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 – Getting the Right Details Right by Jason Kilgore

If a symphony performance is to be truly exceptional, each musician must master every note within the selection.  Each instrument must be finely tuned.  The venue’s design must enhance the look, feel, and sound of the event.  The “team” must function as a unit, keeping rhythm and timing.   Well-designed processes are much like a symphony performance.  There are a million details that must be considered, vetted, and executed.  Process improvement is a disciplined approach used to synthesize random details into a cohesive series of desired events.  Here are three reasons why improving processes depends on getting the right details right.

Reason #1:  Details are the difference between success and failure.  John Wooden said it this way, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Even the casual sports fan recognizes that games are won and lost by doing the basic fundamentals correctly.  Play good defense, don’t turn the ball over, use proper technique, pay attention to the out of bounds lines, keep your eye on the ball – the list is almost endless.  The same is true in process improvement.  Mistakes in our business, as in sports, compound on each other to the point of complete system failure (our team makes mistakes, the other team scores; the other team scores, our team loses).   Success depends on doing the little things right – each person on the teaming do his or her job precisely, on cue, every time. Ignoring the details makes us average at best.

Reason #2:  Understanding the details requires building relationships.  As project groups come together to decipher data and map processes –activities necessary for improving processes – relationships are built.  Poring over details focus our minds on the common goal, encourages lively debate, and pushes our team toward consensus.   Each person learns to appreciate the talents, contributions, and motivations of every other team member.  Teams focus on the opportunity to the point that personality flaws are overlooked and connections are made with people who share a common passion for improving the status quo.  Subconsciously, we build a robust database in our minds of who does what well.  Our success depends on our ability to leverage our collective strengths and overcome our collective weaknesses.

Reason #3:  The ability to discern the important details fills the leadership vacuum.  Finding people who can lead process improvement projects is difficult.  There are those who obsess over every detail, unable to discern the critical few from the trivial many.  (They become paralyzed by indecision and are ultimately ineffective.)  Other “big-picture” thinkers make universe-altering decisions without giving careful consideration to the tactical details.  (This type of person quickly loses interest in the project altogether.)  It takes both of these people to make a project successful.  Yet, a third type of person existing in the narrow middle, is able assess entire systems, identify key triggers, and initiate improvements.  It is critical to have a person the team with the ability to act as funnel, ensuring proper focus on the details that really matter.

Shuffling through mountains of details is seldom fun, usually thankless, and always time-consuming.  However, uncovering and acting upon the nuanced opportunities will transform your business.  And that is truly rewarding and worth the time and emotional investment.  The details do matter.