January 2016

Email Etiquette

Standard operating procedures are valuable. Here we go:

Put action items first.

Put action items first. Before anything else. 
At the very top of every single email. 
Do not send an email without action items.
If an email has no action items, the action item is: 
@recipients, please read, FYI only.
Make it as easy as possible for busy people to do what you need them to do.

Write well.

Clear, articulate, thoughtful, simple, direct prose, please.
It should be both a delight to read, yet irreproachably efficient.
Take pride in your writing. It is an art form.

Less is more.

Be concise. Less noise. Make it feel Zen.
More emails does not equal more progress. False proxy.
Progress equals getting more done in fewer emails.
Remember: Efficiency = more with less.

Apologize Only When Necessary

Focus on our strengths, not weaknesses.
Apologizing in advance, particularly for things that may not be an issue, makes us appear ineffective.

Be reasonably responsive.

Within 24 hours on weekdays.
Avoid feeling “chained” to email. 24 hours does not = 24 minutes.
Faster responses should only be expected on a high-priority project when requested explicitly in advance.
On nights and weekends no reply expected, unless requested in advance.

Don’t send responses just to be polite.

For example, don’t reply all just to say, “Awesome!” We don’t need constant written enthusiasm or encouragement. That creates noise. Excessive ebullience implies insecurity. Be less insecure. Until you say otherwise, I’ll assume that you think that everything I do is awesome. You should assume the same.

If you must, send encouragement via private message. Better yet, do it live and in person.

Trust that it will get done.

If you delegate a task, assume it will get done until told otherwise. Unless a response was explicitly requested, assume your message was read. If confirmation is necessary, just reply “confirm”. A full sentence isn’t necessary.

If you must nag, don’t do it yourself unless it is an emergency — have your bot talk to my bot.

Observe grammar and punctuation.

Observe business formal grammar and punctuation conventions. There are alternatives to excessive punctuation and emoticons for expressing personality. Find them.

No emoticons. No excessive punctuation!!!!!!!!! NO CAPS. Format sparingly please. And plain text bullets only please — bullets don’t work well on mobile

“Formal” does not equal boring. Infuse your personality. Just do it in prose.

Set the default text size to Arial 10pt — that’s the Gmail default, and research shows that smaller font size is perceived as more intelligent

Do not observe anachronisms.

Openers (“Dear Susan,”) and closers (“Sincerely, Joe”) are so 20th century. No email signatures or legal disclaimers. 
Use default (Arial 10pt) font and color (black).

Make sure the subject and recipients are still relevant.

Write smart subject lines. Concise, descriptive, easy to search for. Change the subject line if it is outdated. CC colleagues when needed. BCC them out when no longer needed.

Be direct.

Be direct. Not politically correct.
If you have a strong opinion, express it.
As long as you’re not rude, nobody should be offended.

If you disagree strongly with a decision that’s already been taken, send a private message.

Don’t forward links.

Don’t forward links to team@ or to individual colleagues, unless exceptionally urgent or relevant. Links to news, articles, blog posts or competitors are rarely urgent or relevant.

Instead, forward them to Zeno. Zeno will put them in the relevant list for batch review.

Know when to switch mediums.

Switch to Slack for kinetic messaging. Switch to phone for quick syncs. Switch to in person for meaningful conversations or disagreements or intense collaboration.

Proactively send feedback.

Proactively send feedback to colleagues. Send “error” messages privately to colleagues at every opportunity to improve.

This is positive behavior not negative behavior. Invest in improving each other. Dividends compound!

Criticize the mistake, but also suggest how they could have done it better. Provide an example.

Forward all feedback to Zeno for tracking purposes.

Coaching available.

If you would like a coach, either Robbie or I can help.
If we are all too busy, I will find another solution.

The company will pay you for a writing coach if necessary. We are hiring writers for Invisible anyways, so this can just be a capability your bot helps you with. For the ESL’ers among you, this may be smart.