Lets Fix 3 Annoying Email Etiquette Habits

I do lots of email etiquette training and have written extensively about email but there are 3 annoying email etiquette habits that have been on my mind lately.

One came to me as I found myself disagreeing with CBC radio guest contributor Lucy Kellaway of the BBC and Financial Post about email etiquette (I’m sure she’s crushed). The next two were annoying email etiquette habits I noticed others were commenting on in social media.

So – with all of this ‘listening and noticing’ going on, I did what I often do… I write a blog post.

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 1. Reread Before Sending

If you’re like most people, when we write an email we open a blank screen and start typing. What happens over the next minute or two is that as we type, more information about what we should know and/or ask bubbles to the surface. Email evolution takes place.

When we’re done all the information/questions is likely there, but chances are the logical flow of our email might look like a Family Circus© comic strip. We have to remember that 10 different people can read the same words and depending on their education, experience and objectives they will interpret those words 10 different ways… ESPECIALLY in an email. When we add to the mix that email evolution just happened, we are almost guaranteed to confuse and frustrate our reader, (you know I’m right because you’ve received email like that).

Family Circus ©Bil Keane Inc.

Family Circus ©Bil Keane Inc.

The solution is easy. Write your email in exactly the same way… but PLEASE… take a few seconds and reread before sending. When you do reread, please keep in mind the following 3 things:

  1. Bottom line your email by putting the important information and action item at the top and background / support information after.
  2. Confirm that you wrote with your readers needs and knowledge in mind. If you don’t, they will likely have to make assumptions – and that’s the beginning of a whole list of mistakes waiting to happen.
  3. Is there any information that is not longer needed and/or a sentence you can shorten? The less time they need to read the more likely your message will be read and acted on. 

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 2. Close The Loop

If I sent you a file you requested, how do I know you received it if you don’t reply? A simple ‘Thanks’ does the trick. You can even save the 2 seconds it would take to type the reply by creating a partially completed email template (see the template I’ve included in this post as an example).

Bruce Mayhew Consulting Email Etiquette

Bruce Mayhew Consulting Email Etiquette

Besides being polite and respectful, sending a thank you reduces risk by closing the loop on our ‘transaction,’ otherwise, I might be (rightly), worried and spend even more time following up with you to make sure my email:

  • Didn’t go into your junk folder
  • Wasn’t mistakenly overlooked because you receive over 150 email each day (like most business people)

Annoying Email Etiquette Habit 3. Use A Signature Block

Always use a signature block which includes a phone number your reader can use to get hold of you. You don’t need to include your private number, but everyone should be able to leave you a verbal message (at least).

I was listening to CBC radio 1 a few weeks ago and Lucy Kellaway was on saying the exact opposite; the last thing she wants to share in an email is her phone number. If you are a public figure that makes sense… but for the average business email that you are purposefully engaged in, phone numbers are important.

Email is a terrible brainstorming tool and as mentioned above, details can easily be misinterpreted or overlooked. There are many times when your reader will realize a 2 minute conversation or voice mail can replace days of back and forth email, frustration and misunderstandings.

Note: If you use an email management system like Outlook, you’ll need to activate a send AND reply email signature block, (many people only activate their send).

Every time you send an email you are advertising your personal and professional brand. What message do you want to send?

Happy communicating and email etiquette.

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Family Circus created by cartoonist Bil Keane and currently written, inked, and colored by his son, Jeff Keane. King Features Syndicate.

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee

Few employees and even fewer offices have benefited from the investment of email etiquette training… even though email is the preferred choice of business communication. Unfortunately, and as most of us have learned the hard way, the penalty of poor communication can range from an embarrassing mistake and a few hours of wasted work to potentially much worse.

Even tech savvy Millennials and Generation Z who will soon account for 50% of the workforce have received little to no email etiquette training at school.

So to help with this up-hill battle, I’d like to share 4 Tips from my email etiquette training workshops that are very popular.

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee: Tip 1

Say Hello, Good morning, Good afternoon and Good-bye.

