Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blow the dust of that phone...

Something I do on a regular basis, is exercise restraint in email conversations.   

How many times have you written an email response to a touchy subject thinking 'Ha, let's see what you make of this!'?  It's so tempting (and of course fun) to hide behind the written word, so easy to throw a comment and watch everyone else clamor to respond.  But does it help?  Does it encourage resolution and quicken action? 

At first, sure. If the emails are thoughtfully written and clearly state the POVs, then that's a good start.  But I encourage you to act as the Whistle Blower.  Try being the first one to suggest a quick conference call.  How about a brief powwow in the atrium/ coffee area/ kitchen/ conference?

If there are multiple people on the mail thread, but you seem to be clashing with one person in particular, try this.  Pick up the phone.  Yup, blow the dust off it and dial their number.  First of all, you'll probably surprise them, so there is a good chance that you'll be able to begin with the upper hand.  Second, it means you can just have the conversation - and often that means figuring out together the next steps.

Whether you pull everyone together, or grab someone individually, make sure that you finish the loop.   When you're done, THEN you send the email to everyone - outline the discussion, explain the next steps and thank they key folks for making the time to talk.

People will thank you for stopping another ludicrously long email thread and see your leadership qualities.  Try it and let me know.


  1. Very true. I had this manager who just emailed everything and waited for reply. Worse of all he cc the mail to the bosses. This got the person receiving the email mad and an email war broke out both parties trying to justify the problem on their side. In the end the problems didn't get solved and there were friction on both sides. What I do now is go an meet the relevant department when I have time and if not I will just call them highlighting that I will be sending so and so email as a formality. The other person will then know that you want the problem solved not pinpoiting their department.

    How I use Sun Tzu’s Art of War

  2. Exactly - the old 'send an email and cc the world' trick. Drives me crazy. I agree with you that if you take the initiative to call the meeting, you are the one seen to be problem solving versus pointing the finger. Thanks Azmil!