An opportunity to boost your email writing skills

An opportunity to boost your email writing skills

I laughed when working for the first time with a senior team recently.

I asked them to do their pre-work and then come ready to collaborate on a modest piece of communication.

An email would be fine, I said. That way we can embed the concepts without being overwhelmed with problem solving.

After that we can move to solve bigger problems.

They followed the brief to a T and brought an email for us to work on.

Or so they said.

The email turned out to be a nudge to their peers on the Executive Committee to think holistically about a $1bn problem.

As you might imagine, we were quickly immersed in detailed problem solving and not ‘just thinking through an email'.

Preparing the ExCo then took a further three two-hour sessions!

So, not all emails are ‘just emails'.

They do however provide a hidden and often ignored opportunity to build our thinking skills.

My teeny tiny email course explains how.

In 10 minutes you will learn four key concepts.

It is available at no cost.

>> Access it here.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Davina

Write emails that are easy to action

Write emails that are easy to action

Emails are a constant challenge.

They are ‘everywhere' in our day to day work and yet often seem too small a communication to invest heavily in.

To help with this challenge I have prepared a short video tutorial offering four techniques for writing emails that are easy to action:

  1. Have an obvious purpose
  2. Grab attention with the subject line
  3. Highlight one visible message
  4. Visualise the message hierarchy

It's short, in keeping with the medium, but offers specific examples to bring these ideas to life.

You can access this free tutorial here >>

I hope that helps. More next week.

Davina

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PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

An opportunity to boost your email writing skills

How to get people to read AND reply quickly to your emails?

I realise in some ways emails seem a bit basic, or even hum drum. We receive tens if not hundreds daily.

And, if we are honest, we read them quite selectively. How many unopened emails are lurking in the bottom of your inbox?

So, if we are selective … so are the people who receive emails from us.

Tricky!

How do we make sure our audiences read and reply with what we need from them quickly? Here are three ideas to help:

#1 – Say something useful. Basic, I know, but often not so.
#2 – Use simple visual formatting so your message is easy to find
#2 – Insert tables, screenshots and other images with care.

Let me unpack each of those for you.

Say something useful. How many emails are never opened and not missed?

To be useful, think super carefully about your purpose and make sure you are adding value to your recipients before you hit send. In particular,

  • Think twice if your purpose is ‘so they know what is going on'. Ask yourself WHY they need to know what is going on? What will they do with that information? Do they really need to know?
  • Minimise the number of people you CC. If your recipients receive loads of emails from you, important ones won't stand out.

Use simple visual formatting so your message is easy to find. I am shocked at how often I brace myself to read emails that appear in my inbox. Here are three tips to reduce this shock for your recipients:

  • Include plenty of white space. You will note that in this and other emails from me, I allow white space before and after sections and in particular around my (usually bolded) main message.
  • Avoid underline. It clutters the page and makes the words hard to read, even though it does draw your eye to the line itself (but not to the word).
  • Only highlight the key message unless your email is long. If long, highlight the top line supporting points as I have done here.

Insert tables, screenshots and other images with care. A great example of this came across my desk this week, which in part stimulated this post.

My client offered about six screenshots along with five lines of text to explain her problem. However, she inserted the text in between the screenshots, which rendered them invisible.

To avoid that happening to you, I suggest keeping tables, screenshots and other images to the end of your email.

The only exception is where there is just one visual followed by a big block of text. If you add just a few words after an image they will be lost.

I hope that helps and look forward to providing more ideas next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

How to correlate your effort with your end game

How to correlate your effort with your end game

Do you wonder how much effort to invest in different pieces of communication?

Do you prioritise according to …

  • who your audience is
  • the type of document it is (email, paper, PowerPoint?)
  • how much time you have to prepare it, or
  • the business impact it will generate?

Let's use two routine examples that emerged in my coaching work this week to think about this and refine how we think about each of them using a simple framework.

First, two routine examples to set the scene

Imagine you have two emails to prepare today:

Example 1: A 250 word email seeking leadership support. You need your five-person leadership team to agree to change the course of your project in light of complications caused by an unexpected technical glitch.

The change doesn't require any extra budget but does require your team to change their priorities which will lead to deprioritising another important project.

Example 2: A 150 word email to 3,000 staff. You have discovered a new security vulnerability in the latest Google Chrome release and need the whole organisation to manually update their browser immediately.

