Email: The evil, dying cousin of meetings

by

I’ve been on a productivity tear recently, observing what works and doesn’t work in the organizations we visit, and talking to friends and coworkers about what is going on in their companies. I blogged on meetings last week, a constantly cited productivity destroyer, and now I’d like to hone in on its evil cousin, email.

It seems overall that people have resigned themselves to meetings, following around their blackberry calendars like zombies, only thinking if they have a choice of meetings to attend and then making a somewhat random decision based on perceived value, interest, proximity, or other attendees they may need to meet. Yes, meetings are winning and one major consequence is that people have just given up completely on their inboxes.

I’ve come to this conclusion after trying to understand the low response rate I’ve been receiving from emails I sent. At first I thought my emails were ending up in spam, but then I noticed people accepted or declined calendar requests and responded to short emails that they could handle from their blackberry. Any other emails ended up in a black hole. I’ve been observing this behavior across organizations: large and small companies, networking contacts and community or charity organizations.

I expressed my frustration to a friend the other night, a friend who is now a CEO of a mid-sized company and who before that served as a consultant within many different organizational cultures. She hypothesized on the problem and related her experiences and soon asked me a very insightful question… “are you asking them to think?” My immediate reaction was no … and a few seconds later I had the “ah-hah” moment. I realized that people no longer have time to think. They’ll respond to emails to schedule something, they’ll answer a quick question, especially if they can do it while in a meeting where they are avoiding thinking. But a request for input or review on something that really matters to them but perhaps more importantly than urgently: that request is realistically going in the black hole. They may have good intentions, they may have promised me they would respond or specifically asked me to send it to them so they could respond, but nevertheless, they do not.

So how do people handle the fact that people simply don’t respond to emails anymore? They do what I do: they schedule meetings to get anything done. And the nasty death spiral continues. I’m not saying that all work should be done over email; I think people use email way too much to carry on conversations that should be done in person. But I do think it could be a major productivity booster if we used it right. Unfortunately, as response rates drop, meetings dominate, and productivity becomes even more elusive.

READ MORE

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

About a week ago, I completed the second live (virtual) training in the process of becoming a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC. Once again, my mind was blown! It reinforced for me that virtual workshops can, and do, work, and, in a lot of ways, I prefer them...

read more
Finding My Work-Life Balance

Finding My Work-Life Balance

In my previous post, I told the story of how I got back into consulting after becoming a mom. All of the diverse experiences I had during that journey have helped me to find my work-life balance by… Defining Boundaries “Go home,” my first boss said 12 years back —...

read more
How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

I Landed My Dream Job Throwback to 2014, I had completed my MBA, landed my dream job as a consultant, and was hoping that my new consulting career would exponentially ramp up my career growth for the next 5 years. This would position me to take on critical decision...

read more
Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

In August of this year, as part of our annual company meeting, our team at Thought Ensemble participated in the foundational session of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training led by Dr. Nika White, IOM, CDE (she/her/hers). One of the most meaningful moments...

read more
Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

It is often said that organizational culture is like a fog — it is all around us; it impacts our ability to see, to move quickly, and to deliver; but we cannot quite put our finger on it. Indeed, some organizations see their culture as a byproduct of operations,...

read more
We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

Why have we refreshed our brand, you ask? Well, as we have grown and matured as an organization, we felt that our previous brand elements no longer represented us as well as they could. You see, we founded Thought Ensemble back in 2008 to help companies better compete...

read more
Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

I recently wrote about how company purpose is being tested and inspired by all the events of 2020. This topic is very real for us at Thought Ensemble. We’ve been thinking a lot about what really matters as we’ve navigated the...

read more
How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable rewrote their statement of corporate purpose. I followed this with significant interest being that I have never forgotten the debates about corporate purpose in business school almost two decades ago. We were taught that the...

read more
Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

I love working with companies who really want to make a difference, beyond just making money for their shareholders. I mean, making money is fun and all, but it is even more rewarding to join in on a just cause. Plus, as this HBR article explains, companies who have...

read more