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How to write effective e-mails to get quicker response


Have you ever been in an e-mail chain where more than 10 people were addressed in the e-mail, but no one knew who is going to respond? If you are a manager or in a similar position, then you must be getting these kind of e-mails at least once in a day. Isn’t it? Actually, this situation is very common than you might think. On an average, 70% of the e-mails in the work place are targeted to the wide audience to get some people’s input, while notifying others at the same time. And that’s where the problem occurs. Since there are multiple users involved in ‘cc’ of the e-mail, all of them think that someone will respond, and at the end, no one ends up responding. In order to avoid those situations, and get quicker response to your emails, I am providing you with few tips on writing effective e-mails.

Use appropriate subject line: You must have been through the situation, where one e-mail might have been forwarded and replied so many times that its subject line doesn’t have any value anymore. Isn’t it? Let’s say, you get an e-mail from one of your employees (Mrs. X) regarding the issue that she found during her testing. The subject line of that e-mail might be “Issue found during testing XYZ product”. After few to-and-from communication with engineers about this issue, you forward this issue to the product manager for prioritizing the resolution of this issue. In this situation, product manager might take few hours or an entire day, before he can respond to this e-mail. Reason being…..from the subject line, this e-mail didn’t seem important to him. And hence, whenever you are forwarding an e-mail to someone, please change the subject line to target your responder. If you would have changed the subject line to “Prioritizing issue resolution for XYZ product”, then you might have got a quicker and descriptive response.

Highlight names: Let’s consider the same example given above. Let’s say, you want to forward this e-mail to the product manager and the engineering manager for their specific responses, and you also want to include 4-5 engineers in ‘cc’ of that e-mail to keep them informed about the resolution. And your e-mail description might say something like “how do we prioritize the resolution for this issue?”. Since, this e-mail is directed to so many people at the same time, you might not get any clear response, since people will wait for others to respond. Let’s say, you would have wrote this instead……”@Steve: How should we prioritize this issue? @David: Is it possible to fix this issue in our next release of the product?”. I am sure, your response would have been more clearer, since you have targeted your questions to each individual included in the e-mail. Thus, I would always recommend you to target your responders by their name, if you are expecting them to provide their input.

I hope, these tips will help you to draft an effective e-mail, so that you can get your responses quickly and easily. Do you have any similar ideas through which you can improve your e-mail communication?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Is your e-mail signature helpful to others? – Designing your perfect e-mail signature


Have you ever been in a situation, where you have got an e-mail from a long gone friend without any contact information about him? I am sure, most of us must have received at least one e-mail in their lifetime, which is from their close friend, but it doesn’t provide any information on how to contact them. Let’s take this for an example……Mr. X, who was your close college friend, suddenly sends you an e-mail about few things that he might want to discuss with you. What will you do in that situation? You might want to call him, but there is no contact information provided by him (no signature in his e-mail). And hence, you would rather be satisfied by responding to his e-mail instead of finding his contact information in your address book and calling him. Is that not right?

Imagine the similar situation at your workplace. Let’s say, you get an e-mail from Mrs. Y, who works in the different department, requesting specific information from you. Let’s say, you don’t have any idea on what she is asking for. So, instead of calling her (since she doesn’t have her contact information in the email signature), you would respond to her e-mail, and she might have to wait for few hours to clarify her side through to-and-from e-mail communication. Due to this long chain of e-mails, she will end up losing precious time to resolve the issue at hand. Imagine, if she would have included some basic information about herself with the contact information. Wouldn’t your response be different in that situation? Let’s say, if she would have put that she works in the licensing department as a project manager for XYZ. I am sure, this information would have helped you to put her e-mail in some context, and your response would have been much more quicker and informative.

So, how do you avoid these situations? What kind of information should you be putting in your e-mail signature? Well……..answer is very simple. You should include your name, your designation, your company’s name, your work address, your work e-mail, your work phone number, your work mobile number (if any), and your professional picture (if possible). Your name and designation should help your responder to put your e-mail in some context. Your work address might be useful, when your responder might want to mail something in response to your e-mail. Obviously, your e-mail address and phone numbers would be very handy for your responder, if they want to reach you quickly. And yeah! Though your professional picture is optional, I would highly recommend you to upload that on your Outlook or embed in your e-mail signature. Professional profile picture helps your responder to remember you by the face.

If I were you, I would have my e-mail signature as follows. Also, note that all of the contact information provided below is fake, and hence, please don’t contact me through that contact information. You can rather reach me through my ‘Contact Me’ page, which contains various ways to connect with me.

Sample E-mail Signature

I hope, these tips will help you to design your perfect e-mail signature, which can help your responder to get all the information that they need, in order to quickly respond to your e-mail. Do you have any similar tips like this, which can make your e-mail communication effective?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to communicate tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders?


Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to layoff someone? Or imagine yourself in a situation like Yahoo!, when their CEO resigned and no one knew where the company was going. How would you have handled that situation as a leader? No matter how hard you try to keep your employees safe from the corporate decisions at the top, sometimes those decisions will affect your employees regardless of your efforts. So, how will you handle those situations? In this blog, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can communicate these tough decisions to your employees very easily.

