Another Email Etiquette Tip: Make your email subject line fit your message.
It is convenient to select “reply” to an email from someone, as a way to save the time of entering an address–and sometimes that is appropriate for a quick turn-around email. However, it is frustrating to be searching for a phone number, schedule or some other specific thing and find only twenty subject lines that say, “Re: Project Plans.” It is also disconcerting to get a message about setting up a meeting, but the subject line pertains to a message you sent two years ago, and says, “Re: Sad news about Fred Benson”.
A chain of email messages on about the same topic: If each email is part of a chain of messages on one topic, customize each of them in some way, so the sender and you can find it later.
First message subject line: SLR Project Plans
Re: SLR Project Plans-McCorison contact info/schedule
Re: SLR Project Plans-Timeline
Re: SLR Project Plans-Change in email address for Tina Lewis
Re: SLR Project Plans-Immediate response needed: August update/SLR photo/name survey
The idea is to give recipients a way to save and recover all of the email messages related to the SLR Project, but also to find specific information within that group. Think of how many emails you would have to open if those messages all just said, “Re: SLR Project Plans” and you only wanted to know the timeline for the project.
A message about a completely different subject: If you look up a message from John and hit reply to send him an unrelated message, change the subject line. It not only is confusing to see a subject line about a topic you do not recall or that you are not aware of as a current issue, it looks as though you don’t care enough about the message or the recipient to personalize it.
First message: Sad news about Fred Benson
Second message, originally “Re: Sad news about Fred Benson”: Let’s get together for lunch
Forwarded messages: Many people hit delete when they see “FW:” in personal mail. In business settings they may not open it, thinking it is just FYI. Rather than using only the forwarded subject line, personalize it a bit as well, unless the person receiving it is expecting it and knows why they are getting it.
First message: Want your input–FW: SLR Project Plans
Second message: Your ideas? (Fwd msg. from CM to me about SLR Project Plans)
Yes, you do have enough time to make the email subject line fit the message. The email subject line is the first thing people look for, after seeing your name in their In-Box. Make it something that not only lets your recipient know what the email is about, but that also allows them to find it later. Do not give people a negative feeling about your message before they have even read it.
Last night I went outside and spent awhile looking at the moon. I do that often and call it my late-night vespers. Last night I thought about the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon–WALK ON THE MOON!!!!! How incredible that was! How newsworthy! Exciting! Dramatic! Earth-changing! Sadly, I have almost no recollection of it.
Here is why I don’t remember the time Americans spent landing on the moon, walking on the moon and making it back from the moon: I was busy doing really important things: My birthday was in two days and I was going to the L & M Steakhouse in Lakewood for dinner (Whoo-hoo! $6.00 for a great T-bone.) I was also busy getting ready to start my career the next month (August 15, 1969). Mostly I was busy living a small life in a small basement apartment at 2530 Krameria Street, in hippie-town Denver.
My mug shot for the DPD. Summer 1969. "Teased" hair! Oh my!
Last night I thought about life then and the comparative importance of the moon and the L&M Steakhouse. Dag Hammerskjold, in his great, introspective book, Markings (which I had read many times by 1969, so you’d think I would have been less self-absorbed), wrote about the young man on one of Columbus’s ships who was only worried he wouldn’t make it back in time to inherit his father-in-law’s cobbler shop. Same thing.
For most people, their own life and concerns are all that matter. There is a tremendous lesson in that when we are trying to teach them or reach them or just trying to figure out how to deal with them. They can appreciate the moon, but the L&M Steakhouse is more immediate. (I’m embarrassed to admit that was true then and often is true now.)
With many thanks to NASA and Neil Armstrong.
When my “extra” refrigerator in the laundry room needed to be replaced, I knew I didn’t want to spend much on a new one so I did a lot of research and comparison shopping. I found the company where I would get my refrigerator, but I disliked the salesperson at the store a few blocks from me, so I put off the purchase for months. I even checked back a few times, but nope, he hadn’t improved!
