And so it begins… The seeming innocuous or moderately irritating email comes in to several people. Then a response, then another, and another. Pretty soon we not sure what is going to happen first; the iPhone is going to vibrate off the desk, the server is going to crash, or a full on brawl is ready to break out.
What just happened? Why is he attacking me? Why are there twelve people on this email? Aren’t I the boss?
Turf battles are shaping up, managers are protecting their personnel, bosses are cc’d. You have received 32 emails in 2 minutes.
And, that vein on your forehead is beginning to look like a small python!
A quick email from the boss (which will likely interpreted wrong), and we have a team in a dysfunctional state. Momentum has been halted, and you now must expend effort to get everyone back on the same path and potentially repair relationships.
Abraham Lincoln was known as an excellent communicator. Obviously he never operated in the time of email, cell phones, or the Internet. However, he communicated in a time of extreme tension and conflict, and his direction, adjustments, corrections, and guidance were critical to the development of the United States as a country.
There is a significant amount of value to see how he handled situations where he was upset, and need to make adjust behavior within his staff.
The story goes that Abraham Lincoln was very upset with one of his Generals. He had received an update from the war, and was very displeased with the progress that had been made. He took immediately to his desk, and penned a very strongly worded letter to address the deficiencies.
Being the pragmatic person that he was, he promptly put the letter in his desk, and returned to it the next day. Upon his review of the letter the following day, President Lincoln tore up the letter and penned a fresh, calm letter that he sent.
Email is ideal for being responsive, and notorious for being a poor communication tool. We use it to get so much done that we treat it like a conversation. It is not!
There is no reason to immediately respond to an email that has caused an emotional reaction. We use the medium of email, disconnect the filter from our mouth, draft a response that “we” believe is clear, and immediately respond.
Of course the message is not interpreted as you desired, and now emotions and defenses are up.
Slow down. Do not respond right away. If it is an urgent issue, pick up the phone.
The use of reply-all has become a crutch. Limit emails to those that really need to be involved, and eliminate any others. If an email starts to bounce between responses, an actual discussion probably needs to occur.
The nuance of a complex issue cannot be solved via email. Moreover, if it’s a simple subject, then there are probably too many people on the addressee list.
Attack this habit, and everyone will communicate more effectively.
When you have an issues that you need to respond to via email, and you find yourself frustrated, angry, or upset; sit right down and write the response. Get the entire response onto the page and don’t hold back.
Then, save the email in your draft folder.
Now that you have got the frustration out of your system. Get away from the computer for a bit. Talk to your team, walk around the office, get a cup of coffee, etc.
The point is to get away from your computer!
Ok, you’re calm and ready to address the issue. Pull up the drafted email….and delete it.
No really. Delete it. Do not read it. Seriously!
At this point, I would suggest a phone call would be the “correct” response; however, it is not always a viable option. A meeting, a discussion, an office call…you are probably getting the point by now.
Pull the team together and address the issue, and remind the team that managing by email is probably not the best way to use our team’s energy and resources.
Email can empower or put a brake on your business, that choice must be made by every leader in the organization.
Enjoy the Journey!
About Brandon Pugsley: I help business owners grow their business, profits, and increase sales. If you are ready to break through your barrier, read this.