One of the most common complaints about email is that the writer is bossy or rude even though the email message was not meant to be. One of the easiest solutions to make an email sound respectful AND professional is to say Hello, Good morning, Good afternoon.Email Etiquette For Every Office

When we talk face to face we never start without saying hello. Email etiquette follows the same rule.

The same approach works when you close your messages. Be sure to say Good-bye, Thanks Bruce or if a very formal email use Sincerely.

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee: Tip 2

Be brief and choose your words carefully.

Most of us are good at writing brief email (too brief sometimes), but one thing we are guilty of is not thinking about our readers needs / knowledge when we write. We don’t mean to – we’re just busy.

Unfortunately, if we don’t consider our readers needs and how much experience they have, even your closest associate is going to have to make assumptions… and this opens the door for mistakes, loss of time and reputation, higher costs and many more problems.

Also be careful of using jargon and acronyms as they may further frustrate your readers.

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee: Tip 3

Write great subject lines using 5 – 8 words.

Great email subject lines will get your email noticed and answered quickly.

Would you read a magazine article that had a vague title? NO!  So, considering we receive approximately 100 – 250 email each day, the best way to help your readers prioritize, read and file your messages is by writing great email subject lines.

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee: Tip 4

Use a font and salutation that is approved by your organization.

Consistency is critical to your brand and customer experience. If it wasn’t, every Tim Horton’s store would look different – but they don’t. So, make sure you’re using the preferred font, font size and font colour your company style guide outlines.

Also, when it comes to your salutation follow the company style guide structure. Does the salutation include the company logo? What phone numbers should be included (some number should ALWAYS be included).

Email Etiquette For Every Office And Every Employee Conclusion

Email occupies as much as 90% of most offices daily communication because it is widely accessible, easy to use and a terrific record of a ‘conversation.’

With email etiquette training you can spend less time writing messages while also improving your personal and professional brand.

Happy communicating and business email etiquette for your office.

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Why Emotion Is Often Misunderstood In Email And Text Messages

When we read email and text messages all day we are bound to misunderstand something. Knowing that misunderstandings are likely to happen and why are the best ways to prevent them in the first place.

4 Reasons Why Emotion Is Often Misunderstood In Email And Text Messages:

  • Email and text messages are usually really short with not enough information, (so the reader is confused), or too long with too much information, (so the reader begins to skim).
  • Email and text messages remove soft-stimuli/signals we get information from in face-to-face or telephone communication… like vocal inflection, vocal tempo, smiles/frowns and hand gestures.
  • When we read we almost always see things first through our own feelings, needs and experiences. Then, if email empathy is one of our strong-suits, we make a leap of faith (which usually happens without even knowing we are doing it), to guess (using our own bias), what the other is feeling, needing and experiencing.
  • When we write, we often see things only though our feelings, needs and experiences, we rarely stop to consider things that are critical for our readers, things like:Essential Email Etiquette And Text Message Habits
    • How busy are our readers
    • What is the really important information they need
    • Are they reading on a computer or tiny smart phone/tablet
    • What do they know about me and/or my situation
    • What do they know about the language I am using (jargon)

What To Do To Make Sure Emotion Is Not Misunderstood

To make sure emotion is not misunderstood in our email and text message, when we write we should be sure to:

  • Think of our readers needs and experience
  • In most cases, avoid jargon and abbreviations (especially in business communication)
  • Get to the need and action item quickly
  • Manage our readers expectations
  • Avoid trying to insert humour or sarcasm
  • Reread before we hit send

Conclusion For Our Email And Text Messages:

Every email and text message we send impacts our professional and personal brand – it builds trust with the people we send them to… or tears trust down.

Since up to 90% of most business communication is by email (and some text), it’s critical to our brand – and our productivity that we make sure emotion is not misunderstood in your email and text messages.

Happy communication and writing. 

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Why Are Millennials Less Empathetic Than Boomers?

“Why are Millennials less empathetic than Boomers?”… or perhaps the question should be… “Are Millennials less empathetic than Boomers?”

