RSS Sorting your Spam

What would your life be like without emails? I mean, really? If you have a computer and any connectivity with the outside world, you’re getting emails, and a lot of them. You’re getting so many emails that many are from people or organizations that you don’t even know, universally known as “spam." In the workplace, emails are a necessary part of business. They allow communication to happen instantly and can keep everyone informed of your organizations’ goals, policies and procedures. They can also be great for recognizing achievement and sharing results.

One thing email is not good for is as a coaching vehicle for employees. No, that needs to be done face-to-face so that not just a message is heard, but also the tone, urgency and non-verbal implications of the message. Maybe better said, emails have their place, but you can’t count on them to effectively communicate everything that needs to be shared.

Just like your email setting has a spam filter that weeds out unwanted incoming emails, I suggest that as leaders, we think about all of the messages we send to our employees that we think are important, but that they may consider “spam.” I’m not just talking about email messages, but really any interaction that we have with employees.

Okay, I know I’m reaching a bit to make a point, but hear me out for a moment. In this current age of information and technology, our talent is inundated with internal and external messages, which they must filter in order to deem what’s most important to the organization and their personal and professional development. Not only must they filter the message, they must filter the meaning behind the message. Much of the meaning can get lost if not communicated in the most appropriate way. For instance, if you have a problem employee in your department and hold a staff meeting to address it, everyone in the room is going to assume you are talking about someone else other than them. That includes the employee you are having difficulties with! In effect what you did was broadcast a general “email” to the department, which was subsequently caught in everyone’s “spam filter” and never received. What a waste of valuable department time and an ineffective exercise in leadership.

To share some personal vulnerability with you, one of my team members recently shared with me (by email) that some of my messages to her were too long. What I interpreted was that she might prefer that I communicate to her in “sound bites.” When we had a chance to speak in person about it, I learned it wasn’t the length of the email that she had concerns about, it’s that I didn’t leave enough space in between the points I was making to allow her to fully grasp each one. DUH!!! I share this because it reinforces the fallibility of emails. I misunderstood her intent.

I think there may be some takeaways that we as leaders need to comprehend here. First, realize that just because you communicate something, the message may or may not get to your team members the way you intended, and in fact, some team members may get it and others not. That’s a scary thought. Second, when you receive a message, you may not be getting it correct either. You could have your own “spam” filter in play and only hear what you want to hear. That’s another scary thought.

Lastly, we all know there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. The hard part is taking the time to make it happen!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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