General Business

E-mail Communication for Leaders

When it comes to being a strategic leader, the ability to communicate effectively is essential.  However, one factor that is often overlooked is that “how” you communicate matters as well.  Just one of the modes we use to communicate with others, now more than ever, is through e-mail.  However, if not used correctly, your ability to lead and persuade others can be negatively impacted.  With that said, consider some of the following pitfalls to avoid when sending e-mail:

–E-mail sent in all capitals.  Some people use all caps because it is easier than typing uppercase and lowercase (me included).  However, this type of e-mail is very hard to read.  Eyes are just not trained to read all caps.  Use proper capitalization to make it easier to read and to show that you care enough to take the time to do it right.

–E-mail sent in all lowercase.  This probably goes without saying, but all lowercase is even harder to read than all caps since you cannot tell where one word or sentence begins and another ends. Also, punctuation marks such as periods and commas are commonly lost in between lowercase letters making reading this type of e-mail even more difficult.

–Multiple recipients.  Have you ever received e-mail from someone that has been sent to 20 or more people? Sometimes mass e-mails have their purpose.  They quickly communicate a message to lots of people in quick and inexpensive fashion. But most often they are a red flag that the messages within the e-mail (but worst yet that you) are not important and/or the e-mail is simply a form letter.  I don’t know about you, but as soon as I see that I’m on a long list of recipients, I quickly delete the e-mail.  The key here is to keep your e-mail as personal as possible and only send out a mass e-mail when you have to.

–Spam.  There is a fine line between what is and what is not spam.  I define spam as any e-mail that wastes my time opening it.  This could include advertisements, hawking the smallest camera in the world or friends or co-workers sending jokes or chain letters.  No one wants to waste time sifting through spam to get to the important stuff.  Give your team a break and don’t send spam. In addition, with rare exceptions, avoid telling jokes by e-mail.  They often get lost in the translation.

–Spelling errors.  Using the spell check feature seems so simple.  Yet, I cannot tell you how many e-mails I receive from top level executives that have numerous spelling errors.  While spell check will overlook an incorrectly typed word that may still be a word, there is no excuse for e-mails that are loaded with typos.  A simple rule, after using spell check, read your e-mail one last time before sending it out.

–Slang.  When a person is reading e-mail, they do not have the advantage of hearing vocal dynamics. For example, a phrase like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” can be taken lightly as a way of expressing surprise or more seriously as a way of showing aggravation.  Without tone of voice to help the receiver better understand your meaning, you may be sending a completely wrong or unintended message.

Write to me at [email protected]with some things you hate (or love) about e-mail.

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