In my previous post of this ‘Empathy Series’ I closed with the important statistic that by 2025, three out of four workers worldwide are expected to be Millennials according to Time Magazine. That simply means that now is the time for serious discussions on leadership, empathy, compassion and interpersonal relationship in the workforce… because first impressions and how we build business and personal relationships matter.First Impression

There are studies by Sarah Konrath and her associates at the Institute for Social Research that show Millennials ARE less empathetic in comparison to Boomers (and Gen X)… when Boomers were in their late teens early twenties. But, how does that help you and me today? That’s why I believe a more relevant question is, “Are Millennials in todays workforce less empathic than Boomers in todays workforce?

The Challenge

We don’t really need studies to show us that a large part of todays workforce demonstrates low levels of empathy. All we have to do to run our own test/review is to think of our last few experiences as a customer.

For Millennials, this shift is not because our genetic code is changing (thankfully no GMO’s here). Part of the challenge is that their parents have focused non-stop attention on achievement-oriented stimuli including:

  • Back-to-back schooling, tutors, dance classes, karate, summer band camp… etc.
  • Pressure to:
    • Be their personal / professional best
    • Look for the next opportunity – quickly
  • Little time for unstructured, creative thinking / play
    • Virtually no time when they are not entertained by a backseat DVD or an iSomething
  • Little time being taught social skills by family and / or role models
    • Families used to always eat breakfast and dinner together (with the TV off)
  • The majority of communication now by Text Message and/or Email and/or Social Media
  • Being always accessible by (and using), a smart phone or tablet

All of this has made Millennials (and Gen Z… the iGeneration), a tech savvy, goal-oriented generation that has high expectations, low brand / employer loyalty and little experience being empathetic.

But the drop in empathy doesn’t only sit with Millennials. The challenge is that while Boomers and Gen X used to demonstrate higher levels of empathy, many are now also demonstrating lower levels of empathy. This drop is because most Boomers and Gen Xers are now consumed with the same achievement-oriented stimuli that Millennials experience… for example:

  • More work / fewer people
  • Higher expectations / pressure at work:
    • Be our personal best / family best / professional best
    • Respond to all inquiries quickly
  • Greater pressure to constantly exceed previous performance expectations
  • Pressure to have enough money so they can retire… and travel… and enjoy the cottage… and…
  • Social pressures:
    • To give their children the best opportunities to succeed
    • Social Media posts by friends who save selfies in Rome or write ‘I have the best life.

The Result

In today’s busy, overstressed work environments we are all demonstrating less empathy than is best for our business and professional relationships.

At home and at work, almost everyone from every generation is moving so quickly, they might, in a face-to-face situation, ‘recognize’ how someone is feeling. But, they can’t afford the time to help or get involved.

In addition… electronics continues to put a barrier between people. The result is I’m:

  • Less likely to accurately ‘recognize’ your emotions and feelings if we communicate via email or text.
  • Less likely to consider your needs if I can’t see you.
  • More likely to be more impatient and to get their faster via an email or text.
  • More likely to say things via an email or text that I would likely never say to your face.

Conclusion

Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Z are beginning to respond in similar ways.

How we build relationships and communicate with each other and how we socialize (text, social media vs. face-to-face), has changed. It’s important to note it’s not only Millennials who are communicating differently.

30 years ago society had to interact, talk, listen and pause to get anything done, this means as people we got lots of practice to ‘read’ other people. In addition we had the time to explore a challenge and consider the impact on everyone. Now, the high pressure – high demand – performance driven environments don’t give us time.

So, while there is lots of evidence that for most – the frequency of empathy has dropped, but I’m not comfortable suggesting that Millennials are less empathetic than Boomers.

Note: The importance of technology and devices like smart phones and tablets is important in this discussion of empathy. I will review this topic in the next post in this series.

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Happy communicating.

I’ll enjoy reading your comments on this post. If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

The Need For Email Etiquette Training

What is the need for email etiquette training? Truth is, most participants tell me “I wish you would train all of the people I work with.” 

