By Javier Sanz-Blasco
As I transitioned from the Communications & Collaborations marketplace into the Cloud SaaS industry, I reached out to many of my former managers and senior colleagues to catch up, look back to the years of working together and get some insights that we all need to be aware of.
Today I would like to share two of those insights: Email and Listening.
Email has changed the way we do business and communicate. Have you ever received an email that was not clear, or sent an email that you would like to take back? Regrettably, I raise my hand for both cases.
Part of the problem is that email is used as a form of communication that serves multiple purposes. We “ping” messages to our friends and family via email adopting a casual tone. Unfortunately, sometimes we adopt a less than professional tone when sending emails to colleagues and, worse, clients.
Emails are not just chats when they are between professionals. Therefore, a different email protocol must be used according to the recipient. At work a formal protocol is usually required. High-energy people may want to connect and communicate constantly: but if we look at email from a ‘formal protocol’ point of view (I am thinking about Netflix ‘The Crown’), suddenly it makes sense: we should use email with measure, or Her Majesty may show displeasure… (Feel free to replace H.M. with a client or another senior colleague).
My 4 tips to improve writing emails are:
1. Important emails: do not send them. Instead, we save the email as a draft and take another look later. It may save us embarrassment and minimise any chance that the recipient may not understand or, worse, take it in the wrong way. Actually, when I think about it, most of our emails to customers and executives are important, which means that they fall in this bucket. I call it the ‘freeze bucket’.
2. Urgent emails: as if they were read from a mobile phone. We should aim to keep our response simple, clear and to the point. Read the email aloud to you before sending and we will get an idea of the tone. I like to imagine the recipient reading my email from a mobile phone, so we ensure our messages are succinct.
We should use email with measure, or Her Majesty may show displeasure
3. Email is a permanent record: convenience does not trump discretion, nor manners. We should never complain, never shout, never share anything that we would not like to see in the morning’s newspaper… or on the big screen in a movie. More about movies later.
4. Turn the screen around: put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes. How would I feel if I received this email? Does the tone of the email reflect my professional or personal image? Sarcasm must be avoided as email lacks most contextual information. We should never send professional emails when we are feeling highly emotional. Remember that email that took 30 seconds to write but 30 days to apologise for? Once you click the little SEND button, it is almost impossible to get it back!
I will always remember what my former CEO told me once: Javier, if you are writing emails, you are not selling. We must respect people’s time and do not clutter their inboxes. And finally, we should always err on the more formal, rather than the more casual aspect.
A good learning resource I have found about email protocol is:
or a book:
‘Send: The How, Why, When – and When Not – of Email’, by David Shipley that you can get for $10 from most bookstores.
With the above we can achieve better relationships in business and the results we want.
Listening is one of the most important aspects of effective communication. When we listen, we send a very strong message to the other party: this relationship is more about you, than about me. And the better we connect, the stronger is our relationship.
My 4 tips to be a better listener are:
- We slow down. Patience is a virtue and a great, smart, listener will let the other party take the lead. I would even say: the less I talk about me, the better I get to know the other party.
- We do not interrupt. No matter what, jumping in may come across as rude, but in addition we may miss out on important information that can help in the future. A great idea is to imagine that we are being filmed, like a movie, as point 3 above. What would the audience say?
- We pay attention to non-verbal clues. Tone of voice, body language, facial expressions… It has been claimed that up to 80% of the communication is not verbal. Last week I found a great video in YouTube about how to make eye-contact during a video-call. Great resource!
- Then we ask great questions. Great questions must be open, short, and not leading. I call this the Woody Allen phase, almost like his therapist, where we drill down and dig deeper to find out more. And we keep in mind the 80%-20% rule: I say 20%, my counterpart says 80%. Remember: The more we invest in others, the more they invest in us.
We may not be actors or actresses, but our emails and our conversations are filmed!
I have found good learning resource about improving our listening skills here:
or a book.
‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ’ by Daniel Goleman that will also set you $10 back.