Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Please Don't CC: The Boss

Several years ago we had a client whose culture was very different from ours. Even though they were a good sized "small" business, no one felt like they could make decisions or take action without covering their butts. The result was that everyone who had any important communication cc'd their boss. And if their boss didn't want to make a decision without fearing the consequences, he'd cc his boss. And she'd cc her boss.
And they assumed we worked the same way, so they cc'd every email they could find in our company.

The result was that emails had huge strings of people cc'd - most of whom

1) Didn't care

2) Didn't want to be cc'd

3) Couldn't make a decision to save their lives

It was so absurd that every once in awhile my (smart-ass) brother would add cc: in the middle of string and include [email protected].

Email is extremely important. As a result, it should be used appropriately and carefully. If you create a series of email discussions in which most of the people on the string have no input, are never going to read the emails, and just want to wait for the final conclusion, you are simply waisting resources.

So who should you cc? In my opinion, as few people as possible.

I don't want to be cc'd on anything unless absolutely necessary. Every once in awhile I have to remind my staff: If you're having a discussion with a [client] [prospect] [vendor] [etc], please do not cc me! I don't care about all the possible meeting places that we are not going to. I don't care about the options that will be rejected six emails from now. I don't care about all the options that will be forgotten.

When you have facts and details to report, cc me.

When a decision is made, cc me. Better yet: Don't cc me. Just execute it.

Include me in decision making if you really need it. But if you've learned that my response is "I don't care. Let me know what you decide" then leave me out.

Let the boss get some work done.

If someone includes me on too many emails, I assign her the task of reading through my inbox, finding all the emails she sent me, and either deleting them or sorting them into the appropriate public folders.

- - - - -

A Few Email Maintenance Rules For Success

1) If you need to cc everyone on earth in order to cover your butt, you're working in the wrong place. Quit and get a job you enjoy.

2) When email comes in, it should be filed as follows:

- Delete without reading. This is true for about 60% of all email, in my experience. Newsletters I can't get to now, etc.

- Read, forward, delete. Once you determine who should do something, hand it off and nuke it.

- Read and execute. If you can't take action, assign to someone else and delete. If you can't do that, then add to your personal task list. If you can't do that, delete it. (If you're not going to address it and no one else is either, why keep it around?)

- File it in Public Folders or elsewhere. If it's just informational ("Yes, we'll do that.") you might want to keep the email for proof that a decision was made. MOVE it (don't copy) from your Inbox to the appropriate public folder.

In summary, once you open an email you either delete it, file it away, forward it to someone for execution, or execute yourself. The only other thing you can do is to add the item to your to-do list and then delete the email.

3) Don't cc anyone who doesn't care, won't give input, doesn't want it, won't read it, or only wants to know the final conclusion.

That means 99% of the time, don't cc the boss!

If your boss is a micro-managing control freak, he'll still want to be involved at some point. At least make his job a little easier and present him with a detailed proposal to approve rather than make him decide between vinaigrette and balsamic vinaigrette. Give him a finished proposal and ask for changes.

Here's the deal with micro-managers: They are okay with finished proposals to review. It still gives them total control. They don't have to be involved in every decision along the way. But if you involve them, they won't be able to help jumping in.

Micro managers are always working on urgent but non-important details. Help them out. They need love too.

Bosses: There's an easy way for both you and your staff to ease into this new behavior. Disappear. Leave the office and don't communicate with them for a day. You'll be amazed at how people figured out what to do and informed you afterward. It's liberating. Who knows. Someday you might take off on a real vacation.


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