that persons action list and check on progress.

6. Use the REPLY Button
Does everyone need to see you say ‘Thanks’ – Simple answer No.

Does everyone need to see you say ‘ Yes i will complete that by xxx, here are the questions I have at this stage…’ – No.

Reply to the sender to say ‘ Yes I will complete that by xxx, I will be emailing separate questions to those concerned.’ Then create new specific emails, following the rules, as needed.

One thing I personally hate is getting emails that drift off the subject, that have nothing to do with me, or that are relevant to me but the question to me is lost in the noise.

In Summary

Help yourself by helping others, give them all and only, the information they need so that they can respond to you as you expect. Once you start doing this, they will pick up the same habit, as they will already see the benefits of what you are doing.

Feel free to include this link  ‘Better email tips’ in your email signature.

Comment on what you have read, and I can update the post. It’s all simple stuff and we must remember to use it.

Email communication – Help yourself by helping the recipient.

How can you the employer get better results from your employees?

Today I was sent a link by a very good friend of mine in Canada.

Jillian Walker has entered a video in the KPMG sponsored “Canada’s Top Employers for Young People 2010” competition.  She along with lots of other young people have created videos, explaining what motivates them, what they want out of the deal, Is it money? Is it holiday/vacation time? Is it? Is it?

Well there is no one answer, Sorry about that, John wants one thing, Sally another, Steve wants something different to  Jillian.

Have a look at Jillian’s Competition Entry and if you appreciate her views please vote, you need to register (it only takes a second) and you can vote once a day using the small ‘vote’ button top right on the video.

I think this competition is a great idea and am off to find out if there is anything similar in the UK.

If you would like to discuss how to get the best results from your employees, please feel free to contact me

Leadership can be for everyone

There are several version of this video on youtube. I was first sent it as an example of persistence, being convinced about what you want to do, knowing that you were right and that you already had a few people agreeing with you. With time (and numbers) your message would get out there, people would listen, and people would buy into it.

Watch the first video, (its only about 3 mins long) Make your own mind up about what is happening,

[morfeo_basic 1 /]

Now watch the second video, this has had a narrative added (not by me) based around the rolls of the people within it, who is a leader, who is the first follower that becomes the second leader.

[morfeo_basic 2 /]

So back to my thoughts,
Lead by example with true conviction to your cause.
Engage people that show an interest and keep them engaged.
Show gratitude to those that follow, and they will then be happy to lead for you in the future.

You will not stop using not, you will simply use it more appropriately.

‘Not’ is one of my pet hates. There is lots of information on when NOT to use it which I am about to add to, I also hope to help you when to use it. This applies to the things you say to yourself as well as the things you say out loud to others.

So the Science bit:

You will hear lots of people state ‘You (your unconscious mind) cannot process the negative inversion of the not therefore you have to consciously process the information, rather than just reacting to it’ huh, what?

Let me explain with some examples.

When you hear something you construct your version of it and act on that.

‘Leave Chocolate alone’ What images, sensations have you got going on? Personally I have a picture of a wrapped bar sat on the table. Very little else, sensation and emotions are missing from my picture. I have a very low level of engagement with it.  Do you have a desire for chocolate, probably yes, because the C word has been mentioned. However, you have the instruction to leave it alone so have probably disassociated yourself from chocolate already.

So, ‘Eat Chocolate’. What images, sensations have you got going on this time? Personally I have got a soft melting sensation in my mouth, I can almost taste it, my brain is relaxing waiting for the all the endorphins and loveliness to arrive.

Now, say ‘ Do Not eat chocolate’ – for you to do this you first have to create your earlier image of eating it, with all the sensations and longing and then scrub that out, and consciously delete it. Your mind can to this, it just needs a fraction of time, and while doing it, you have all the sensations which you then miss when you start to delete them.

If your first instruction creates a different positive image, you will hold that quicker and for longer and you know that you can leave chocolate alone.

Think of a summers day.

Some other examples that often get used.

‘Don’t think of a …‘  even before I finish it you probably have an image of a blue or pink elephant (whichever you have previously heard in this context). I have suggested you think of the elephant and you are now trying to think of something else. Have you replaced it with your summers day image? Hold that thought.

Onto the next example, A child runs over to you carrying a drink ‘Be careful with that cup, put it down over here’ positive instruction for a positive result.

Oh no someone beats you to it ‘Don’t DROP THAT’ you hear, what has the child just done in your picture?

Did you catch it in time, did they stumble but keep hold of it, or is there now a spilt drink and a crying child? Out of interest where is this all happening? Are they indoors or out? Why have you chosen that location?  Did you hold the thought of the summers day?

Everyone can process the not, and the next time you use one think about it after, especially if your outcome was different to what you expected. Maybe you could have given a better clearer instruction.

As I said in my title, You will not stop using not, you will simply use it more appropriately.

Take from this what you will untie the nots in what you say and get the results you were looking for.

I would like to give a couple of references:

Remember the Ice – Bob Nicoll

How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work, and Everything – Steve McDermott   Book Audio

Personal Productivity

The main question about personal productivity is how do you know when you are doing well in your personal life?

I have for some time been having an internal battle with regards the word Performance, especially in relation to the personal side of life, this stems from a personal want or need to be natural about the things I do.  Performance to me has always had connotations of an Act, ‘to perform’ rather than ‘to be’.

This led me to a recent conversation where I realised that I wanted to help people be more productive, rather than increase their performance. To take the ‘Act’ out of the ‘Performance’ and focus on what and where they wanted to be.

So, have a quick look at yourself, are you a performer  (doing the things you do because they need to be done) or a producer, creating the things you want and striving to get more value out of the time you spend to get them? Once you have asked yourself this question you are on the road to increasing your personal productivity.

Once you have worked out which you are you can make a choice, after that you are responsible, you are in control and you have the power to be more. Now, what are you going to do next?

Feel free to let me know, or if you need some help just ask.