Announcement meeting: After a decision has been made, the communication to the outside world and the larger community of workers has to be handled with firmness, transparency and candor. Let’s say, your CEO resigned, and you only communicated the news through an e-mail. Chances are……….your employees will have lot of questions about the company’s future, and there is no interactive way to address those concerns. Thus, I would recommend you to have a conference call (or a meeting) with your line managers, before various rumors start churning. And yeah! While doing this, provide them the opportunity to ask their questions. Answers to their questions will make your strategy clear in their minds, and hence, they would be able to communicate that to their employees very easily. Encourage all of your line managers to have a quick sync-up meeting with their employees to communicate this decision with their employees. If possible, have a company-wide hands-on meeting 2-3 days afterwards.

Communicate with media: Imagine, if your company had a big layoff, and you heard about this news from the media. How will you feel in that situation? In the similar manner, your employees will feel cheated, if they heard this kind of a news from the media, instead from their supervisor. And hence, it is very important to communicate these decisions within your organization, before you go public. News conferences and news releases should be given only after talking with the staff . The staff should not read about it first in the media. You need to also make sure that the media doesn’t hear about this news from the grapevine. Thus, you should keep a very small time difference between notifying this news to your employees and the media.

Notify other stakeholders: If you are laying off few people, then you might want to talk with relevant governmental agencies to notify them about the decision. If your company buys any kind of an unemployment insurance, then you definitely want to make calls to those insurance providers for notifying them about the situation. If your decision is affecting any of your commitments to your customers, you might want to talk to them immediately. Obviously, you need to notify your customers, suppliers and the community leaders through an e-mail and/or a conference call. And yeah! Don’t forget to define your future plans in your communication. I have seen many notification e-mails with the description of the problem without any clear path for the future. So, do yourself a favor, and define your future path before you go ahead with any of these communications.

I hope, these tips will help you to communicate any tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders. If you have any other ideas through which we can communicate these kind of news through transparency and sensitivity, then please feel to share it with me here.

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Why should you listen to your employees while taking tough decisions?


It is never easy to deliver the bad news to your employees, but bad things can happen to any companies. Sometimes, few external factors like economy or exchange rate can affect your company’s bottom line. And at that time, company’s very survival might be at stake. And hence, you might be put in to the situation, where you have to take those tough decisions as a company’s executive. The primary challenge during these situations is – Communication. If handled incorrectly, you might risk of losing your employee’s trust and tumbling their morale. In this blog, I would like to share one of the success story, where listening to employee’s input while taking these tough decisions have helped the company.

While taking tough decisions such as layoffs, restructuring, outsourcing, etc.; you should involve your stakeholders in the planning and implementation stages. You might not be able to involve all of your employees while taking these tough decisions, but you should at least engage your senior management and department heads in the consultation process. Depending on the situation, you might want to keep employees/employee representatives apprised of the situation to avoid any surprises. On various occasions, this strategy might prove to be helpful.

Take this company for an example (company X), where I recently consulted them for downsizing. Company X had really bad financials. It was clear that they had to cut down two of their product lines, which were not performing at all. And hence, they had to layoff few of their employees due to tumbling financial situation of the company. So, instead of announcing few layoffs, the CEO announced voluntary retirement program and some pay cuts. Surprisingly, I was able to collaborate with majority of their employees and get them to agree upon a pay cut and retraining program. As a result, we didn’t need to layoff anyone. Though this was a success story, it might not work for everyone. But one thing is clear. If you are willing to share information with your employees, they will not only value your decision but they might also come up with a plan to handle the situation better.

I hope, this example can inspire you to consider your employee’s input while taking these critical decisions. Have you ever encountered similar situation like this? Are you aware of any workplace/organization that considers their employee’s input before taking tough decisions?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Become the best leader by being funny and being humiliated


Over the years, I have learned a lot about leadership and management. And when I was analyzing my knowledge, I realized that there are only two very important characteristics of a good leader, which separates him/her from the crowd. In this blog, I will focus on these two characteristics, which can make you the best leader.

Be funny:

By being funny, I don’t mean that you need to be a superstar at the break room discussions. What I mean is……..you need to have a humorous side of you to laugh on your mistakes.

One of the best leader in the world, who implemented this strategy was – Mahatma Gandhi. It must have taken tremendous amount of courage for a person like him to confess that he messed up, but he confessed his mistakes on various occasions. He not only acknowledged his mistakes but admitted them publically. And this was one of his characteristics, which was admired by his peers.

We are all humans, and we all make mistakes. But a true leader is the one, who not only admits his mistakes but learns from it. Take Johnson & Johnson for example. Their Tylenol incident is not a secret to anyone, but majority of people remember that incident by praising Johnson & Johnson’s effort of recalling all of its medicine from the counter and apologizing publicly for this huge mistake.

