Have you ever checked your email and groaned for one of these reasons?
- You see your principal is in “communication mode” so you know you will have a barrage of emails from him/her. While teaching students, preparing for the next day, communicating with parents, etc., you are supposed to read each email thoroughly and remember everything you read.
- You trepidatiously open an email with one eye open, one eye closed because you know will be the length of a novel because every time this person emails you it is the length of a novel.
- You carefully read an email searching and searching for the main message, but you cannot filter through all the words to glean it out.
You can avoid being the reason for the “email groan” by taking the advice of these famous writers:
Brevity is the soul of wit. -William Shakespeare
Implement the “no scroll” rule for all your email communications. Your message should fit on the screen when a recipient opens it and not require them to scroll. Getting right to the point, skipping unnecessary words or information, or limiting the number of topics in an email can help you implement this rule.
Clarity is the counterbalance of profound thoughts. -Luc de Clapiers
Use the subject line to communicate the main message of the email. Help your staff avoid the guessing game by making the point of the email crystal clear.
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. -Leo Tolstoy
Save it up and send a weekly memo. Some principals send a Monday Memo or a Friday Update to share important information with staff members. Save up all the things you want to tell staff for this weekly communication. As you are tempted to press send on an email to the staff, ask yourself if it could wait for the Friday Update. Nine times out of ten, it can wait. Besides the benefit to staff inboxes, it also makes the weekly communication more meaty and therefore increases readership.
Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor. -William Cowper
Use a variety of communication techniques–make funny videos, create an “auditory email” by starting a podcast for staff, write handwritten notes, etc. Having novelty and variety benefits staff just like it benefits students.
The smartest person in the room, is the room. -David Weinberger
Staff meeting time is precious and should never be used for something that could be communicated via email. Reserve meeting time for topics that require collaboration, not as a time for a principal to simply give information.
These thoughtful email practices will help you be a model of effective communication and garner gratitude and respect from your staff. Words are a leader’s most important tool, wield them carefully.