Chairing a large committee made me think about how we use email to work more effectively whilst at the same time fostering transparency and enthusiasm.
Everyone feels that as Chairman I should be cc’d into all conversations. Does that sound familiar? Despite a good folder and flag system at one point the email overload was so acute that important emails were overlooked. Even as the email expert I found myself phoning the already busy secretariat to re-send me papers and attendance lists which were lost in the cc swamp. This prompted me to think what would be the best email etiquette for both Chairman and committee members? Here are the seven email best practice guidelines we are working on to reduce the email overload and save everyone time.
1. Avoid ‘Reply All’ unless it is critical. For everyday responses to simple requests, eg do you need parking, gluten free sandwiches – forget Reply All. Reply to sender only will suffice.
2. Use Distribution lists. When a Distribution list is not possible put people’s names on the Bcc box. If you want to know what your colleagues think, ask them directly but don’t copy in the Chairman.
3. If you have something controversial and decide to write an email, put it in draft and sleep on it before hitting send. If you still feel strongly talk to those concerned before sending the email. This avoids lighting fires which are hard to contain. After talking if there is still an unresolved issue then write a summary email.
4. Use a clear subject line to highlight what your email is about. Sounds obvious, but you would be amazed how many emails linger in my Committee folder with the same subject but referring to quite a different topics!
5. Decide from whom you really need a reply and then use the ‘To’ and ‘Cc’ address line as they were intended. ‘To’ is for action from those whose name is in that line. ‘Cc’ is for information: if your name is in that line no reply is necessary. Good email etiquette dictates that if you are in the cc line and feel you must voice your opinion, only reply to the sender .
6. For sending committee papers use a file sharing service like Dropbox for sending attachments.
7. Meeting dates – send them and the reminder as a calendar invite. This saves time collating responses and ensures the meeting automatically goes into member’s calendar.
Hopefully these short term measures of good email etiquette will reduce the email overload. Longer term we plan to introduce social technologies to reduce the email overload and improve performance even further.
If you either chair or support committees and found these tips helpful why not ask us about our Brilliant Email master classes. These are guaranteed help every committee member save time and improve communications. Making life simpler and more enjoyable for your committee will earn you considerable brownie points.
Meanwhile, how do you use email to communicate and share information efficiently across committees?