Email like a leader

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   No Comments   |  Posted on: Aug 15, 2014


When was the last time you sent an email? Yesterday, today, 5 minutes ago? It might be the summer holidays, but I bet you’re still accessing and sending emails aren’t you? Still checking every now and again, just to make sure that nothing important is passing you by? And why not – it’s the preferred method of communication these days, isn’t it? Pretty much everyone over the age of 18 communicates by email – it’s the most reliable and private way to contact you, isn’t it? Long live the quickly typed up email, writing a flowery letter is a dead art.

Who writes letters anymore?

That’s what it used to be called, wasn’t it – the art of letter writing? And if you’ve ever been to Japan, they still take it very seriously, with beautifully crafted paper, envelope adornments and a range of magnificently artistic pens and ink. And the time people used to take over putting pen to paper – we just haven’t got that time anymore, have we? Typing an email is immediate, to the point, instantaneous, direct, without any faffing about or time wasting – we can reply the instant we read it without even taking time to think things over or compose a response, or even craft our sentences or carefully select our words.

But what if like letter writing there is an art to it – an art to composing an email? We cannot not communicate and even what we say in and email, and more importantly how we say it, communicates something about us. So what would you like to communicate? That you’re someone interesting, someone interested, someone who has all the qualities of a school leader, or just someone who has dashed off a quick reply while waiting for a coffee at a drive through? Someone who doesn’t care about anyone else’s feelings or has no empathy? Someone who is just like everyone else replying in a slap dash way to emails?

How do your emails make others feel when they read them?

We already know from hearing opinions about school leaders; teachers’ want to feel safe, valued, listened to, cared for, and supported. So just like having a face to face discussion, or chairing a staff meeting, there’s a process to crafting an effective email – whether it’s to get your point across, to request something or even just to thank someone or confirm arrangements. A process that will help you to make safe feel at least safe, and at best inspired and motivated. A 3 step easy to follow process which communicates your position as an influential leader, values the person you are emailing and provides a win-win situation for both of you.

How to email like a leader

Step 1. Start your email by showing you understand the sender’s position. This might be a simple ‘Thanks for your email’ or something like ‘I know you must be busy at this time of year’ or even ‘How are you enjoying your summer holidays?’ Start with a question or a statement that is focused on them, their situation at that moment and your clear understanding of it. Why? Because everyone likes to feel valued, everyone likes to feel understood and wanted, don’t they? And what better way to show that than to make it clear to them with a confirming statement or a question about their circumstances?

Step 2. State your situation – say what you are up to, what you are thinking, what your view is, what you are dong, exactly what your position is on this matter. You might even start your sentence with ‘My situation is ….’ This makes it clear to the recipient exactly where you stand, what your commitments are and why. This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out explanation with lots of distractions, keep it short and factual – as Elbert Hubbard said ‘Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will never believe it anyway.’

Step 3. Offer a solution, what you can do for them, a compromise, or an invitation. Give them a scenario which is win, win for both of you; which maintains credibility and an open communication channel for both parties. It may just be a signing off remark or comment, a call to action or a positive statement regarding future communication or meetings. So it might be something like ‘What I can do for you is…’ or ‘Let’s meet up to discuss this further’ or even just ‘Looking forward to working with you’. Finish with some sort of statement that doesn’t make them feel fobbed off, rejected or dismissed. Use a carefully structured statement or statements that will leave the recipient in a clear position as to your intentions – people value clarity over ambiguity, or false promises, or empty emotions. It’s much better to be clear up front rather to renege later; this will only diminish trust and your credibility, won’t it? So don’t promise things you can’t deliver just because you think it might make the other person feel better – be straight, you’ll be respected more in the long run for you honesty and authenticity.

Why don’t you try it out?

The 3 step process to crafting effective emails – give it a go, see what the results are. You’ve got nothing to lose, have you?

After all, you know what it’s like to get emails that make you feel angry or puzzled or just downright deflated and exasperated – you don’t want to be one of those people who sends those types of emails do you? Wouldn’t you rather be the type of person who sends emails that get you the response you want? Emails that reflect the type of person you are? Emails that reflect all the qualities of an effective leader?

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