When I finally decided to make the purchase, I drove a considerable distance farther and was willing to pay more if the less expensive item wasn’t in stock, just to avoid the salesperson I didn’t like. Fortunately, I found a product I liked at a very low price and the salesperson was perfect. I’ve already sent a thank you note to the store manager.
That experience made me think about how each of us are salespeople for something–or we should be. Would someone drive farther to do business with you or would they drive farther to avoid doing business with you?
*Do you make them feel like an interruption or like a valued person you want to assist?
*Are you nicely groomed, pleasant, smiling and helpful?
*Are you dependable, so if you say you’ll have something done at a particular time, you do?
*Do you answer their questions in a way that is respectful and helpful, even if perhaps they don’t quite understand the subject as well as you?
*Do you greet them, talk to them and say goodbye to them in a way that gives them a good feeling about you and about themselves?
*Are you a top salesperson for yourself, your work, your section or unit and your organization?
You don’t have to be so glib and smooth talking that you can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, as the old saying goes. But, you should be the kind of person with whom people enjoy working and communicating. A good goal is to make them feel better just because they’ve been around you.
Your customers and clients may not be able to drive farther to get away from you if you’re the only resource for them. But, you’ll never be as effective or successful as you want to be and you’ll never get the cooperation and assistance you want, if most people would do almost anything to avoid you.
Promise yourself to make a few sales tomorrow!
I was reading an article about the diet of pioneers on their journeys to the West. It said a party of four was advised to bring: 600 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds of dried beans, 120 pounds of biscuits (probably the “hardtack” kind, not fluffy ones), 120 pounds of dried fruit, and pounds of other items such as seasonings, sugar and various chemicals.
Although meat was hunted and fish was caught along the trail, often beans were the main food. The article commented that both men and women cooked on the trip, but one thing was a no-no: Cooks didn’t go to other campfires to give advice. They stayed at their own wagon and–to use the phrase I adopted for this article–stirred their own beans.
Don’t you wish people you interact with at work would heed that advice? We all need to spend more time stirring our own beans and less time stirring the beans of others, so to speak. (I’m sure there’s something vaguely off-color about that analogy, but it still makes sense to me!)
There are certainly times when advice or help is asked for and you can give it briefly, then step back and let the person take care of things on their own. There are also times when the outcome is your responsibility and you need to do more than give advice, you need to correct or completely change the way something is done. (Even then, you need to be certain the change is really, truly necessary.) Those situations involve minding business that is yours or at least partly yours.
The advice or false help that isn’t needed or wanted is when it is merely meddling. For example, you’re working very hard–maybe rushing–on a project or task that you have expertise in and experience doing. In the middle of that, someone who has plenty of his or her own work to do and knows nothing about what it takes to do your work, gets involved under the guise of helping.
*”I know you were placing those orders but I went ahead and did ours so you wouldn’t have to.”
*”I saw the handouts on the copying machine so I distributed them.”
*”I know you said you wanted to contact people personally, but I was in the meeting so I told them about it already.”
*”You said you’d bring it, but I wasn’t sure you’d remember, so I brought some too.”
*”I know you use that vendor, but I’m sure you can get it cheaper if you just check around.”
*”I put those tools away because I didn’t think you were using them.”
*”That’s no way to do it. Here, move over and let me show you how.”
*”I know it’s not my business, but really, don’t you think you should do this instead?’
If you try to explain why the advice isn’t very helpful the rescuer will usually insist it could be helpful if only you would see it their way. Finally, if you’re not very gentle about it, you’ll get a huffy, “I was only trying to help.” as Mr. Fixit or Ms. Rescuer hangs up or stalks off.
The bottom line: Most of us have enough problems handling our own work without trying to tell others how to do theirs. If something being done by someone else will harm your own ability to work, that’s one thing. But, if you just think you have a better idea, can show how smart you are, want to rescue people and make them grateful to you, or whatever your other motivation might be, stay at your own campfire and stir your own beans.
