How to think outside the inbox You can’t manage a team without communicating well. In the modern office, this means mastering the art of emailing.
Sue Welman, an executive coach at the Johannesburg-based True North Coaching and Consulting, says there are basically three types of email recipients you need to cater for:
They require detailed information about an issue before they can form an assessment. Your emails should give in-depth analysis and as much detail as possible. These readers respond well to a structured argument.
is the mother of all screw-ups in the business world. A wrongly worded email, for example, can instantly infuriate or confuse your team.
On a good day, they’ll read the first two lines of your long and well-crafted email. They’ll quickly scan the paragraphs, and often will send you a mail back asking a lot of questions (that are actually addressed in your mail, if they would just read the damn thing in full). For these co-workers, keep it concise and list all information in bullet point format, with the most important facts listed first.
Don’t send them a mail. First pick up a phone, or walk over and talk to them. Follow it up with an email, if absolutely necessary. This group values connection.
A particular challenge comes in when you have to write an email to a group of people with different personality types. Welman recommends a combined strategy: sending a succinct mail with the facts or action items listed in bullet point format, but adding the detailed information as an attachment. Also, follow up your mail with a call or interaction with those who are people-focused. “As our lives evolve more and more amid the digital revolution, now more than ever the personal connection will count,” says Welman. A conversation is worth a thousand mails. If something is unclear to you, and you want to ask a few questions, consider using this neglected piece of highly efficient technology: verbal communication. This is particularly effective in sensitive situations. Start off with the most
Make your point early:
important information. Keep your messages short and use strong verbs. Add deadlines to all tasks, if possible. Convey as much information as you can. For example, don’t write “Help needed” in the subject line – instead, be more specific: “Your feedback required on new contract”. Also, when you forward an email, replace the previous subject line to reflect the current points under discussion. Using shortcut words like “K” (How
Count your words: Subject lines should stay on topic: Don’t try to be cute:
Sue Welman Executive coach at True North Coaching and Consulting