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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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Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams


DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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What would you do when your e-mail backfires?


In today’s world, almost everyone communicates through e-mails, SMS, or twitter. While these communication channels have made it faster and easier to convey our messages, it took out the human element from the communication. Thus, sometimes our messages are interpreted differently. Hence, we need to make sure that our messages are conveyed to the right people, and their interpretation of that message is same as our interpretation of the same message.

If we fail to recognize this then we can end up in a big trouble. For example: In one of my MBA class, I work with a group of four people. One day, I wrote an e-mail to my group regarding some work assignment. And I used one of my team mate’s name (say Mr. X) as an example to ‘not do something’. Since, I knew him from my other classes and we had close friendship; I thought he will understand my humor behind this analogy. But that e-mail backfired on me. On the other day, Mr. X wrote me a long e-mail explaining, how I offended him. And how he is unhappy about that e-mail.

Obviously, I took corrective action to explain my situation and apologized to him for any unintended behavior from my side. That’s where I got an idea about this blog. I hope, my suggestions in this blog helps you in better communicating with your peers through e-mails, SMS and Twitter. Following are few tips that I would recommend you to follow:

Use of smilies: If you are trying to be humorous in your e-mail then use smilies after your statement. Smilies will go a long way in explaining your stand behind that statement. In my situation, if I would have used a smilie after providing a bad example of Mr. X, nothing would have happened. Mr. X would have understood my message and he would have considered that message, as humorous instead of offensive.

Proof read your e-mail: Make sure that you proof read your message, before you send it to someone. If it is a message about ‘corrective action’, then please proof read it thrice (if possible). E-mails about ‘corrective actions’ are already very sensitive, and you don’t want to overcomplicate it by sending unclear messages. Also, try to put yourself in to the shoes of the reader, and read the e-mail again. Don’t send any e-mails that will offend you, if you were on the other side of the spectrum.

Ask for feedback: Always ask for the feedback. You can use wordings like – “Let me know, if you need anything else from my side”. Feedback mechanism will not only make sure that your message is conveyed properly but also provide an opportunity for the receiver to provide their feedback. Since, I always use this mechanism in my e-mails, Mr. X felt comfortable enough to confront me regarding my e-mail. This gave me an opportunity to explain my position. Thus, don’t ever forget to ask for feedback.

Apologize for miscommunication: In the worst case scenario (like me), never hesitate to apologize. Few words of apologies go a long way. Don’t just apologize by writing something like “Sorry” in your response. Write a brief e-mail regarding your statement, and explain how he/she might have misinterpreted that. This will give you an opportunity to explain yourself and strengthen your relationship with the receiver of that e-mail.

I hope, these tips will help you to better communicate with your team. And if you have any better suggestions, then please feel free to share it with me. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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