Email Etiquette Training

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In most businesses, over 90% of communication is via email. So it’s easy to imagine that our email etiquette and email writing habits impact our success.

I’m sure you agree, good service makes us feel good; we have a positive emotional reaction. Poor service frustrates us and might even make us angry; we have a negative emotional reaction. Thankfully, most of us are attracted to positive emotional reactions.

The same goes for email communication. We have an immediate emotional reaction to every single email we receive. Test yourself using the email in your inbox. As you scan your inbox I bet you go through a range of split second emotions like:

  • “Ugh!” feeling defensive, “Another bossy email from Bob. He’s so rude.”
  • “Ugh!” feeling impatient, “Betty rambles on and on – it takes so long to figure out what she is trying to say.
  • “Ah!” While feeling energized, “A message from Sue – she knows how to get to the point – I’ll do this now”.

How many times each day do you feel:

  • Defensive
  • Confused to what is wanted
  • Happy to help
  • Like you want to ignore that persons message – again
  • Other…

Business communication is just like walking a path where unseen land mines can go off at any moment and do irreparable damage… if we are not careful. Email etiquette training shows employees how to position their messages so their email builds personal and corporate brand value because they:

  • Are Easy To Read
  • Get To The Point Quickly
  • Are Easy To Understand
  • Are Easy To Respond To

That’s why there is a need for email etiquette training. And because we never took Email 101 or Introduction to Email Writing at college or university. We were never taught how to communicate in this strange, electronic… and now smartphone driven environment.

Still Not Convinced Of The Need For Email Etiquette Training?

Fact 1.

Your employees represent your company’s core values and professionalism to your customers, suppliers, vendors and other employees.

Fact 2.

According to a Harvard University study, it takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change a person’s negative opinion.

Fact 3.

People are more likely to talk to their peers about bad experiences than good experiences.

Fact 4.

Email etiquette rules and being mindful of your business goals might protect you and your company from misunderstandings that might be costly, embarrassing or even lead to lawsuits.

Are your employees able to communicate effectively?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You don’t have to go in search of inner peace with your computer, however, it is important to your success that your employees communicate professionally; creating a positive experience… and positive emotional reactions every time.

Happy communicating, harmony and email etiquette training. Thank you!

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Cat.

Having pets at work and home has been rewarding in so many ways.

Four virtues of having pets at work include:

  • Being motivated to step away from your desk and go for a walk
  • Giving and receiving unconditional friendship / kindness
  • Being reminded to try to keep things simple
  • Learning and re-learning responsibility

The benefits of having pets at work go far beyond those four virtues. As I mention in my earlier blog Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog, I think some of the best examples of business best practices and Organizational Behaviour can be learned from our pets.

We all behave and communicate according to our natural self and our life experience; this includes our past, current and anticipated environments. And we must acknowledge that how we communicate with each other is a critical part of our home / work environment. Negative, abusive, unsupportive communication at home or at work will make us unhappy and this will negatively impact our performance and productivity.

Our pets at work can help us enjoy a better work/life balance, reduce stress and be more productive. So here it goes.

The Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Cat.

