We launched Dave's Charm School, 14 soft skills training courses, on a monthly subscription this week. Check it out…
Jeff suggested I give you a taste of the Communications 101 course by sharing (my) Dave's Dirty Doesn't Email Rules. Even if not every one of these rules work for you, it is a lot easier to edit my list than to start with a blank piece of paper to define some email standards or best practices in your organization.
1. Communicate based on their preferred style.
Adjust your writing style to the way the recipient of your email prefers to receive information. If you don't know what that is, figure it out in advance. (Our Clients confirm preferred communication styles using our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments.)
2. No hiding – speak, do not write negatives.
If you have an issue with someone then talk with them in-person or by phone. No flaming emails. When we are experiencing difficulty with others there is a high sensitivity to written words. Therefore verbal conversations are best. If necessary, follow-up after the verbal conversation with a brief, respectful email to confirm key points.
3. Subject line – clear; update it; does it need to be a “hook?”
Be brief. Be clear. Motivate. The subject line of your email can determine whether or not your communication is read at all. Do you need it to be a hook to motivate someone to open your email? As you go back and forth with someone and the length of the email gets longer and longer… update the subject line as the focus of your comments change.
4. Copies, blind copies, delegation, and sharing.
Only copy people on emails who absolutely need to be informed. Blind copies can come back to bite you, so use the BCC option discriminately. Forward emails to others only when appropriate and you would be comfortable if they were doing the same thing with your communications. Consider the cost of a BCC becoming public.
5. Be brief.
Be brief. Be bright. Be gone. Use attachments and links to limit the length of email body copy. Have verbal discussion when interaction is needed. Use email for notes, and or confirmation of details, action items, and agreement.
6. Format information for scanning, not reading.
There is too much to do and not enough time. Design your communication to be scanned rather than read. This will take you longer to compose your email, but demonstrate respect to the recipient, increase response, and improve productivity.
7. Taking action should be easy – links…
If you want someone to do something online or download data, it is your responsibility to take the time to provide accurate links for them to consider the information. Check your links before sending.
NOTE: If you are slightly OCD… after you check the link the color of the text for the link may change the purple. Does this bug you? You can select the words again, click to enter a hyperlink, and simply click Save / OK to refresh the links in your email in blue-colored type.
8. Never say anything you do not want in the newspaper & “complete delete.”
Email never dies, unless managed by an unethical politician. Choose your words cautiously. As my eighth grade English teacher used to say, "Peruse your verbatim carefully” before clicking the Send button. A wise person chooses to avoid risk and save some comments for a verbal conversation at another time, if at all.
9. Use drafts, proofread, and auto spell/grammar check.
Draft important emails and then set them aside for at least 30 minutes, if not overnight. Proofread several times. Do a spelling and grammar check. If you sense that someone else should proofread the email for you, but you do not want to take the time or have another excuse... If there is not a risk for that person to advise you, take the time to get their opinion. Usually that voice encouraging you to get their opinion is trying to save you from unnecessary drama.
10. Professional signature.
Have a consistent professional signature for everyone in your organization. There are many ways to do this. We recently started testing Calendly to help automate the process of setting appointments. (I often have to edit that line of my signature.) We used to have a legal disclaimer at the bottom, but dropped it. Here is an example of my signature (not formatted well due to this app):
11. Schedule time to do email.
I turned-off notifications of every email coming into my Inbox years ago. I now limit my time each day to consider email, although at times I will pop-in in for brief bursts of Inbox review in-between meetings.
How do I have time in-between meetings to do this?
In our Charm School course on Time Management, I teach you to schedule your meetings to end 10-15 minutes before the hour. Finish your meetings on time. Then you have space to check email, grab something to eat, visit the restroom, or do something else before starting your next activity.
12. Respond quickly – clear Inbox daily.
The goal each day is to clear your Inbox. I use folders to save emails for future reference. Quick, brief responses are fine. Sometimes your quick reply may be only to commit to get something done in a later time.
No response is UNACCEPTABLE if the email is from someone you know.
Of course, I could go on. However, this should give you plenty to consider. I hope you found these tips helpful and can apply them to save time, avoid drama, and improve relationships moving forward.