It happened again this morning. I took a deep sip of my early wake up brew and let its warmth spread slowly throughout my body. This routine helps me calm before I filter through my first email storm. (I try to focus email attention mostly at the beginning and end of my workday to prevent midday distractions, so I can stay on top of things.)
About four deep into my waiting messages, a familiar request waited. An existing client asked, “Could I hire you to review and possibly edit an important email before I send it out? Not only is the current project at risk, but the entire customer account may ride on how I communicate this.”
I wasn’t on the road, so I was able to carve out some time to meet their urgent need. As I read their draft, I found at least five areas that were unclear, confusing, where thoughts were incomplete, or where the recipient could have misconstrued what was being said. My client quickly paid my fee, and I spent a short amount of time strengthening, clarifying, and specifying the real message they wanted to send. It’s always a great day when you can spend under an hour saving and making someone thousands of dollars through the power of words used well.
But it also reminded me of patterned problems I often see in business emails. Exceptional leaders understand that it’s crucial to communicate clearly. So, let me share an outline that can transform your message power.
· Open with a hook. I don’t care who we are, starting an email with the power of intrigue draws people in, and is sometimes enough to make them want to read an entire message.
· Briefly, paint a picture with words. Can you provide a short example, analogy, or story that supports your point? (Did you see how I demonstrated this at the beginning of my post?) People are wired for story and the briefest scene painted well can embed our sticking points in the minds of those we hope to impact.
· Be clear on the point you want to make, then get to it. Ask yourself, “What do I want the recipient to take away from my message? Have I communicated enough to ensure they will understand my desire?” Choose a focal point for your email and stick to it.
· Complete your thoughts: clearly, simply, and concisely. Don’t overwhelm people with longwinded diatribes, but neither should you brush past important points, leave out critical details, or slam something down and hit send, just to say you did.
· If appropriate, include substantive data that supports your point. This may be a quote from a credible source, the results of a study, or a link to a relevant site. Again briefly, include reliable information that influences your thinking on this point.
· Review your email to see if you have provided sufficient takeaway for the recipient. Is your email interesting, engaging, and educating enough to make it work this person’s investment of time and energy to read your message? If not, your email is not ready to send.
· If you feel frustrated, angry, or irritated, wait 48 hours before sending. It is never wise to send an email on the wings of raw emotion—the recipient will react to the “feel” of your email versus the message. Preferably, unless this is unquestionably an urgent matter, give yourself a couple of days to calm down and read your own thoughts with fresh eyes before emailing something you cannot take back. Remember, words have the power to harm or to heal, depending on how we wield them! And if someone else started a conflict or altercation with you, an exceptional leader always takes the high road. Even in email, the Proverb is true, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.”
You can use this outline with any communication, though you may have to shorten your message even more, depending on the platform. But text messaging, social media posts, and face-to-face verbal exchanges will all benefit from going through the outline filter I just shared.
It’s never appropriate to say you don’t have time to review your emails before sending them. Exceptional leaders are smart enough to know that professional verbiage is too important to rush—some damage cannot be undone. We always achieve our objective faster when we slow down to do things well the first time. And our coffee goes down better, too.
AnitaThe P4 Power Coach™