Email is probably the worst way to accomplish anything that really, really counts. You know the scenario…there’s work to get done or a problem to be solved and rather than anyone having an actual conversation, it ends up being done through email. All too often, email is being used for one or more of the following reasons:
- Avoid getting anything done – Because email isn’t interactive, it is the written equivalent of phone tag and everyone knows it. It is the easiest way to ‘kick the can down the road’ and not get things done.
- Appear to be getting things done – People who send the most email aren’t the most effective, but I’ll bet they think they look like they are. Filling someone else’s inbox is annoying and wastes everyone’s time.
- Play politics – Email is an easy way to make political statements through a one-way medium that’s hard to challenge in the moment. It’s like shouting down the hallway and is an excellent way to create a mess if that’s the goal.
- Cover your ass – Defensive or paranoid people think email is a way to create a permanent record of an opinion or an accomplishment. Maybe ten years ago, but today, we’re living in a more transparent world where people can quickly see what you’ve actually done.
If you find yourself doing any of these things, you probably need to reconsider your use of email.
Pick up a phone!
Here’s an idea…before you hit <Reply to All>, pick up a phone. Rather than extending the conversation to exhausting extremes, why not pick up a phone and call an individual or the key people to resolve things? Hearing someone’s voice and having an actual conversation has a few excellent benefits:
- Reaching decisions – There’s no time delay in negotiating or coming to agreement on the phone. A simple, “Do we agree?” is all it takes.
- Building relationships – The person who reaches out to have a conversation is addressing the challenges head-on and taking the time to be personal. Be the one that doesn’t hide behind impersonal email.
- Avoiding politics – A call is trust-building because there’s no ‘evidence’ and each party has to know what was said. The idea that we’re all in this together, based on a shared memory of what was said and decided, has an anti-political effect.
So next time, well before you bcc someone and long before you throw down something that doesn’t really answer the situation, pick up a phone! You’d be surprised how well it works.