The One E-mail Principle You Need

“How can I help my team send better e-mails?”

I get this question a lot. It’s occasionally put like this: “Kids today can’t even send a decent e-mail!”

E-mails are a hot-button issue because everyone receives them, and everyone writes them. Your whole team, including your most junior hires, have to answer complicated questions and address sensitive issues via e-mail.

You might cringe if you stop and think about what your team is sending out.

What to do?

The best solution is to stop sending e-mails.

Empower yourself and your team with this one question: “Is this something that can be better accomplished with a phone call or by stopping by someone’s desk?”

Many of your younger colleagues are not comfortable talking on the phone and prefer to communicate from behind a screen rather than in direct, back-and-forth dialogue. Help them determine when it’s better to talk directly to a client or colleague. Lead by example.

Speaking of you, everyone these days complains (boasts?) about their overwhelming e-mail inbox. But ask yourself, how often do you send an e-mail when a phone call or in-person chat would work better?

Remember the golden rule of electronic communications: the more e-mails you send, the more you will receive.

For the next three days, set a goal of sending one fewer e-mail. Today, choose one e-mail to not send. Tomorrow, choose two e-mails not to send. Etc.

Call the client. Get up and go to your coworker’s desk. Or just choose not to answer something.

Instead of pulling out your hair over petty “netiquette” rules, focus on the system. E-mail itself is an imperfect tool. Learn to opt out whenever you can.

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