Thus, it is very critical for you as a leader to be able to laugh on your mistakes. It’s not enough to just publicly admit your mistakes. Make sure to take some notes. In this way, you will be able to implement your learning from this incident to the future projects, and maybe, not repeat these mistakes again.

Be humiliated:

If you want to become the best leader in the world, then you need to surround yourself with genius employees. Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. They have always surrounded themselves with cream employees.

Let’s say, you somehow get successful in attracting best-of-the-best employees in your team. Now, instead of learning from them and taking benefit of their knowledge, if you direct them specifically to do certain tasks then they are never going to add any value to your organization.

Unfortunately, 40% of today’s leaders would use tell-and-direct approach, since they fear of humiliation from their employees. While this approach might lead you to the desired results, you are suppressing ideas of improvements that your employees might have. Wasn’t this the exact reason why you hired intelligent workforce? So, how come we are unable to use their talents? Answer is very simple……most of the leaders are afraid of being humiliated by their employees.

Thus, to become the best leader, we should be open to new ideas of our employees, even if, that means we will look foolish in front of them when we ask questions. By developing this kind of an environment, you would be encouraging your employees to share knowledge freely, and hence, improving the overall health of your company.

I hope these tips will help you to become the best leader in today’s world. Do you have any other ideas through which a person can become the best leader?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to keep your team motivated in the crunch time?


I am sure, as a manager, you must have encountered a situation where your team has been working very hard for past few months to get that next product out of the door. And due to this situation, everyone in your team feels under-appreciated and overworked. And you don’t know how to keep your team motivated. Does this sound familiar?……..Through this blog, I would try to give you some tips through which you can keep your employees motivated during this crunch time.

Provide feedback: As far as feeling under-appreciated goes, this has to be the #1 killer of team’s motivation. During the crunch time, our focus is so much on the end result that we forget to provide feedback to our team. Sometimes it is very crucial to provide constant feedback to your team on how they are doing. This behavior not only conveys the message that you care for your team, but it also gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in your current process.

Communicate purpose: The second biggest killer of self-motivation is negativity. When we set personal expectations at a level that are unattainable, we start to invent reasons for why we are not achieving our goals. We start thinking about past failures that have not gone our way and weak points in our character or at least in our working style. This causes us to come up with all the reasons that we can’t succeed. Hence, to keep your team motivated, you not only need to accept that the timeline given for the project was too aggressive, but you need to also provide them with the reason of ‘why we are doing, what we are doing’. This will provide your team with some background on why you are having these aggressive deadlines, and how it will impact the business, if you don’t meet those deadlines. Also, (if possible) you need to provide them with some blueprint of the plan, so that this doesn’t happen again.

Positive reinforcement: During these tough times, I would recommend you to remember old success stories, and recognize it for what it was. The power of this kind of positive reinforcement and positive feedback can’t be underestimated. Make sure that your team is getting the positive feedback from you that they need. Always make sure to restate your team’s and individual achievements during your team meetings and one-on-one meetings with your team members. This will encourage your team to keep going.

I hope these tips will help you to keep your team motivated in the crunch time. What would you do in this situation? How will you keep your team motivated?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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How to sell your online MBA degree to future employers?


OnlineMBAHave you finished your MBA through an online program? Are you unable to experience any benefits from your degree? Well…..you are not alone. More than 50% of the employers still prefer an MBA candidate with the traditional classroom experience as compared to an online MBA student. Despite of this stereo types of an online MBA candidate, you can still succeed with your degree. You just need to know, how to sell it. With this blog, I am going to provide you with some pointers through which you can get the same benefit out of your online MBA program as compared to any other in-class MBA program.

Capitalize on cultural awareness:

If you are doing an online MBA from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 level school, then chances are…….you must be working in a diverse team with people from different countries. You should use this experience as your strength during your job search. Mention those specific projects on your resume to portray your knowledge of cross cultural understanding. With most of the major companies going global, this experience will definitely work in your advantage, if presented correctly.

I would also recommend you to provide some specific examples on your resume on how you had solved some of the cross cultural conflicts. These kinds of smaller examples can help you bring up this topic during your in-person interviews. And you can then elaborate on that in further details. It goes without saying…..try to connect your experience with the company’s current needs of working with cross cultural teams.

Be the leader of your virtual teams:

If you think of it, all the project teams in an online MBA program are nothing but a virtual team. In your program, you must have worked with different people from different time zones to finish certain projects. And hence, you should also capitalize on your experience in working with remote/virtual teams. Don’t just say…..”I have worked in a virtual team”. Try to be more specific on your resume. Provide examples on how you resolved issues due to time and language barriers during your project. It wouldn’t hurt, if you can talk about those experiences in your in-person interviews, and maybe summarize with lessons learned during your experience.

In today’s world, lot of companies operate in different locations. Thus, most of their meetings, projects and day-to-day activities are virtual. Thus, if you can prove that you have not only worked in that environment, but you have also learned how to improve those communications in that environment; then you would definitely standout from the crowd.

I hope these tips will help to sell your online MBA degree to your future employer. Do you have any other ideas through which you can show the importance of your online MBA degree to your future employer?

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 

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