As a leader you have a responsibility to continue to get better. There is one area in particular though, where I think you need to improve and you may not have considered it.
If you are a leader, you need to write great email.
Email? Isn’t Park Leaders about parks?
Yes, of course Park Leaders is about parks, but it is also about leadership. And if you are going to be a leader and have an impact, you need to get better at email. In fact, you need to write great email.
Once you write great email, you are going to notice you are getting more done. You are going to notice you are getting better responses to the emails you send. And you are going to notice you do not need to spend as much time with email.
It is easier than you think to write great email. You can write great email by focusing on three areas: Subject Line, Opening Sentence, and White Space.
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Subject Line: Consider the subject line as important as a headline for a newspaper. Inboxes get filled up quick. The first thing someone does when they open their email is to scan the subject lines of all the email. You need to use a subject line that gets attention.
I’m not saying use a crazy subject line, like I found a live Muskrat in the Bathtub unless it is true. Use a subject line that gives useful information to the reader. Don’t use in a generic fill in the blank subject line like “Hey” or “Monday”. If you are sending an email about an upcoming meeting, don’t just make the subject line “Meeting”. Include useful information right in the subject line. An example would be “What you need to know about our 2:30 meeting”. This subject line lets the reader know the information in the email is useful and timely. They will open this email.
Opening Sentence: People skim email. When someone opens your email they quickly browse through it trying to pick out why you sent the email. Are you telling them something they need to know? Are you asking them for something? People want to know right away, so do them a favor and put it right up front.
An email consists of two parts, the Ask and the Information. Or it could be the Response and the Information. Usually, people front load an email with information and stick the Ask at the end. If you are asking something, ask in the first sentence.
By putting the Ask up front, and the information second, the reader will know what to do with the information. If I know what you are asking, I will know if the information is applicable. If I don’t know what you are asking, I will have to reread the email after I find out what you are asking. There could even be times when the information is not needed, or it can be saved to reference at a later time. Even when the information is needed at the time, it is useful to read it in the context of the ask.
White Space: The more white you see in your email, the better. Remember I mentioned people scan email. You know they are going to skim, so make it easier for them. When you include white space, eyes can quickly move from one sentence to the next. Information can be plucked out quickly. It is easier to read and reread email with white space.
Select nearly any article or blogpost on the internet and you will see how the author used white space. I am sure you receive email that has big blob of text. A whole bunch of words in a single paragraph. If you are like me, you move on and save that email for later. Or you never read it. Using white space will help your emails get read.
Work on these three steps, and you will soon be writing great email.
If you are going to be in a leadership position, writing great email is important.
If you apply what you read here show you can write great email. But if you want to go deeper and learn in better detail, with examples and exercises, you will find the Park Leaders Guide to Effective Email to be a tremendous help.
The guide does not only cover the three elements of a great email, but there are also examples of great email and awful email, with a breakdown of what made it great or bad. There is also a section full of tips for great email. There is a section on using email to become more productive. There is a section on using email as a tool for team work. And there is a section about when you should not send an email. Understanding when not to use email could be one of the most important aspects of email.