The steps that each of the 3,000 people need to take are simple but critical and you are aware that many of your employees are not ‘tech savvy' and may need explicit instructions to complete the update.

So, how do you decide how to proceed?

Next: a simple framework to help you prioritise your effort

By thinking about two important dimensions: impact and size of audience, we get to a different conclusion.

This allows us to correlate our effort and our end game by prioritising our effort according to a balance between the impact the communication will deliver and the risk of slowing the organisation down (or worse) if it goes wrong.

And … a counter-intuitive conclusion

Both of these examples need ‘proper' investment but using this approach we would pay more attention to the Google Chrome vulnerability email. Here's why:

Although the email to all staff seemed fairly simple, the risks and potential time loss were both higher than that for the leadership email.

If the staff email was poorly done, the cost to the organisation would have been substantial

  • The steps for updating the Chrome vulnerability were easy if you were ‘tech savvy', but could be time consuming if not. In the real situation it proved to be easy to convolute the steps confusing colleagues and leaving a real possibility that they would give up. Aggregate this over 3,000 people and the cost to the organisation of getting it wrong is pretty big.
  • The current risk of being hacked is also intense for this organisation, making the risk of not updating the browsers higher than normal.

If the leadership email was poorly done, the cost would have been less significant

  • The cost to the organisation of the ‘hourly rate' of these leaders taking time to ask questions to clarify the message is less than the potential time cost of the staff email
  • The risks to the organisation are minimal as no extra budget or skills were required and time lost could be caught up in other ways if the project needed to return to the original schedule
  • The project leader is likely to have other opportunities to put their case in the not too distant future should there be confusion stemming from the email

I hope that provides some food for thought this week and look forward to sharing more ideas with you next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

‘Pitch your boss' kit to help you this budget season
If you want your manager to invest in your development, you need to do your homework before you have the conversation. Your manager will want to know exactly why this is the right program for you and how it will help the team and the organisation. We have provided a brochure, a draft script and some steps to follow to help you prepare for your conversation. Clarity First opens again in September

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

The power of ‘why’ in getting more done quickly

This is what happened to Chad.

Chad is a software developer at a trading firm.

Although fluent, English is his second language and this makes him nervous about his communication abilities.

He has also had feedback that his communication can be too aggressive, which has heightened his anxiety.

However, when I meet with him I find a warm, engaging and enthusiastic person who does not seem the least bit aggressive.

So, what is going on here?

To illustrate, I will first outline the situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain, then offer our before and after emails before offering two questions you can ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position.

The situation that led to a lengthy and frustrating email chain

When Chad and I worked through an email chain between him and some overseas colleagues, the issue slowly became apparent.

His communication was polite and detailed.

But it missed one critical ingredient.

Instead of explaining why something needed to be done, he jumped straight into how the overseas colleagues needed to do it.

This, in turn, led to a ten-email chain debating the details of the task, with a heavy overtone of ‘do it yourself’ from the overseas team.

Let's have a deeper look at the issue by reviewing the original email and an alternative.

Our before and after emails

Even though the information is technical, I think you’ll see what I mean when I show you the original (sanitised) ‘so what’ message versus the revised one:

Original – We need your help to come up with the implementation that supports System A in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

Revised – Given our own ABC filtering mechanism leads to a configuration that is hard to maintain, we need your help to implement ‘System A’ in filtering the symbols and foreignID.

Interestingly, the rest of the email changed dramatically too. 

It no longer consisted of a list of reasons why the suggestions from the overseas team were wrong, it included a list of reasons why he needed their help.

On reflection, he decided that if he had drafted this email in the first place the whole chain of about 10 emails would have been avoided.

And the problem would have been fixed much sooner.

So, how to avoid this happening to you?

Two questions to ask to avoid putting yourself in Chad’s position

This experience raises an important issue for me that I hope will help you also.

Before ‘smashing out' your next email request ask yourself these two questions so you are sure about your audience's situation:

  1. Are we certain that the people we are asking to help us know why we need their help, not just how we want them to help?
  2. How much time would we get back each week if we routinely slowed down and stopped to think about our audience's situation before we hit send?

I hope that helps.

Have a wonderful week.
Davina

Keywords: strategy, emails, ESL

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

Are poor emails harming your career?

Are poor emails harming your career?

 A ridiculous thought, isn't it?

Emails are a mundane and routine part of corporate life.

Most are short and many of us send and receive hundreds of them daily.

Business today cannot progress without them.

