At some point in our professional careers, we have all experienced some sort of email etiquette training–whether it be a company policy document, a just-in-time web-based tool, or an in-person training session, we’ve all been through it. And there is a lot of useful information that is shared through those various avenues because, when it comes down to it, writing an email is a distinct form of writing. There are rules to follow: be concise and to the point; do not attach unnecessary files; and (please) do not overuse the high priority feature, just to name a few.
However, there is one rule that I would like to bring more attention to: make it personal. I realize that most of us are inundated with emails throughout the day (and if you happen to decide to take a week off for a vacation, knowing that there is a stack awaiting you when you return can be enough to ruin your last day off), so this rule may be one that is followed only when it’s convenient. Nonetheless, it should be followed. Some tips to consider: when writing to only one person, consider opening your email by asking a follow-up question to a conversation you may have had last week that is non-work related. Or, if you’re writing to a group of people, and it’s a very stressful time because you’re all trying to meet an important deadline, make a reference to that deadline and acknowledge the level of stress. And my favorite, consider simply changing your closing salutation; it may seem minute, but if you’re asking someone to do something for you, wouldn’t it be more personable if you closed with “Thanks” rather than “With warm regards”? It’s little things, like personalizing your emails whenever possible, that may help you build networks in your work environment. And who knows–maybe a co-worker will consider going the extra mile for you as a result of you taking the time to personalize an email to her (and it only takes a few seconds of your time).
I’d like to know your thoughts. Do you think personalizing emails is worthwhile? If so, how do you personalize your emails?
Technology is making us more nimble, proactive, and better-suited to meet our customers’ needs. Smart phones are making us more connected, easily accessible and productive. Show of hands: at the root of those two statements, who disagrees? Remember, remove any personal biases you may have toward technology and smart phones–the question refers to the root of those two statements. I’m assuming, at this point, that there are no hands in the air. I can’t disagree either, so count me in the group not raising his or her hand.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to bring in my personal bias: I prefer face-to-face communication. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of technology and everything it offers; I challenge you to find one industry that has not been improved, in some way, directly as a result of technology. And smart phones…I have owned my iPhone for around two months and I don’t know how I survived without it: I can simultaneously find the nearest Italian restaurant, map the shortest route to that restaurant, send the address in a text message to my friend, all the while listening to You Can’t Always get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.
So, as you can clearly see, I have embraced technology and smart phones. However, I am still partial to face-to-face, in-person communication. Think about all the aspects of communication that are lost due to our increasing reliance on virtual means: body language, facial expressions, instant feedback, just to name a few. These missing pieces can lead to numerous unintended outcomes, three of which being: a longer, more drawn-out conversation; misinterpretations of meaning; and the need for clarification where it may not normally be needed.
Conference calls and WexEx’s have become the default when planning a meeting these days, and a lot of the reasoning comes from having geographically-dispersed project teams and clients in different locations and, perhaps even more so, due to restricted travel budgets. On the other hand, there are some engagements in which WebEx meetings should be the exception to the rule. Last week I was doing some research on the topic of negotiations, and came across an article that highlighted an interview conducted with an expert in the field. The interview centered around conducting negotiations via email. Upon beginning to read the article, I imagined two conference rooms separated by thousands of miles, each with a group of people huddled around a computer crafting a response to the other party: “Write this, that will show them!” “Type this, I’d like to see what they say to that!” “Are they serious? Give me that keyboard…” I could go on like this for some time, but let me state my point: in a face-to-face encounter this kind of back-and-forth is not likely to happen and, as a result, the negotiation will tend to be much more productive for both sides.
So, when planning your next meeting, examine the objectives you would like to get out of the meeting, and if it seems like those objectives can be achieved virtually, great. However, if there is the potential for unintended misinterpretations or the need for instant feedback, don’t discount the face-to-face meeting. You may be surprised at how productive your meeting becomes.
I’d like to know what your thoughts and experiences are on this topic.