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Author: Margo Krukonis

Email to get Results, not Reactions

We are more connected than ever and navigate such a constant flood of communications these days, that it’s easy to misplace, misinterpret, or miss emails altogether. Attention spans are short, and a confusing or poorly-worded message can quickly be passed over. The following tips can help senders receive a faster response and help avoid the unintended consequences of careless communication practices.

Assume all communications are public

Before hitting send, ask yourself what your CEO would say if he or she read the email. Remember there is no concept of privacy with electronic communications. If you would be embarrassed or upset if a wider audience saw it – it’s not an email you should be sending. Refrain from gossip, flip comments or other off-the-cuff replies that seem innocent but could have devastating consequences to your relationships or your career.

Keep it professional at all times

Just as we strive to maintain a professional business appearance, we should strive for professional written communications. Slang, text abbreviations, and overly casual terms may be okay for personal correspondence after hours, but they have no place in business. Proper punctuation, sentence structure and other grammatical conventions show you are a serious professional who can be trusted to communicate effectively at all levels.

Count to 10 before sending

Although not anonymous, the distance created by email emboldens some to send tersely-worded or passive-aggressive communications that would not be said face-to-face. When you are the recipient of such a discourse, it’s tempting to fire back and state your case; especially when numerous others have been copied and are undoubtedly waiting eagerly for your move. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and focus on the longer-term goal of moving things forward. Send a short reply suggesting it would be best to continue the conversation face-to-face, then send out a private meeting invite. Though you may disappoint those awaiting a heated email volley, you will confirm your ability to focus on thoughtful and productive actions, rather than drama. Email is never the forum for emotional conversations – unless the expression is one of high praise or clear joy.

Utilize the subject line wisely – and urgent emails even more wisely

Help readers prioritize emails with a descriptive subject indicating the necessary next step, ex: “Notes from Client Meeting: No action needed.” Or: “Financial Report: Need your Review by Friday.” Use “High Importance” tags with restraint as these should be reserved for only the most time-sensitive items. Remember that an oversight on your part should not constitute an emergency for others! Allow appropriate follow-up time and provide an explanation for an email needing urgent attention.

Lead with the request, follow with the detail

Unfortunately, most of us believe we can multitask effectively. In reality, by giving everything only partial attention, we can miss a lot. Your lead sentence should focus on the purpose for the email. Ex: “ Please provide estimates by Friday, ” or “I will respond to item number 5 by Wednesday.” Providing background information can be very helpful, but label it as such so the reader has an option to look now or later. Write with an active voice, state clearly what is needed, and provide a due date as necessary so the reader knows exactly what is expected.

Remember your manners!

Remember the reader can’t see your face or guess your tone. Although recipients will appreciate your being direct and to the point, they will also appreciate the request that starts with please, and a closing that contains thank you. We are all busy and juggling many tasks, but there is no excuse for omitting courtesy when asking for the time of others.

Don’t make recipients hunt for information

Strive to make each email self-contained between your words and supporting documentation. Although it’s tempting to send the reader a link to find the information, it’s much more effective to cut and paste the relevant information into the body of the message, so action can be taken immediately. Recipients may quickly move to the next message if they need to spend extra time deciphering what you want. If you are responding to a request, refresh the sender’s mind with a brief reference to the subject, ex: “Last week you asked me to provide a list of risks for project X. Here are some of my main concerns…”

Use names in group emails

Avoid ambiguity by naming names in group emails. Clearly state you are looking for a response from everyone, or single out those responsible early in the email. Ex: “John – please provide input on X.” “Mary –please send me the document on subject Y.”

Do we all need to know?

Although someone needs to know what entrée you’ve chosen for the holiday party – it is necessary to tell everyone? Use “Reply All” only if everyone truly needs to know your response. A “thank you,” “congratulations,” or “I’ll have the salmon,” is best shared with only a single recipient or a vastly reduced list as appropriate.


By keeping a respectful tone, using clear wording and providing complete information when you initiate an email, you will increase your chance of a timely response and decrease the chance of creating confusion or conflict. Take the time to proof read you communications, and follow the email Hippocratic Oath of “First Send no Harm,” to ensure your emails get results, and not reactions.

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Meeting Goals to Maximize Results

Meetings. Even the name is misleading. Your goal is not to meet, it’s to address issues, make decisions, and move your project forward. Few occasions are more frustrating than spending an hour in a poorly-structured meeting with unclear goals and no resolution by the end. Face time with stakeholders is valuable and often hard to get. Build a reputation for holding effective meetings by using the following tips that encourage strong attendance and produce actionable items that get results.

Provide clarity and purpose

How many times have you found yourself in a meeting where someone says, “so…why are we here?” Answer that question up front with a descriptive meeting title. Avoid broad titles such as “Process discussion,” and opt for one that narrows the topic such as “Membership Renewal Process Options.” State objectives clearly in the invite. Do you want attendees to narrow down a list of options, or is the goal to agree on the best option by the meeting end? Reduce the chance of an attendee assuming he or she is optional by specifically addressing your invite list. E.g., “I’m including the membership team, but also John smith, who has a thorough understanding of customer needs.” Send the agenda ahead of time to encourage participants to organize their thoughts before the meeting for maximum contribution.

Follow the agenda, but facilitate for change

Agendas can be ambitious and not all topics may be addressed in the scheduled time. Put the most critical items at the top of the agenda and know what must be addressed and what can be deferred. This can help determine whether an unplanned item should be addressed at the expense of already scheduled agenda topic. Detailed discussions are great, but if an issue is not going to be resolved in the room, don’t be afraid to step in and suggest a follow up discussion off line. Record the follow up action, and keep the agenda moving.

A picture tells 1,000 words

A demo of work in progress or a process diagram for consideration shows forward progress, and increases the level of engagement by meeting participants. It focuses discussion and encourages feedback that can verify you’re on the right track, or indicate a course correction is needed.

Assume a virtual team

Even if all participants are local, it’s wise to plan ahead in the event someone will need to dial in. Include audio and visual to ensure all team members can remain engaged and participate fully. Remote members can easily feel discouraged if they can’t contribute, and they may be less willing to join remotely at the next meeting.

No status meetings!

Use face to face meetings to discuss direction and to get decisions. You can encourage questions about status reports if something is unclear, but don’t rehash what participants can read. Save statuses for written reports, and reach out ahead of meetings if you’re unsure of progress. Structure meetings to get work done, not to talk about getting working done.

Verify and Document

Strive to leave the room with no ambiguity about what got accomplished – or what didn’t get accomplished. Repeat decisions and paraphrase ideas to ensure you understand them. If you are uncertain, chances are others in the room have questions as well. Every meeting should be followed up with written notes that contain at least the following: the date of the meeting and attendee full names, the meeting purpose or main theme, any decisions that resulted from the meeting as well as reasons behind them, and action items with owners. Questions about why decisions were made and who was involved often arise long after meeting participants have forgotten, and good notes provide this view to any reader.

Follow up!

Continue adding value after the meeting, by ensuring ownership of follow up items and deadlines to resolve them are clear. Communicate outcomes to the meeting participants to validate their time contributed to productive actions.


Thoughtful meeting preparation, skilled facilitation, and meeting follow up will cement your reputation as project manager who values others’ time. By setting clear expectations and emphasizing decisions instead of discussion you can boost attendance and get the maximum out of meetings.

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