A few weeks ago during one of my client sessions the topic of email management came up. If you’ve read any of my articles over the past few years then you’ve probably heard some of my thoughts around email communication and how it pertains to current business practices, but if you haven’t here’s a short re-cap.
Email is a great tool when it comes to communication and productivity, but for many it’s become the ONLY tool and that’s a huge problem.
Email is really great for dealing with 3 questions- Who, When, and Where.
For example: You are invited to a sales meeting on September 23rd 9am at the main office conference room. Do you see how there is very little room for interpretation?
Once your emails start getting into the- How, What, and Why, well then all bets are off. The complexity of the answers to these types of questions are simply too complicated, broad and loaded with so much emotion and context that we never really identify and agree on the next steps. It’s that same emotion and context that we apply to other people’s words that often create chaos, and miscommunication with regards to email.
The human brain is not designed to be plugged into the matrix 24/7-365, so while email is a great way to stay in touch for some important things happening back at work, it can also become a hindrance when it comes to re-charging and re-energizing. I’m still totally jealous of my father and my grandfather because they never had email. Consequently when they were on vacation- they were actually on vacation.
Now getting back to my recent client session. As we were discussing these very powerful points around email, one of the participants mentioned that when he was sending out emails it was usually because he needed something from someone. Since this gentleman happened to be the CEO of the organization I responded back to him by saying that since the others in the group were usually on the receiving end of those requests, they probably feel as though email requires them to give something.
It was in that moment that it dawned on me. Email is nowhere even close to being an actual discussion or dialogue- you know, that extremely important interaction that happens when two or more people sit down together and actually talk to one another.
No, email for lack of a better term is simple a transaction in which the sender is either requesting something, or is giving something that has been requested of them.
To put it bluntly we have all become order takers in our fast food economy- would you like fries with that? Or we are simply walking up to the counter to request our food. And the reality is, fast food- like email may give you immediate gratification of feeling like you’ve accomplished your task, but over time it’s unhealthy and will make you sick.
Please don’t misunderstand me, as I’ve alluded to earlier, email is an amazing tool that allows us to communicate anywhere anytime. It pulls together every corner of the globe and allows for a multinational workforce. It even allows people like myself to work from the comforts of my home office and share more time with my family.
But never for one minute kid yourself into believing that email can take the place of the richness of a one on one discussion where you can add real meaning and context to words, sense the emotion of certain topics, feel the passion behind the words, and listen for meaning behind the words that are often unspoken.
A real conversation doesn’t allow you to go back and edit, use spellcheck or wordsmith the perfect phrase or adjective. It’s the raw un-censored information that makes people and organizations what they truly are- or aren’t. It’s what inspires us to do great things and in the process enable others to do the same. It’s why most of us want to come to work in the first place- to challenge our thought processes and learn new and exciting ways of thinking. It’s all these things and so much more if we allow ourselves the time to actually engage in those meaningful discussions and become the person we’ve always known we can be.
All of this and more can be accomplished by the simple task of avoiding your need to bang out yet another email and actually have a meaningful discussion. Yet sadly I know that most would rather just order up or serve another Mc-Nasty burger with fries and a half-gallon of liquid sugar for immediate gratification, only to feel sick the rest of the day.
Email is nothing more than a fast food transaction-
Choose your food wisely my friends.
Thoughts for the week:
Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. –Plato
The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that is has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. –Peter Drucker
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. –Robert Frost
Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place. – Simon Sinek