  • Ben experiences every moment with kindness. In human terms he seems to see the glass half full. I believe negative energy attracts negative energy.
  • Ben never stomps around or is a bully. He’s gentle, deliberate and thoughtful to the people and spaces around him.
  • Ben meets new people confidently.
  • Ben At Work CloseupBen has reminded me that when I enter a room or any public space to stand tall and enter it with respect and dignity of myself and the people who are already there.
  • Ben is tolerant of others who look different or who have different opinions, habits or energy levels (dogs mostly). I have a great story of Ben sharing a cottage last week with a friends two dogs – all with inquisitive respect for each other.
  • Ben is inquisitive – whether it’s at home or a new person, place or thing. Ben likes to investigate (with respect and dignity), and learn what’s what.
  • Ben trusts me to do the right thing. 
  • Ben forgives me when I mess up or forget something… because my norm is what counts. I like to think he gives me the benefit of the doubt.
  • Ben demonstrates empathy.  He senses when I need a break – and also when I’m busy and can’t be disturbed. When he wants my attention but I have another priority he doesn’t take it personally.
  • When I need someone to listen, Ben is a great listener and doesn’t try to solve my problems for me… but being a great listener helps me settle down and solve the problem for myself.
  • Ben rarely rushes. He keeps a steady pace – but when he needs to move… he certainly gets going!
  • Ben is a big talker and often comes running – tail high – greeting me when I return. He’s also a big purrer and loves to cuddle. Let people know you are happy to see them.  
  • I never have to guess when Ben’s food dish is empty, but he doesn’t interrupt me (wake me up during the night), to make this happen. In the mean time he does something else (like sleep), and waits for an appropriate time (I know – this is odd for a cat). Let people know when you need something – respectfully.  
  • Ben lets people know when they are doing something he likes. This is great positive reinforcement and shows he is not taking them for granted… he’s showing respect.
  • Ben isn’t defensive – but can defend when it’s appropriate.
  • Being a black cat has it’s disadvantages at night. From time to time Ben gets under my feet. If he gets an accidental kick Ben accepts my apology with ease and does not hold a grudge (note: I’ve learned to apologize immediate when I realize I’ve done something wrong).
  • Ben exercises regularly – he wrestles with my dog Lex… who has also taught me Business Lessons.
  • Ben gets plenty of sleep… although I would suggest 20 hours a day is counterproductive for most business people.
  • Ben sleeps with the boss – which I would not recommend as normal business behaviour.

Summary

I believe the key is for organizations to help their employees find a respectful balance between personality, awareness of their surroundings and the people they work with. I also believe this balance is what is often compromised; and it’s not limited to one generation. Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y people… people of all generations have difficulty finding a balance between awareness, respect and empathy (Emotional Intelligence: self-mastery (self-awareness and self-regulation), plus social intelligence), and ongoing business objectives.

Ben is more self-centered and a bit less outgoing than my dog Lex, yet he still is attentive, respectful and kind to anyone I bring into my home or office. He also keeps them entertained – another benefit of  having pets at work. This is his / their base personalities. I believe Ben’s Emotional Intelligence and self-mastery is in part due to a healthy home/work environment and how we communicate (verbal and non-verbal) with each other.  The result is an excellent example of Organizational Effectiveness and Workplace Harmony.

Conclusion

People often comment how well-balanced and friendly my pets are. It’s not like they had a privileged youth.  Lex was a rescue puppy and Ben was a one year old barn cat. But, both learned that they could trust their new homes or when I bring my pets to work. Even though there are boundaries (Lex doesn’t get up on furniture and Ben doesn’t get up on tables (except my office desk), they are both open and respectful. This I believe is the nurture intersection of Organizational Behaviour (OB).  OB and Emotional Intelligence isn’t just nature… they are of course nurture also.

Happy communicating, creating workplace harmony and reducing employee turnover.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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How To Send And Receive Less Email

This year most of my email training clients have had the same main request; they want their employees to learn how to email effectively so that they send and receive fewer email. And no wonder since the average business person sends and receives over 100 email every day… many over 300 every day.

Email was once seen as a tool that would increase efficiencies and competitive opportunity. Today email is a great business tool we can’t do without. But more and more we’re using it as a crutch instead of as a catapult.

Email Icon

The challenge is that the way we write email is decreasing our efficiencies, easily costing companies $3,000 or more PER employee every year in loss of productivity and opportunity lost… not to mention the loss to their personal and professional reputation.

How much time we spend emailing every day is astonishing. For example: if a person sends and receives 100 email during an 8-hour day (not accounting for lunch, breaks or meetings), they use email every 4.8 minutes.  If they send and receive 300 email they use email every 1.6 minutes. imagine…

Thankfully there are a easy steps we can all learn to use that will reduce email volume and be more efficient at work; here are just a few.

Use The Phone Or Walk Down The Hall

Sometimes even the most professional email is not the right solution. If we’re wondering how to email, the best strategy may be to pick up the phone – especially if there are issues that need to be brainstormed. The bonus is that conversations often build better business relationships and usually take less time.

