“Diamonds are forever. E-mail comes close.” -June Kronholz
Perhaps the busiest individuals in the company are the members of the senior executive team. They are constantly pulled in multiple directions by a plethora of constituencies – customer meetings, internal staff meetings, trade shows, speeches, analysts briefings, business news interviews, industry meetings. The list goes on and on. There is precious little alone time to think about the future of the business and not much time for one-on-one meetings with members of the senior team. Time seems to be the executive’s worst enemy.
Thankfully, many CEOs and senior executives are at least able to keep in touch and partially manage their business obligations through mobile email. In the hotel lobby, at the breakfast table, in the elevator, in the taxi, on the plane, even in bed at night, busy executives are replying to emails.
And that’s where the problem starts! Email is no substitution for a face to face meeting and can easily make the situation worse.
Too often I have been copied on a series of back and forth emails from one executive to another about a business issue that slowly grows into an electronic confrontation as electrons loaded with anger or resentment hurl from device to device. The term “flaming emails” is pretty accurate in some cases.
One of the skills of a mature leader is the ability to discern when an email is appropriate and when the cause is better served by a face to face discussion. One step along the journey to leadership maturity is to pause before sending any email and ask a few simple questions.
- Is there any negative emotion or anger embedded in this email?
- Would I be embarrassed if this email was read by any other person than the recipient?
- Would my mother approve of the tone of this email?
If the answer is anything but positive to these simple questions, then pick up the phone instead and make a face to face appointment, or at the very least talk it out over the phone or internet video (Skype is useful for this).
Leadership is as much about behaviour as it is about information and expertise.
Tight Lines . . .
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