Thursday, February 23, 2012

leadership and language (email tips for leaders)

We all know it is important to craft a message that is powerful and engaging. We all know the importance of using the right words to touch someone's heart and mind. Examples abound, especially as we consider the words of those who changed the nation - notably people like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. But what about the mundane, day-to-day, information only messages? And especially in a day of email, when communication happens almost instantaneously? Can we still lead through our language?
I beleive that the answer is YES. As leaders, everytime we communicate we are engaged in the process of leading. Yesterday I was sending out a "routine" email that was communicating a decision that had been made. I was blessed to have next to me one of my colleagues who helped me craft just the right words. We believed that what was written in this short message could have impact over the long haul, and we wanted to say just the right thing. So here are a few tips for crafting a good email message that can enhance your ability to lead over the long haul:

  1. First and foremost, NEVER (repeat NEVER) write or send an email when you have negative emotion wrapped around the subject. This is especially true if you are angry toward someone or something.

  2. Second and foremost, NEVER (repeat NEVR) write or send an email when you have negative emotion wrapped around the subject. This is especially true if you are angry toward someone or something...get the point?

  3. Assume that people will always read between the lines, so avoid any language or tone that might allow peopel to do that. Be factual and to the point.

  4. Explain yourself. Let the reader know why the decision has been made or what is prompting you to write this email. Don't let them guess.

  5. Be succinct...but not too much so. Write in full sentences, and consider that it probably takes a paragraph or two to speak of anything worthwhile.

  6. Have an approriate salutation - to whom are you adressing this note, and how do they want to be noted by you? Do you begin with Dear Friends...Trusted Colleagues...Fellow Faculty...or do you address people by name?

  7. Have an approriate ending - do you have a tag line you normally use (regards, truly, as always, God's blessings) or perhaps several that not only address the issue at hand but also speak of your relationship with that person or group?

  8. Choose your words in such a way that they have impact. Consider this a speech that is written out. Let your language inspire others to action.

  9. Depending on who the email is being sent to, re-read over and over. Nothing is worse than a spelling mistake, or a dropped word, or poor grammar (this is no big deal between friends, but any public email needs to be your best writing). Don't distract the reader with poor grammar and spelling.

  10. Be VERY judicious with using REPLY ALL...this gets people in trouble way too many times.

  11. Let the email address be the last thing you type in, just in case you get sloppy and hit the send button before you want to or before you have a chance to proofread. You may just want to write the note in Word and then copy and paste into the email.

  12. Finally, NEVER (repeat NEVER) write or send an email when you have negative emotions wrapped around the subject. This is especially true if you are angry toward someone or something.

That's it for now...enjoy using email. It is one of the great tools we have at our disposal in which we can lead in real time and across boundaries. AND remember to visit with people face to face, especially when you have negative emotions wrapped around the subject or if you are angry toward someone or something.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

my bad

Hard to believe I last posted a blog back in November. Not sure if it has been an issue of time or not quite knowing what to say. I always have an opinion on leadership, so not quite sure what is keeping me from posting here on a more regular basis.

I so appreciate people's comments on what I have written in the past...part of leadership (at least for me) is getting feedback on what I do and say. While I always appreciated uninvited feedback (at least ost of the time), sometimes I find myself having to seek feedback. Here are a few ways I go about that process:

  • I have found that if I only ask "what did you think?" I get the standard "that was good" or some other cursory response. I need to be specific, or ask one more time, "No, really...what did you think?"

  • When people mention something about my leadership, or compliment me on an action I have taken, I ask them to elaborate some more and tell me WHY it was good for them. This helps me to more fully understand what they saw and experienced.

  • Because people normally have a hard time devlivering bad news, I have to begin by giving them permission to tell me the bad and the ugly. It might sound something like, "I'm not sure that meeting went very well...can you tell me where I might have done something that did not work?"

  • With trusted friends and advisors, I may tell them ahead of time to watch closely and give me feedback following a meeting or event. Then I make sure to follow up with them.

  • When people bring up a topic with which I find myself wondering if my actions in that arena are less than admirable, I let them know that they have permission to call me out if I ever act in that manner. Yesterday I was conversing with a colleague and she brought up the issue of giving introverted people space in which they may network differently than extroverted people. I realized that my actions will often promote those who are extroverted and inhibit those who are introverted. I told her she can call me out - even in public - if she ever sees me acting in such a manner.

So how are you getting feedback on your leadership? Without some type of feedback, there are few ways to really improve. And the best feedback is real time are you getting that on a regular basis?