This is a cookbook with some good recipes and interesting tips from pioneer times.
If the next person who calls your work phone or who comes to the counter or sends you an email asking for assistance turns out to be a close friend, you’d be anxious to help. If you could make things easier for them, you would. If you couldn’t help in the way they wanted, you’d try to find an option.
That concept is the idea behind the Shane Company’s slogan, “Now you have a friend in the diamond business.” It proved to be so catchy that many other businesses have adapted it. It also would be a great way for us to advertise ourselves and to keep as our approach when we communicate with internal and external customers and clients.
That slogan popped into my head last week when I was talking to a receptionist I have dealt with many times and who has always been unsmiling and flatly monotone to the point of sounding unwelcoming. On my last visit to that office she was looking up my information on her computer and had not smiled, responded to my smile or acted approachable to me or any other client. Suddenly she looked up and gave me blinding smile that transformed her face and I thought, “Wow, that’s more like it!”
That’s when I realized one of her coworkers had walked up behind me. The smile was for her friend, not for me as a client. As I walked away while she was talking in an animated and warm way to her friend, I thought of how different she sounded and how much better she would represent her organization if she showed just half that caring to customers and clients. Even more importantly, I thought about how nice it would be to feel that instead of being greeted by an automaton I was greeted at the front desk by a friend.
Try taking that approach at work and see how differently you treat people and how differently they respond. Notice how much you want to put them at ease and assure them that they will be helped; how anxious you are to do their projects correctly; how you give them the benefit of the doubt if they are a bit difficult to deal with; how you make everything as easy for them as possible. Projecting the spirit of a friend who wants to help has a tremendous impact on others and gets much more positive results.
Treat customers or clients as if they have a friend in your business–you!
“Gadhafi is history” a Libyan official said, when announcing on October 20th, 2011, that Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (commonly known as Moammar Gadhafi) had been killed by Libyan rebels. It is the end of a cruel, violent and utterly repressive dictatorship that started in 1969 with a military coup that was, at the time, welcomed by many.
Several years ago I wrote about Ozymandias of Egypt, one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most well-known works. That poem speaks poignantly of how most of what we think of as impressive in our lives and the lives of others is taken away by time, until finally nothing much remains. It is a reminder to us to touch as many lives as possible in a positive way every day, as our small way to ensure that some part of our spirit remains forever. I don’t think that is a selfish goal–and it will help us stayed focused on what really matters. In Shelley’s poem he describes Ozymandias as having a “…heart that fed.” Ozymandias had a heart that consumed rather than contributed. You and I want to be contributors.
Moammar Gadhafi, so it has been said, often referred to himself as “The King of Kings.” I think the title was taken already, so that makes it even a bit more presumptious of him! However, during his lifetime there were many who lined the streets when he drove past and shouted his praises as if he deserved them. (A lesson for us there, as well!)
With Gadhafi’s self-given royal title in mind, I was particularly anxious to re-read Shelley’s poem. Take the time to read it, almost as if it is standard text, so you can fully appreciate the message.
Ozymandias of Egypt
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
At some point, all of us are history. We have no control over that. But we can control a good part of the present and in so doing make a difference in how we are remembered and how much we will have enriched the lives of our loved ones, friends and even chance acquaintances.
Stop for a moment and listen to the sound of the wind whistling around the fallen statue of Ozymandias. Watch as the sand swirls and shifts from there to the death site of Moammar Gadhafi. Then, do something very, very good with your life today!
When an employee is rude and unpleasant to a coworker, who should confront it–the coworker or the manager?
The answer to that question can be found through a few other questions:
1. Does the coworker lack the authority to require different behavior? If he or she can’t require courtesy, it may ultimately be up to the manager to require it.
2. Has this employee acted discourteously often before? If so, having a coworker confront the behavior probably won’t make a difference.
3. Is there a chance the rude employee might do similar things to other coworkers at another time? If so, the manager certainly should want to stop it.
4. Might the behavior affect the willingness of others to want to work with that employee or ask for assistance in the future? The workplace is the supervisor or manager’s responsibility.
