Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


11 Essential Email Habits Needed to Survive in Today’s Business World

Volume: April 2008

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com 

Carl has a home-based business and he is about to send an important letter to a client via U. S. mail. He has taken his time crafting the letter. He double checks the mailing address, affixes the proper postage, and places the letter in his mail bin. One month later Carl comes across a copy of the letter. He notices a typo. He is mortified. In this example most of us would be mortified. Yet, so many of us are sending out important correspondence via email that contains two or more errors – and we don’t think twice about it. Why not?  

Email is an extremely valuable communication tool. If used carelessly or overused, however, it can be hazardous, expensive, and cause confusion. Various studies have determined that people lose anywhere from 2% to 15% of their business from sloppy or incorrect email correspondence. In addition, according to a survey by Forrester Research, approximately 30% of 294 companies they spoke with had dismissed a staff member in the past twelve months for violating email policies. These facts highlight that we need to be on top of our game when communicating via email.  

So how do we stay on top of our email game? Easy, follow these eleven tips for your email peace of mind. 

  1. Use spell-check and a thesaurus. Certainly you already do this. If not, you are the last person on the planet not to do so. Although spell-check is great, it doesn’t catch everything and, alas, it is pretty dismal with regard to correcting grammar. Needless to say, re-reading and correcting emails prior to sending them is a hallmark of a healthy professional. The next two points also tie in closely to this concept.  
  2. Print out important client or internal correspondence prior to hitting Send. Perhaps you are saying, ‘Hey, Al Gore would be appalled - I don’t want to waste paper.’ Well, I am sorry to bring out the environmentalist in you, but consider this: man has been reading documents on paper for over 500 years. Our brains have become accustomed to and adept at reading words on parchment. It is only in the past 15 – 20 years that we have begun to read a large amount of text in electronic format. As such, we don’t catch errors as readily in electronic form as we do on paper.  
  3. Find a ‘proof buddy’ to review important correspondence. There is nothing wrong with having another set of eyeballs review important correspondence. An objective opinion will help you confirm that your message will be interpreted in the manner that you intend.   
  4. Do not use email as your only channel of communication. Yes, it is easy and quick. But if you get too informal or use it exclusively to communicate with others, you will become a one-dimensional communicator. Remember: email carries no auditory tone of voice or body language. 
  5. Be Succinct. Emails longer than a paragraph or two are typically not read right away. Also, use good judgment with regard to when it is time to take your fingers off the keyboard and move them to the dial pad. After two or three email iterations, especially if multiple people are involved, it is probably time to pick up the phone and talk to someone. 
  6. Have a clear message. As much as possible, have the subject line describe the true topic of your email. Also, decode your message and seek to avoid acronyms that might be confusing to part of your audience. In other words, say what you mean or really want to see happen. 
  7. Only copy relevant team members. Be certain about who really needs to be on the "to:" and the "cc:" line. Too often people cc far too many people. This creates confusion – for uninterested parties, as well as for relevant receivers.    
  8. Encourage questions or feedback. By welcoming thoughts and opinions you show that you are open-minded and collaborative.  
  9. Take a breath and control your anger. Emails that contain anger and/or sarcasm are rarely productive. Rather than send them, take a deep breath and a short break and attempt to calm down. Then, pick up the phone or make a personal visit. If you are upset, an email message is typically not the best means of communication. 
  10. Keep jokes to a minimum. I love to laugh – we all do. Email is a great way to quickly distribute fun and fanciful items – after hours. During business hours however, play it straight. Sending too many jokes can dilute the fact that you are a serious professional. 
  11. Plan time for emails. It is easy to retrieve and send quick emails on the fly. However, many of us receive requests that take some thought or action prior to responding. Build some time into each day that is dedicated to email correspondence. Often times, just the act of allocating a portion of your day to email can reduce the stresses and strains you experience. 

Well there you have it, the eleven email habits that, if followed, could very well give people the perception that you are an electronic-communication genius. Be well, and type safe!

© 2009 DVD Consulting Incorporated, all rights reserved.   

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and communication consultant, executive coach, and business planner. He is the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders. Various audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or at 941-776-1121. 

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