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Sending an email - or abdicating responsibility?

27th Oct 2017
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Most Managers are familiar with Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Covey’s quote on taking responsibility is pertinent when it comes to email:
“Accountability breeds response-ability”

One of the things covered in Emailogic sessions is the poor practice of sending an email as an excuse for real action.

How often have you sent an email thinking “ok – job done”?

Have you merely pushed the job onto somebody else and as long as the email has left your inbox then that is good enough?

I visited a large bank in Canary Wharf London recently to discuss email training with the Head of Learning and Development – “Everyone took responsibility for communication where I used to work” she said. “There was ownership of outcomes.”

Some people, especially in larger organisations, simply treat the “send” button as the “abdication of responsibility” button.

They do not resolve issues or take defined actions – they simply pass the metaphorical buck onto a colleague – perhaps a junior colleague while copying in the senior colleague. Or maybe ask for an action yet with no follow-up.

Another ‘abdication’ trick is to divert attention by asking an unnecessary related question – bypassing the real issue and delaying progress. Believe it or not, this tactic was used by partisan managers in French manufacturing companies during the war – as a way of slowing production for the German war effort. It is spelt out in an old handbook.

Abdication of responsibility also causes huge – often invisible and indefinable – stress.

Taking personal responsibility for your own email use is something we encourage everyone who attends our training to do.

You cannot change a poor email culture unless people start taking individual responsibility for the impact they have with every email they send.

With this in mind make sure that you follow the following simple steps to ensure that you take responsibility for every email you send:

1. Is it addressed to the correct person?

2. Is the message clear, completely unambiguous and easy/quick to understand in a single reading?

3. If you have copied in additional colleagues have you made it 100% clear why?

4. If there is an action have you included a clear timescale?

5. Have you asked for an acknowledgement/agreement?

6. Do you have a process of following through with the message – to be responsible for checking that actions are carried out in the specified time?

Imagine email like a bow and arrow – staff are the email archers spraying out thousands of time-eating, stress-creating arrows around the business, with some hitting a target but many of them interrupting people and impacting productivity.

If this is the case in your business, it has probably been like that for some time.

It will stay that way – unless you decide to do something about it.

Will 2018 be the year you change the way that email is used in your organisation once and for all – giving people back over 16 days every year, improving well-being and productivity?

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