Email: A High-Leverage Activity?

Email gets a bad rap.

Email wastes our time. Email gets us worked up. Email prevents us from goals.

But what if I told you email can be a high-leverage activity?

There are two huge benefits to using email as opposed to verbal communication.

First, email is respectful of people’s time. There are times when verbal communication is necessary. Situations needing an immediate response or concerning employee misbehavior are better handled in person. However, the reality is 90% of our requests and questions can wait. By sending an email - as opposed to interrupting someone's work - allows that individual to respond when it’s convenient for them.

My secretary sits approximately 20 feet from my desk. Often we are both working quietly on individual tasks. When a question arises, it's tempting to go to her for an immediate answer. However, doing so would selfishly interrupt her work. Instead of bothering her flow, an email allows her to take action on her own terms.

Second, email creates a paper trail. In a high performing workplace, requests must be accomplished the first time they are asked. While there is a natural tendency to use face to face communication to give employees directives, the reality is 90% of requests can be done through written communication.

Having a paper trail is ideal for addressing employees when a request goes unaccomplished. Instead of trying to recall the details from a passing conversion, documentation allows the supervisor to point back to the exact date and time a directive was given. For employees who have a pattern of low performance, written proof is valuable evidence for disciplinary action.

Many old school educational leaders say they “don’t do email.” I would agree there are some very good reasons for doing as little email as possible. But regardless of how much email can be eliminated or delegated, at some point all educational leaders are forced to step up the keyboard and engage in written communication.

Rather than dread the process, understand email can be a valuable tool. Not only will employees appreciate having more time to do their own work, having documentation of demands could prove to be invaluable.

Looking for a great book discussing emails in the workplace? Consider reading Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinenmeier Hansson.


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