Consider All Of Your Needs – And All Of Your Readers Needs

Too often we write email as a single thought – not a complete need or objective. Over an extended period of time (and countless email interruptions), we send email messages back and forth until we finally have discussed or shared (perhaps with some frustration), all the important points. When you write email, learn to bottom line your objectives and stick to the important issues – but cover all of them at once.

Write Great Email Subject Lines

Email subject lines are used as a primary resource readers use to determine if they will read your email now, later or never. Subject lines are also the first opportunity for you to make an impression. If you leave the subject line blank – or use a universal word like ‘Sale’ or ‘Meeting’, you risk being overlooked – all the time.

Value Your Values

Employees should know without hesitation the corporate and department values. They should also know how they can use these values to differentiate the company and themselves every time they write email or speak with clients, suppliers or their co-workers.

Conclusion

Email training is a fast and efficient way to turn email back into a catapult for your employees and business. When you know how to email, it’s a powerful business tool and a very sound investment.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Words Matter: Two Easy Writing Tips For 2012

Do words matter?

Even though most of us are not great authors we’ll still spend most of our day writing. Why? On average 90% of business communication is done using email or instant message (IM). Not to mention the time we spend writing proposals and reports.

So, do words matter? Sure they do. Two of the most common areas we can improve are:

  1. The number of words we use (we use too few or too many)
  2. The actual words we use (we often don’t fully describe what we are trying to say)

Let’s discuss these opportunities!

I believe all we need to do to start writing better is to learn to control the ‘Busy Beast.’

What is the ‘Busy Beast‘? It’s what I call the feeling of being so ‘busy’ that our email writing stops informing. We stop managing people’s expectations. We write so briefly our writing loses focus, and when this happens we actually:

  • Get less accomplished
  • Create more work for ourselves and the people around us
  • Become less efficient; costing us time, money and potentially opportunity
  • Sound pushy, rude and / or bossy
  • Lower our customer service ratings

I believe another reason for our brevity is that we’re becoming so used to 140 characters (Twitters limit), that our meaning – our intent is so “high level” so “50,000 feet”, that the words we do write are virtually meaningless.

Email Example 1: Being Too Brief

If your boss sends the following email to you, what’s your next step?

Are you going to ask your boss:

  • What are the priority areas is she most concerned with?
  • What behaviour she wants to see from your team?

If you do ask your boss might question your competency even though the real meaning of her request is lost. If you’re like most people you’ll ‘interpret‘ what you think your boss is asking for and what your team needs. You’ll use your experience but be cautious.

Unfortunately, if you don’t ask you risk wasting your time, effort and budget.

This is why words matter. The problem isn’t your competency, it’s the email message. Too few words were used resulting in too little information being shared.

People at all levels of the company write email like this. Not because we hope our readers will fail. In most cases it’s because we’re all so ‘busy’ we don’t take 20 extra seconds to ask ourselves “Have I given my readers enough information for them to understand what I am saying or asking for?

What if we did take an extra 20 seconds to include the information our audience needs to understand our request. In this example, what if the email the boss wrote was this:

Good Email Example

We see that words matter because they can help our audience understand what we are thinking, feeling, wanting.

As I mention in my blog post called Increase Productivity By 15% Or More!, if you have to write one more email to 15% of the requests that come to you (because your co-worker didn’t write a clear message for example), you’re wasting 12 days of your valuable time each year (and they’re also wasting their time). There is a very real cost / loss when employees write bad email.

Email Example 2: Being Too Vague

Here’s another of my favourite examples. I will contact you later. What does that mean?

Here are some of the possibilities for:  I will contact you later.

What is contact?

What is later?

Phone your office
Phone your mobile phone
Email
Instant Message
BlackBerry PIN
MAC FaceTime or Skype
Come by your office
Facebook message
Within the hour
When I’m out of my meeting
This afternoon
On my drive home
Today
Within the week
When I have an answer
When ‘X’ gets back to me

We need to give the people we communicate with some help. They don’t live inside our head.

