I write this post with the utmost respect for anyone who has ever written a principal an email. My hope is to share some strategies that will help us principals be better in supporting y’all, not to point out bad email habits!
I get a lot of emails…alright, more than a lot…many, many emails…too many sometimes. Throughout the years as a principal I’ve noted many strategies that have helped me to be a better advocate for the folks I work with via their use of email. Here are a few ideas:
- Be Succinct – With as many emails as end up in my inbox each day, the succinct ones usually are first to get a response or action. Long emails tend to indicate the need for a conversation. Instead of sending all of your thoughts in one email consider sending something like, “I’ve been thinking about _____________ and had some ideas. Can I check in with you about it sometime this week, I’d like to get your thoughts.” Keep your long email contents as notes for the conversation. Everyone can feel good about that process and it doesn’t leave me with an email that keeps me up at night!
- Be Considerate – This is completely a two way street. I try hard not to email staff outside of the school day unless necessary. Usually I save responses and emails in draft form until the morning and then send. No one enjoys that email just before bedtime that gets your mind-a-going. My ability to support and act upon your emails is directly linked to the approach taken…and my goal is to help you as much as possible!
- ? – I’ve become infamous for saying “look for the question marks” when it comes to emails. Questions denote something I can respond or act upon. If an email doesn’t have any I’m left asking myself what needs to happen. And you know what happens next…more emails. Not efficient.
- No Danglers – I have this rule established with several people on staff and it’s been a great one…fun sometimes too. We’ve agreed to not leave danglers for each other…things like “remind me to tell you about that meeting, you’re going to be soooo upset! Have a great weekend!” That’s a dangler…it’ll keep me thinking about what happened all weekend. I’m guilty of this one as well, so it’s great to have people on board with calling me out when I do it too. Another example is “I have something I’m upset about and would like to talk to you about it.” With things like this I can’t always be prepared the best I can be to help you. Giving me a clue about the information that I can gather or supports I can provide can get things moving much faster.
- Email the Whole Team – This is one we’ve implemented and held strong to this year. Some student teams are quite large in their membership. When communications do not go to the entire team, member’s feelings are often hurt and miscommunication starts to crop up like mysteries do for Shaggy and Scooby. Emailing the whole team keeps everyone in the loop. Just establish that for some members the information will strictly be an FYI and will not require action or comment. No reply all debacles!
- Use Other Methods – I’m lucky to work with a group of folks who have truly figured out the best ways to efficiently communicate with me. We use a lot of different tools and I find that the people who really know how and when to use these always get the support and information they need quickly and thoroughly.
- Text Messaging – Core staff often use text messaging to get me immediately if there are significant matters. It’s a great, sure fire way to know that I’m going to see and respond to the message. This has been an integral part of communication systems in our school…so much so that many staff members are outranking family members in my family and friends texting package!
- Instant Messaging – If you were to see my computer screen most of the time you would probably laugh at the number of chat windows I have open at once. Rather than sending an email back and forth many staff members have sorted out that opening a chat window with me can get them the information they need in the moment. Often, if I’m not at a meeting with a team or a training and they need or want to share information they use instant messaging. It works great. Another efficient way for people to get what they need from me.
- Video Chat – Although we use this less frequently, we have done this when distance separates our teams. Much more efficient than email if a discussion and decisions need to be made in a short time period.
- Other Social Media – Some folks have reached black belt levels of communication with me and use social media like Twitter and Instagram to brainstorm ideas.
As I said before my ultimate goal is to help support you the best I can. Sometimes I need you to help me help you and these strategies seem to help out quite a bit. And yes, I did just make an overt Jerry Maguire reference!