5. If the employee used a similar tone or acted in a similar way with clients, would that be a problem? If it would be, the manager or supervisor should be very concerned about that potential.
If the answer to any of those is “Yes”, the manager should investigate. If the behavior was inappropriate the employee should be told so, why it was inappropriate, and what should have happened instead. Then, the manager should ask for a commitment from the employee to act differently in the future. There probably is a need for longer-term observation and development about effective behavior.
You or someone you know? You may know supervisors who push coworker disputes back onto the complaining employee. They probably justify their actions by saying that employees need to learn to deal with their own conflicts.
The problem with that approach is, some employees do not have the confidence or skill to deal with personal conflicts effectively. So, while one employee may stand up and stop the rude behavior, others are distracted and upset and avoid working around the rude person. Even employees who are willing to confront the behavior may do so by responding in a similar manner, which makes things miserable for everyone–and doesn’t keep the behavior from happening again.
Think about this as well: If an employee can’t be trusted to be consistently courteous and helpful to team members, how can they be trusted to be courteous and helpful to those outside your team?
Fulfill your role as a supervisor, manager and leader: If you become aware of rude, discourteous, unpleasant, insensitive, or inappropriate behavior in your workplace, use it as a chance to develop people and the team. Talk to the employee who acted unpleasantly and find out what was behind the behavior. Make sure the employee knows it can’t happen again and knows what he or she should do instead. Then, bring the team back together by keeping them focused on work and by commending the good work that is being done.
You will find much less bickering and upset when everyone knows you expect people to behave courteously, professionally and in a way that encourages cooperation and effectiveness–and that you will deal with it immediately if you become aware of a problem.
A bonus question to add to the five above:
6. Who is ultimately responsible for the effectiveness and well-being of the workplace–employees or the manager? You know the answer to that one!
Summer is over for many and Winter isn’t here yet. September and October is often a Limbo time. It’s too soon for major holiday planning but you can feel the approach of the end of the calendar year. Summer vacations are over but there seems to be a slow return to what will be a hectic pace to make up for it all. I’ve been sensing some lethargy in people who usually are high energy! (Maybe me, too!)
This would be a good week to make the time–schedule it-and tidy your office or work space, organize your work for the next few days and get some projects off your mind.
1. Take everything off your desk top and dust or wash items. Don’t just shuffle things around, make it look better and different when you put the items back–and don’t put all the items back. Stuff can be very distracting, both to you and to others.
2. Make a priority list of three items only. Three. Preferably three you’ve been stalling on. Do them as quickly as you can and get them out of the way. They might not be three Vital tasks or Crucial tasks, to use that concept. They could just be three tasks that you don’t want to think about anymore. Do them quickly.
3. List all of the remaining projects you must do and when they must be done; tasks you think would be good to do and when you’d like to have them started; things you really would like to get involved with and will if you possibly can sometime. The idea is to see what is hanging over your head with a vengance and what is just self-created pressure. If they’re on a list, you at least won’t forget about them completely, but you can let them rest. You may never do some of them, but you might adapt the thoughts some way.
One way to get focused is to make sure that you are being dependable for those who are expecting you to keep promises about work. After the three quick tasks, those are the tasks that need your attention.
4. Take a moment to do some introspective thinking about what is frustrating you right now that you have some control over. What are some things you can do to move yourself past that frustration? Think hopeful thoughts about the rest of this month and into the Fall and Winter. Let some anger or irritation go. Give yourself some peace of mind.
5. Survey your kingdom–or at least your cubicle, locker, patrol car, work space, or wherever you spend most of your time–and let yourself feel refreshed and recharged about it.
A man who seems very put-together told me last week that about once a month he has to stop for a moment, get things re-organized and say to himself, with a pleased sigh, “OK, that’s better. Carry on.” Make this week your time for that kind of emotionally and mentally healthy activity, then let me know how it makes you feel. Best wishes!
