Overload from the leaders?

The relationship of Email upon leaders

Have you ever stopped to think about the impact that Managers’ emails have on the workforce?

Emails sent by senior staff can inspire, engage and motivate.

But Managers and Directors can often send emails which are:

  •  Random, out of hours, very actioned based.
  •  Unclear, irrelevant or angry.
  •  Not aligned to the culture of the organisation and can be over bearing.
  • Poor email communication can cause a feeling of stress and worry which can impact well-being.


This story from Brigadier General Stanley McChrystal of the US Military encapsulates perfectly how important it is for leaders to really think about the way they communicate with those who report to them.

The example he gave was when he sent a short message to a group of military wives thanking them personally for their service. He noticed during a visit he made a few weeks later that one of them had framed his message and it was hanging up in their quarters.

McChrystal said this about the incident:

“And you suddenly realise how important you – as a leader – can be. You can have that impact. It does mean you can touch people and you should do that. So every time you have interactions you’ve got to figure out “How can I get this right?” . And you may have 150 in a day. And every comment you make to someone matters..”

So the point here is the impact of senior leaders with their communication. This relates perfectly to email as it is often the main method leaders use to communicate with people in the business on a day to day basis.

So it’s worth considering some attributes of successful, powerful leaders – and ask yourself if your email style is congruent with these:

  1. Does your email use clear, plain language that is accessible to everybody?
  2. Does your email reflect who you are as a person and as a leader?
  3. Are you asking for information in an explicit way – or is the message vague?
  4. Does it inspire others – or does it exacerbate a “blame culture”?

Email is transient – we click send maybe a hundred times a day but the effect that certain emails have on the recipients will surprise you.

The trouble is we rarely find out – often until it is too late. We do not see the reactions that are happening at the other end of our emails.

So why not ask some of your colleagues how they react to your emails? Whatever the feedback is treat it like gold dust.

A poor email culture – like any other culture – will never change if it is ignored and whilst every individual can make a difference, leaders have the biggest platform.

So the next time you are about to fire off an email to your team stop, re-read and reflect. Consider if this the type of email that they will want to frame and put on their desk?

Do not hit send before you have considered these implications.

Channel your inner McChrystal:  Inspire!   Motivate!   Lead!

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