CIOs Need To Learn How Best To Use Email

CIOs need to learn how to tame their email
CIOs need to learn how to tame their email
Image Credit: Simplificamos Su Trabajospan>

Ah, email. What a powerful tool. What an utter nightmare! The person who has the CIO job probably uses email so often that they no longer really spend that much time thinking about it. However, that may be a mistake. What we forget is that email is a tool and if we can learn how best to use it, then we can become more effective. The good news is that email is something that the researchers have been spending a lot of time taking a look at. Their goal has been to find out how we can become smarter about how we use email at work in order to boost the importance of information technology. Let’s take a look at what their research has uncovered.

When To Respond To Email

One of the classic questions that everyone has always been trying to answer has to do with when is the right time to respond to an email – immediately or later on? The researchers discovered that at companies where quickly responding to emails was a prized activity, the workers ended up feeling more stressed, were less productive, were more reactive, and were found to spend less time thinking strategically. One of the reasons that we respond quickly to emails is because we believe that by doing so we’ll be able to build strong relationships. However, it turns out that this does not happen.

Another big question that comes along with responding to emails is if we should deal with our email after work hours. The person in the CIO position may be tempted to leave their email until they get home and then just sit down and try to power through it. However, it turns out that the people that we are sending these after hours emails to are going to end up feeling more pressure to respond. If they do respond to your email, they are not going to be more efficient. All that they will do is generate more email while at the same time not getting more work done.

When To Send An Email

So why do we send emails? Our goal is to get the people to whom we are sending our emails to actually read them and then take action based on what they have read. It is not completely their fault that they may ignore our email – they may have other tasks that are clamoring for their attention. The term for what the people that you are sending emails to are experiencing is called “cognitive overload”. This means that their brains are being faced with trying to absorb too much information.

When people are dealing with a page full of email that they now have to read, studies have shown that people will focus on what is on the top of the screen. What this means for you is that if you want to get your email read, you really want to try to time when you send your email to match up with the time that you think the person that you’ll be sending the email to will be checking their email. It turns out that people reply to email more quickly early in the week and their responses were longer. Additionally, people respond more quickly to emails received between 8am and noon.

How To Negotiate Using Email

Negotiating via email is very hard to do well. The reason that this can be such a challenge is because the experts refer to email as being a “lean medium”. What they mean by this is that when we are talking with people face-to-face the other person has a lot of non-verbal cues that they can use to determine what we are really thinking. If we are negotiating over the phone, our tone of voice will communicate how we are really feeling. The problem with negotiating via email is that none of these communication tools are available.

Based on the limited amount of communication channels available, you would think that negotiating via email would be a bad decision, right? That’s not necessarily correct. It turns out that there are strengths associated with using email to communicate negotiations. Email gave both parties the opportunity to rehearse what they wanted to say. They could also use email to communicate a great deal of information in a clear form that people were able to refer back to at a later date. Email also helped to eliminate common negotiation misunderstandings including missed emails and time-zone problems. It turns out that if you know how to use it correctly, email can be very helpful when it comes to negotiations.

What All Of This Means For You

Email is something that we all use everyday. In fact, we use email so much that there is a very good chance that we really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it anymore. However, as CIOs since communication is such a critical part of our job, we really do need to make sure that we are using email as effectively as possible. In order to do this, we need to take a careful look at what researchers have been able to find out about how we can make our email more effective.

One of the fundamental questions that we’ve always been trying to answer is when should we respond to an email. Should we dash off a response the moment the email shows up or should we take our time and send a response later on? Researchers have found that in an environment in which people are quickly replying to emails, the workers are more stressed and less productive. Additionally, replying to emails after hours can cause the people that we are writing to start to feel under pressure to respond to us right then. The best time to send an email has been found to be early in the week and early in the day. You’ll get a quicker response with more content. Negotiating via email is difficult to do because so many communication channels will not be present. However, if done correctly this form of negotiation can eliminate some of the common negotiating problems.

Email is a major part of our lives right now and it will probably always be a part of our lives. In order to get the most out of this tool, we need to slow down and take a close look at it. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about using emails. If we listen to what the researchers are telling us, then we can maximize the benefit of this powerful tool.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: When do you think you should send an email vs picking up the phone or visiting a person face-to-face?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Hopefully we’d all like to become better CIOs. This is a great goal, the challenge that most of us are facing is that it just is not clear exactly what we need to do in order to make this happen. The good news is that researchers have been talking to the people that work for us and what they have found out is that we are pretty good at sharing information, but we’re lousy listeners. You can’t be a good CIO if you are a poor listener. It turns out that doing a good job of listening to the people who work for us is seen as being a complement to them. When we listen to them we’re telling them that we care about them. So now the big question is how can the person with the CIO position become a better listener?