From time to time you know I share with you my pet peeves. They pretty much stem from a lack of fairness in the way someone leads, inefficiencies in processes, and things like a lack of ownership that then impact my ability to be successful. So I’m going to share another pet peeve today, it’s around emails. And I’m going to challenge you to build solid email routines.
Yes, I know, overarchingly I hate emails too. Only because they are a time suck if they aren’t done right. So here are the pieces around email routines that I am going to challenge you to build.
First, teach your team what a proper email looks like. If it’s 3 pages long, that’s too much. Educate them on how to reduce it down to a single 5-sentence paragraph. If they can’t do that, then that information shouldn’t be shared in an email but a phone call. People typically don’t respond to emails when they are overwhelming in their content. Who can respond to something they didn’t read? Who wants to send an email that wasn’t read and responded to? Teach your team how to properly craft emails so everyone wins.
Now, once you have a properly crafted email, you need to set expectations around responding. Responding isn’t hard, it simply takes expectations and commitment.
Every email that comes to you where you are the “to” recipient, you need to respond to in some capacity. Period. If you are cced or bcced, no response is required. I’m giving you permission on this one to not feel like you have to respond.
The key emails you must respond to always are emails where you have asked your team to send you information on a topic. Why? Because if you don’t, if you don’t respond and if you come across like you didn’t read it, they will know it. And you will damage their trust in you! Remember that like it or not, they will comply with your requests, but behind it all they are already thinking you aren’t going to do anything with their work. Don’t prove them right. Respect their time and show that when you ask for something, there is a purpose behind it. You show that by responding.
Let’s take this a step further, not only should you respond to emails from your team, especially the ones that you have requested to be sent to you, you need to acknowledge all of their emails. If they are sending too many or they are too long, again, address proper email techniques, don’t simply just avoid their emails. That’s not what leaders do.
You can respond with “thanks” or “Agreed’ or “Noted.” Anything is fine. The point is they want to know you saw their note and you are on the same page.
Another situation where you must answer, and this one is the one that probably bothers me the most, is when I am asking a question, need information, or need some follow-up, and no one responds. Now notice, I am asking for something. I NEED something in this instance. It’s not an FYI. It’s a need. But what happens in those instances is that the person I’m asking doesn’t know the answer. So instead of telling me that, they avoid my email until they have the answer. As a result, I think they don’t care about my email or my need. So even when they do respond 3 days later with the answer, they have lost credibility. So how do you handle that?
You respond to that email, thank them for the note, admit you don’t know the answer but will follow up with the XYZ team, and you will give me an update by ______, fill in the blank. Then give me the update on that day, remember, you said update not answer. So give me that. Just keep me informed.
It really is that simple. If you can’t answer me 100% on the same day, tell me you are working on it.