Much of this seems to be commonsense; natural even because it’s what many of us learned when we were young. However, in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives many of these truths have been set aside and we’ve become unaware of our abrupt, abbreviated 140 characters or less impact as we move through our day.

It’s time to slow down – to control the ‘Busy Beast‘. It’s time to become more efficient by no longer wasting our efforts and time and the efforts and time of the people around us.

Most of the time an extra 20 seconds will may go a long way to communicating effectively (the first time), and to building meaningful relationships.

Kind thoughtful words do matter.

Imagine work being easier. Imagine work being more productive.

Happy communicating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Out Of Office Reply = Customer Service

Your out-of-office reply is often the last thing on your mind and the last thing you do (if you do it at all), when you go on vacation or attend a conference.

That’s unfortunate since your out-of-office message is an important part of customer service and client management while you’re away.

Manage Expectations: Client Respect and Co-worker Respect

Other people are relying on you. A simple, clear out-of-office reply demonstrates client management and co-worker respect. Keeping clients informed is also great customer service, time management and business etiquette. And. your out-of-office message is going to help you relax while you’re away because it’s less likely something will go ‘critical’ because you are out-of-office.

The bonus is that if your respect your clients and co-workers you’ll also protect your brand and reputation. Here are three steps you can take.

Step 1. Four Suggestions To Prepare Early

  • Why wait to the last-minute? Make your pending departure part of your email signature and voice mail ahead of time. All of your clients and co-workers are busy; this also serves as a gentle reminder.
  • Write your best out-of-office reply ahead of time. Follow the voice and email  guideline I’ve provided below.
  • Identify your back-up person and prepare them for your departure. Follow the work with your back-up guideline I’ve provided below.
  • Update your ‘at work’ calendar so it shows you are out-of-office.

One approach I often use when I’m going to be away for a week or more is to block my calendar as out-of-office one day earlier – and in the office one day later. This helps me prepare and manage critical / last-minute things at the back-end and sort through email and phone messages and get caught-up on the front end in a controlled – focused way.

Risks of a bad out-of-office reply (or no message at all), is that your mind and energy will keep focusing on work-related ‘stuff’. This isn’t fair to you or the people you are with. Especially on vacation, everyone needs to get some time-off.

Step 2. How To Create An Out-Of-Office Reply

What should you include when creating an expert out-of-office reply? The following provides some business etiquette guidelines – but also consider your audiences specific needs.

Make your message relevant for your audience – and useful. Example: It should include:

  • Your name, position and company
  • Day leaving / returning
  • Your back-up’s name and position
  • Your back-up’s email address and phone number
  • Still invite them to leave a message
  • Invite them to press 0 for the operator (if appropriate)
  • Will you be checking messages?
  • Will someone else pick-up and respond to your messages?

Give the people calling all the information they need to act or to find your back-up. Don’t make them hunt for an email or phone number – they have already spent time trying to call you. Hunting down your back-up will only frustrate them… and your back-up is going to be the one getting an earful.

The following message is not helpful: “Hi, I’m on vacation and will have limited access to email and voice mail.”

Example Email / Voice Mail Structure Variation (to one line):

I’ll be out of the office on Friday December 12 and will return Monday January 2. While I’m away I will have limited access to my email. I’ll be checking email (once a week, every morning, etc).

Step 3. Work With Your Back-up

If you have a back-up (like Ben), make sure Ben knows he is your back-up and also that Ben will be in the office (and not on his vacation).

Then, spend time with your backup to review your accounts / projects. Set them up for success – not failure. Review critical clients and expectations with them. This will help prevent emergency phone calls and email to your while you’re away. Make sure your backup is managing tasks – not putting out fires.

Oh – and when you are away I recommend you turn roaming off your smartphone. Often your App’s (Blackberry, iPhone, Android or other), will keep ‘pinging’ the service server and updating. Turning your phone off will save you from a large bill.

If you’re looking for how to set up an out-of-office vacation auto-reply check with your email or voice mail service provider. Each program has variations both within the program application as well as each version.

