Don’t click ‘send’ and other career-saving email tips – Jason Kilgore

He really thought we should go with “A.”  He was wrong.  “B” was the only viable option and I replied to his email as such.  In his passive-aggressive tone, he emailed me back to say that we could go with “B” but we should give fair consideration to “A.”  Some people have nerve!  I stewed over it for a day and then told him our plan would go down the toilet if we didn’t choose “B”.  Now, it was all-out war.  He replied in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, “GO WITH ‘B’ THEN.”  He did NOT just send me an email in all caps. Oh, but he did.  That’s it.  My conversation was over with him – forever.  We will never speak again….

….But we did.

At church.

The next Sunday.

He said, “Yeah, Jay, I think you’re right. We just need to move ahead with ‘B’.”

I was confused. “But, your email seemed to indicate that you were sold on ‘A’,” I replied, trying to look as if I had genuinely considered his opinion.

“Not at all.  It’s a big decision.  I was bouncing ideas off of you.”

And about the ALL CAP’S EMAIL?

“I just got a new smart phone.  Still can’t figure that thing out.”

Lesson learned.

Email is a great tool for communicating, sometimes.  Here are ten simple rules I have developed for myself regarding the use of email.  Use them wisely, my friends.

  1.  There is no such thing as a confidential email.  What you put in writing lasts forever.  Always assume the entire company will have access to what you write.  Gossip is best left to potlucks and prayer meetin’s.
  2. Never read any emotion into an email, even if it is in all caps.  Writing styles vary greatly.  Some people express themselves well with the written word.  Most do not, so don’t assume they do.
  3. Do not press ‘send’ if the back of your neck feels hot.  How many times have you fired off an email when upset or angry?  How many times have you regretted doing so?  No email is so important that it can’t wait 1 or 2 or 24 hours to send.
  4. Proof-read your emails.  Spell check only ensures that you spelled a word correctly, not that you used your intended word.
  5. The “subject” line is there for a reason.  Use it.
  6. Complex concepts cannot be communicated in an email. Readers become quickly bored with long emails.  Email is a quick, “catch up with me later” tool. (If you cannot resist, use bulleted points.)
  7. Only use email to coordinate simple tasks, summarize conversations, ask questions, or communicate basic facts. Esoteric concepts are best left to other forms of communication.
  8. Large attachments are the devil.
  9. Cute backgrounds are not cute.  Backgrounds were a fad back in the 90’s.  Now, to the tech-savvy, email background screams out, “Look what my 9 year old grand kid showed me how to do.”  Not cool.
  10. If in doubt, pick up the phone or make an appointment to speak in person. (Remember that device in your pocket used to update your status?  You can also use it to talk to people.)

Communication technology is forever changing.  So are the rules in how we use that technology.  How you choose to communicate in personal emails and via social media is up to you.  However, teamwork in the professional world relies on effective, efficient collaboration.  Violating these ten email rules distract and detract from meaningful communication.  Follow these rules and you will be a more valuable member of your team.


“I Am Delighted”

Several months ago, I stopped in to grab breakfast at a local McDonalds.  I don’t do fast food much (other than Chick-fil-A to get a chicken salad sandwich).  I could not help but notice the passionate worker who handed the food trays to customers.  She was an older woman, small-framed, and sprightly.  As she handed the tray to each customer, she would say, “I am delighted.”  That’s it.  “I am delighted.”  I thought this was odd because, she did not say, “I am delighted to serve you” or “I am delighted you chose McDonald’s.”  She just said, “I am delighted” and left it hanging out there like a dangling modifier with nowhere to land.

It didn’t make much sense to me why she used such an incomplete phrase, unless she was merely communicating her overall emotional state.   But hey, if she was delighted, she was clearly the only employee there who was.

Last week, same McDonald’s – I drove through the drive through.  The lady taking my order said, “I am delighted.  May I take your order?”  I figured the delighted lady from my previous visit months ago had been moved to taking orders at the drive through.  When I pulled around, I was surprised to see a younger, more robust woman.  Apparently, she had joined the delighted revival since my last visit.   She took my payment.  I said a quick thank you, to which she said, “I am delighted.”   The phrase still sounded kind of awkward to me.  “Delighted about what?” I wondered.

At the second window, I picked up my oatmeal or bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit with hash browns – I can remember which exactly.  Before I could say a word, the even younger teenager, said to me, “Here you go.  I am delighted.”  Very weird.

Maybe it’s possible the older lady who began saying, “I am delighted” is really delighted.  Maybe she has an inner light that keeps her delighted.  Maybe that is what she means when she says “I am delighted.”  Maybe her delight is contagious because several months ago, no one else in that McDonald’s was delighted and now they all seem to be delighted.  Maybe I’m not quite as skeptical as I used to be about the impact of one person’s positive energy on an entire organization.

Process Improvement Is A Leadership Sport by Jason Kilgore

I’ve written over 30 blog posts since I began this blogging journey.  Most of those posts have outlined a step-by-step approach to various aspects of process improvement.  I recently attended our annual leadership conference.  In the hours and days since, I’ve given much thought on the human side of process improvement.  Yes, the skills required to streamline processes are somewhat specialized and impersonal.  However, the softer skills of leadership are even more important.  I’ve been blessed to work with and for some great innovators.  Here are six common themes I see in them.

  1. Persistence:  Constant, steady goals that don’t change with the season.  We admire leaders who set clear targets and push until the objectives have been achieved.  Changing goals flippantly and failing to hold the team accountable creates division, lack of focus, and frustration.  Great leaders set the vision and steer the ship.
  2. Pragmatism:  Everyone appreciates a pragmatic approach to solving problems.  Great leaders think and speak in terms their teams understand.  While getting the results may require complex planning and execution, a great leader knows how to break down the issues, communicate effectively, and not overwhelm the team with extraneous minutia.
  3. Persuasion:  Sometimes, the team needs to be persuaded.  Persuasion (not to be confused with coercion) is the ability of the leader to inspire his or her team to willingly perform the work to be done.  Process improvement is tough.  Change requires courage.  The power of persuasion is an valuable tool in ensuring great results.
  4. Personality:  People respond to people they like.  Many times, process improvement requires leading people who get discouraged.  As such, being able encourage the team is critical to keep the team moving forward when the project gets tough and the eventual success is in question.
  5. Personal integrity:  The leader’s personal integrity bonds the team around a common purpose.  An effective leader is transparent, up-front, and honest with the team.  Kind, yet clear – the leader is able to prevent dissention among the team by treating team members fairly, listening to their ideas, and giving each the opportunity to perform optimally.
  6. Patience:  Get it done fast, but get it done right.  Patience is the ability to balance results-orientation and time for thinking it through.  We tend to swing between two extremes:  hurriedness and analysis.  Finding the sweet spot somewhere in the middle is the key getting results expeditiously and getting the results desired.

There have been a million books written on leadership.  All of them likely have some good information.  But there is not a book that can replace watching the great leaders in our own lives, learning from them, making our own mistakes, and improving our personal leadership style.