But what if your emails routinely elicit a groan from their recipients, so much so that they flag them for ‘later', and then often don't even open them?

Does this mean that you miss out on important responses, and also get a reputation for being frustrating to work with, sloppy in your thinking and someone who takes a long time to get things done?

Where does this leave your career?

This was the experience of a client this week who was stunned at the difference that changing her emailing style could create.

She found that by starting with just a  short introduction (perhaps just one sentence for a short email) and then getting to her key point straight away the response time rocketed and she

  • No longer had to chase people to get the information that she needed to do her job
  • Completed her work more quickly
  • Enjoyed doing her work so much – much – more, and
  • Loved the unaccustomed positive feedback she received from her colleagues and superiors

Now, imagine if this small change could be replicated across your whole organisation. Imagine if your whole team – from secretaries upward – were able to consistently make some small changes to the way they prepare their emails: business would move so much more smoothly for you.

Decisions would be made more quickly, there would be less frustration and more people would feel good about themselves at work.

And then extrapolate that further to think that the same techniques could be applied to other documents: board papers, steering committee papers and other presentations.

Imagine – an email-based productivity revolution.

Ridiculous!

In Clarity First we help people cut the amount of time it takes to both their communication – in any format, including email.

Clients tell me they cut the amount of time it takes to prepare important communication in half. Sometimes more.

They are also more likely to be promoted as their good ideas get the traction they deserve.

Why not check us out?

Clarity First is the most affordable top-tier program you will find.

 

 

Getting email feedback ‘just right’ is essential (and easier than you think)

Getting email feedback ‘just right’ is essential (and easier than you think)

It is easy to go to extremes when giving email feedback: either so harsh that your recipient is upset and is either so offended or angry they ignore your suggestions or so soft that they miss the point altogether.

This can be because we are either too cautious about upsetting someone and too aware of the limitations of the medium or because we are in a rush and don't realise the impact we are having.

A short article from Fast Company by Sara Marco of The Muse provides a simple formula for getting the balance right: not too hard but not too soft either: just right.

When providing feedback to your team members as they start to use storylines, Sara Marco's approach will work brilliantly.

It provides an opportunity to highlight what your team member has gotten right, and also what they can improve.

Without this level of consistent feedback, your teams are unlikely to stick with the approach and give you the results you need: less rework for you, more great ideas being approved by those higher up.

And, what I love even more about this article, it is written using a pretty solid grouping structure.

Click here to have a read and see what you think.

 

Separately, if you would like more ideas on writing better emails, you may enjoy my free course, 10 Minutes to Better Emails. Learn more here.

 Keywords: emails, leadership communication, leadership skills

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.

Are poor emails harming your career?

Are poor emails harming your career?

 A ridiculous thought, isn't it?

Emails are a mundane and routine part of corporate life.

Most are short and many of us send and receive hundreds of them daily.

Business today cannot progress without them.

But what if your emails routinely elicit a groan from their recipients, so much so that they flag them for ‘later', and then often don't even open them?

Does this mean that you miss out on important responses, and also get a reputation for being frustrating to work with, sloppy in your thinking and someone who takes a long time to get things done?

Where does this leave your career?

This was the experience of a client this week who was stunned at the difference that changing her emailing style could create.

She found that by starting with just a  short introduction (perhaps just one sentence for a short email) and then getting to her key point straight away the response time rocketed and she

  • No longer had to chase people to get the information that she needed to do her job
  • Completed her work more quickly
  • Enjoyed doing her work so much – much – more, and
  • Loved the unaccustomed positive feedback she received from her colleagues and superiors

Now, imagine if this small change could be replicated across your whole organisation. Imagine if your whole team – from secretaries upward – were able to consistently make some small changes to the way they prepare their emails: business would move so much more smoothly for you.

Decisions would be made more quickly, there would be less frustration and more people would feel good about themselves at work.

And then extrapolate that further to think that the same techniques could be applied to other documents: board papers, steering committee papers and other presentations.

Imagine – an email-based productivity revolution.

Ridiculous!

In Clarity First we help people cut the amount of time it takes to both their communication – in any format, including email.

Clients tell me they cut the amount of time it takes to prepare important communication in half. Sometimes more.

They are also more likely to be promoted as their good ideas get the traction they deserve.

Why not check us out?

Clarity First is the most affordable top-tier program you will find.

 

 

PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY

I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com

 

(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.