Bonus Tip

If you’re planning to be reachable while you are out-of-office so that you stay up-to-date, be sure to set parameters around your contact. I personally try to avoid staying in touch when on vacation – everyone needs a rest.

Imagine work being easier. Imagine work being more productive.

Happy communicating.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Email Marketing: Direct Marketing In Action

Email is part of an evolution that started in the 1960’s as an inexpensive solution to instantly send messages between networked computers. While email wasn’t designed as a direct marketing tool, email marketing is certainly a natural evolution considering how quickly our lives and communication styles have changed since the 1990’s when email became popular.

It’s no surprise email marketing also has some unique challenges.

Get To The Point

With the widespread adoption of email many of us lost our ability to get to the point. Back when we had to invest in hand writing or phone communication, getting to the point was more natural. Who had the time to hand write a page or two of background or meandering thoughts?

But email helped make typing lots of copy quick and easy. Soon abundance became a common error of email writing as well as web writing, brochure writing and proposal writing. We started to write down everything and hope the reader found a reference to something they liked, related to and/or needed.

Not much changed when businesses started to use email as a marketing tool. Lots of email marketing did… and still does look like a child’s cereal box. The problems were too much detail, too many photos and as much attention grabbing hoopla as possible.

And for a while people paid attention… because email marketing was new. It’s not new anymore.

Email Marketing Is Often An Interruption

Today email marketing is more competitive and our target audiences are jaded from being over stimulated and/or taken advantage of. There’s been so much bad email (even regular business email), that when you get a good message it really stands out. Customers notice.

Remember the Mini Car ad’s when the car re-launched? They stood out – they were fun. They were never seen as an interruption because they were relevant and to-the-point. Even if we didn’t want one we wanted to learn about them.  They were so to-the-point we would read them and instantly know why it would be great for us.

So in the end the Mini Car ads were good for the customer… and good BMW who own the Mini brand.

Strategic   Branded   Relevant

Return To Basics: It’s About Need And Offer

To improve the overall quality of email campaigns, marketers need to return to basic. Businesses need to focus on the ‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFM) message for their client. What’s the client need? By creating messages and content that solve their clients’ needs (not pushing only an offer) businesses will also build trusting respected relationships.

Even back in the 1960’s ads showed housewives and husbands ‘What’s In It For Me’.

Being successful in email marketing isn’t about creating a grammatically correct copy with pictures and flashy layouts. It’s also not sending your campaign to everyone you can get access to or by renting your ‘ideal client wish-list’.

A successful in email marketing campaign is about sending a short, clear, relevant message and offer of value to your segmented, targeted audience.

This is especially true when connecting with existing relationships. If you keep sending them mindless irrelevant junk they are very likely going to click the unsubscribe button, or even worse, mark your message as spam… which causes you big problems in the future.

Delivery / Execution

You have a great message and great creative – you’re almost finished.

Now you need a trusted system to deliver your messages. This often means hiring a eMarketing / Digital Communication supplier to help you make sure your campaign gets to the people on your list (and not in a junk folder or identified as SPAM). Professional eMarketing / Digital Communication companies also have easy access to proven tactics they can use which mean further success for your campaign… and ways to measure your success.

Do it yourself is risky to you, your business and your brand reputation. For example, one important step is to notify your email host that you are about to send mass email (which is likely out of character for you). If you don’t do this your host may perceive your sudden spike as SPAM and shut your whole email system down… and I mean all of your email.

Conclusion

Email marketing works because it can drive direct sales to a targeted audience in a controlled manner that builds relationships, loyalty and trust. It’s also a natural fit in a Drip Marketing Program.

So, start thinking how you can get out there and create an awesome package and offer as part of your overall marketing strategy. Go ahead – it can be a great opportunity for you to try something new. Whether you hire a professional or try doing it yourself, you’ll need:

  • A relevant offer
  • Creative… creative
  • A clean organization list (opt in preferably)
  • Clear execution that doesn’t look (or act), like SPAM
  • To measure your results

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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