This is a re-post from my internal personal ESN corporate blog. After having written it I realized that such story is not relevant for one single situation, the same e-mail #badpractices are common everywhere. That’s why I chose to repost it to share the motivations that made me change my communication style some time ago.
Enjoy and let me know your opinions.
It’s been 1 year and 10 months I’m not using e-mail for communicating and I can type that adding my favorite emoji ^_^
I never liked e-mail as communication channel since it never really improved in features since I knew it (and since it was invented probably back in 1973) and when I saw how it was used I realized how much time I was spending not in communicating the message but in interpreting it, searching for it, filing it, checking it multiple times and also being worried that something important got missed.
Here the first though, even with not so many features the channel, e-mail, as such works as it should, it’s how we use it that makes it a nightmare.
As newcomer in the corporation
I remember I understood that if someone important in the organization sent me a mail, I had to drop everything and start working for a reply. The majority of time was spent in guessing what was the real need of that important sender risking to interpret wrongly and to do the whole work again.
That mail was the only thing I had and all rest was guessing (deadline, scope or the analysis, need, importance of the outcome) because I didn’t want to disturb the sender with “silly” request of clarification.
Then I studied leadership and had the opportunity to practice it as team leader and as a manager.
In the Leading course they thought me that as a leader I must act as a role model, so in the best way following our company values and best practices.
If everyone acts as a top performer everyone will benefit from it, individual, team, company, environment…
It’s then that I remembered those initial moments when I worked until late night to reply to those high important e-mails that my manager had to check before replying.
I realized that in both cases this wasn’t acting as a role model.
As a leader I should be the one to collaborate first and ensure that time is spent meaningfully. Any request from me should be clear, the desired outcome should be discussed to really match the needs and the deadline should be realistic and balanced. As a receiver I should aim for collaboration and ask as much possible for clarification.
What I also realized is that nothing of this can be done with an e-mail where clarity is subjected to interpretation, where any clarification needs a back and forth of offline messages, where a discussion is not possible due to the formality of the channel and where the time spent in writing 2 lines of request often is totally unbalanced with the time spent in preparing the reply.
In this video below “Simon Sinek – Why Leaders Eat Last” definitively my favorite about leadership, the message is clear, leaders need to work more, do more sacrifices, “suffer” a bit more in order to be perceived as real leaders, that’s why 2 lines of mail, impersonal and with no time spent on sharing the message doesn’t payback, it has no empathy, no oxytocin.
As professional I would like people to contact me directly (or using an open collaborative platform) when they need something, face to face if possible, to have a possibility to listen to each other, to feel the importance and to share that particular empathy that makes the work more pleasant and relevant and people more engaged.
That’s also why I don’t use email except on those 4 used cases below (and I have to thank Luis Suarez for inspiring with the first 3 points):
- Universal Identifier: to grant accesses and get notifications
- Calendaring and Scheduling: sending calendar events
- 1:1 Confidential exchanges: notice how I’m saying 1:1 and not 1:many, for those conversations where I can’t have a confidential conversation for whatever the reason, in social spaces (1:many confidential exchanges are also no longer confidential as you no longer know who might be leaking out the information)
- Audit or process needs: mostly for approvals (waiting for the process to be updated to remove the need of email)
I aim for collaboration and sharing what another colleague might like to know or need to know.
“If it’s worth sharing then let’s do it openly”
Share is enriching others, it’s learning, it’s making sure that a corporation goes far also thanks to our little contribution.
After almost 2 years I’m still here receiving no more than few e-mail directed to me each week (majority are CC) and replying literally to no more than 2 mail per week in average.
I communicate much more picking up the phone, meeting F2F, using corporate chat and sending messages on the ESN for private and open conversations.
Also many of my peers know it now and learned to contact me directly on other channels with the benefit that I have the opportunity to share also with these folks a much more open way to communicate and share.
…and how did I start to an email free communication style?
Part of it I shared on my previous post thanks to the inspiration I got from others, part is these reflections and part is going to be in the next post to close the circle of my beginnings…so you’d better follow this blog then ^_^
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