Identify someone at work who is credible and respected, at about the level of your job position, but with whom you have not communicated very much–maybe because you just haven’t felt enough of a connection to make the effort.
This week, purposely talk to that person for a few minutes. You can even tell him or her why you’re doing it: “I suddenly realized I rarely do more than nod or say hi, so I thought I’d stop for a minute.”
“Even though our jobs are different, we have some of the same customers, it seems like a good idea to do more than nod once a year!”
“The way things develop, we might be working together sometime, so I wanted to stop and say hello.”
“It seems like we hardly ever get a chance to do more than say hi, so while we have a few minutes I thought I’d better take advantage of the opportunity to see how work is going for you.”
You may find that one short conversation will last you (or them) for awhile! But, you may also discover someone who shares some of your values, seems interesting in general or who could be a good resource for you or someone else you work with, or you for them. It’s not calculated networking or aggressive friending, it’s purposeful out-reach.
You probably nod to a dozen people a day who you have never really gotten to know. They don’t know you either. Sometime in the next two or three days–don’t wait longer–make it a point to do more than nod.
Quite A Change!
My Arkansas City, Kansas High School friend, Geoffrey Adams, is now Jeff Adams, Ph.D. and the senior pastor of a very large urban church in Kansas City/Raytown, Missouri. Here is how they describe themselves on their website:
…you’ll quickly see that we don’t look like a typical Midwestern church. We are a multi-cultural, multi-generational congregation. Our church family consists of members of all ages from over 30 countries. Over 35 languages are spoken within our walls, including Spanish, Mandarin, French, Korean, and Swahili.
When the church was founded in the late 1940’s, Kansas City Baptist Temple sounded just fine. Pastor Adams speaks with respect and appreciation about the foundation that was established then and that has been maintained for decades through the commitment of members, pastoral teams and staff. But, in recent years the members and pastors felt the name was not effectively describing the message of the church to those they wanted to reach.
At first they took the Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC approach. Most members said KCBT and hoped no one would ask them to explain what kind of Baptists they were and why Baptists would have a temple, especially one that didn’t look anything like a temple. Finally they decided it was time to develop a new name that would take the emphasis off the description of a building and put it on their faith and what they felt it had to offer to others. Thus, Graceway.
I think the congregation will see their membership–and a resulting positive impact in the lives of members–grow dramatically over the next next year, as the new name allows them to be viewed differently by those who drive by or read or hear about them. It’s not that the message of the church has changed, it’s that a potential barrier has been removed and replaced with an open door.
What Barriers Keep People From Knowing The Real you?
In June I wrote an article about how we change and improve over time, especially in our knowledge and skills at work. I was inspired by watching the first Tron then the new one. I heard from many people who could relate to the concept. It may be, however, that there are barriers preventing coworkers, colleagues and others from seeing you as you really are, even when you know you have improved. Some of the most significant:
1. Appearance: Even if it seems there is no expectation for good appearance at work (and it seems there isn’t in some workplaces), you should dress tastefully, appropriately and in a way that reflects good judgment for the work situation. Hairstyles, makeup, jewelry, fragrance and clothing choices should be an enhancement not a distraction to internal or external customers. The appearance of your workspace counts too! If anyone has ever “joked” about some aspect of your appearance, figure they were serious.
2. Conversation and Verbal Style: Habitual movements and gestures, speech patterns, tone, volume and rate of speaking, verbal habits and what you talk about most often, all can irritate, frustrate and distract people or engage them. Ask your best friend to tell you habits you have that someone might find problematic. Try to not let it hurt your feelings!
3. Results: Even though you may feel you have more to offer than others realize, they are looking for proof. If you aren’t getting positive results most of the time, living up to your promises and fulfilling the tasks you’ve been given, feeling new and improved on the inside won’t matter.
The bottom line: Make sure you’re right about what you have been contributing and what value you can offer to others and the organization. Then, identify and remove any barriers so people can get to know and appreciate the real you for the first time or all over again. If Graceway can do it after 68 years as KCBT, you can!