7 Ways to Better Ensure Your Email Gets Read

Young man receive mail over tablet

When our youngest son was in college I realized he wasn’t reading all the emails he should have been reading. A few times we almost missed paying some fees he had due for college, which could have made him miss some deadlines for school.

You see, Nate’s a busy college student. He’s consumed with school work, church activities, and a host of social activities. If you want to lose his attention quickly — send him a really long email.

And, I don’t think it’s just my son. I see it as a trend among a younger generation. They don’t read all the emails they receive. I talked to one millennial recently who said if his inbox gets too full he just deletes a bunch of emails — without reading any of them. He figures they’ll text or call if they need something quickly — or send another email.

I hear some people my age — the age who received some of the first emails long after we were adults. Some would say that’s rude. Inconsiderate. Uncaring. Unprofessional.

And, yet, I feel a certain kindred spirit with our younger generation.

I can’t complain, especially because of my son, because he’s wired like me. He is always busy doing something, hates unproductive time, and some emails — if they tend to ramble — simply don’t capture his attention. I realize it’s ultimately our problem, not the sender, but to us it almost seems a waste of time to process an email which could have been written with the same information in a much shorter form.

Just being honest. I don’t read all the long emails I need to read. At least not in their entirety. Sometimes I miss details, because the email was too long to process or was so poorly written. I never check my Spam folder. I quickly divert emails to other people if I think I’m not the right recipient. And, an email in all caps — please no.  

That’s my honesty. And, for some one who holds responsiveness to such a high value it bothers me not to thoroughly read and respond to each one. It seems, however, I constantly get a ton of chapter length emails. Over the years the volume of email keeps growing yet my time to focus on them hasn’t. It has prompted me to think through what I believe helps an email get read. I certainly want my emails read. If I’m sending it I must believe it’s important enough for someone to take time to read it.  

If you want to ensure I read your email — and maybe other busy people —  people like me who receive literally several hundred emails a day — I want to share some suggestions. Please understand, I’m being brutally honest here trying to help. I realize some who read every line of every email they receive can’t understand. But, everyone is not like you. Yet, I assume you want your email read also.

Here are 7 ways to better ensure your email gets read:

Make sure your name is clearly listed in the FROM line

I am more likely to read an email from an individual than I am an organization or a group. I know it’s probably not fair, but if it’s coming from an “organization” I assume it applies more to the masses than to me personally. If I’m covered up with emails I’ll pay more attention to the ones that are from a person rather than an institution.

Make the recipient — ME

I’m less likely to read an email addressed to a group, even if the group is summarized by your name. I’m okay with being in the BCC line for a hidden group list, but if I see a group of 20+ addresses in the “To” line I’m probably assuming it’s not as important I read it.

Write a great subject heading

“Hey” is probably not a great one. The subject line needs to capture the reader’s attention enough to want to open the email — and read it. Give me some clue the general purpose of the email and what I can expect to learn from it. And, a FWD message rarely excitedly grabs my attention — especially if FWD is in the subject line.

Get started immediately with the main idea

Similar to the rules of writing a letter, you should instantly begin dealing with the subject of the email. If you’re inviting me to something — say that immediately. If you have a suggestion — tell me you do. You can explain later, but you need to hook the reader into the email early.

Give pertinent details, but don’t write a book

Please — don’t send an email just to ask me to call you. That’s so unfair that I have to wonder what you want. Tell me the basics in the email. Just don’t tell me the basics and everything else you every thought about the basics — plus three stories to go along with it. Again, the length of an email is critical to ensure it gets read. I often suggest people write bullet points. Sometimes they help make the email easier to read.

Another way, especially where the email has to be longer is to have two sections. The first section has “just the facts” section at the top with bullet points of pertinent facts,followed by a longer section for those who may want to read more detailed explanations. The person can read all they have to know in a couple minutes and then scan down to learn more details about items about which they are interested.

Finally, I especially appreciate if the absolute most pertinent information — such as dates, times, or the one single question or point you’re making — is highlighted or made bold in the email.

Read before sending

Before pressing send, read the email aloud. Listen for how it sounds. Email can be terribly misunderstood and this helps. Also, look at the overall length of the email. Would you read it? Or, would the length encourage you to put it aside for a later read — or skip it altogether? Remember many — maybe most — may read it on a smart phone and the email will appear even longer.

Give the option to ask questions

Close your email with the opportunity to ask questions if the reader wants more details or information. Even better — if appropriate — provide links in your email to websites or pages with additional information.

The more emails we send and receive, the more important it becomes that we write better emails. Writing emails which are to the point and concise ensures a greater chance of them being read. I would assume this would be a goal if we are going to take the time to send one.

Now your turn to be honest. When you receive a really long email, how do you respond?

What would you add to my list? What ideas do you have for writing emails that get read?

4 Ways Leaders Create Capacity in the Organization

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Great leaders know the more capacity the organization has the more potential it has. And, when the organization begins to exceed its capacity for too long things eventually stall. To spur growth — increase capacity.

Therefore, one of the best ways a leader can impact an organization is to create capacity so the organization and its people can grow.

Here are 4 ways a leader can create capacity:

Paint a void

Allow others to see what could be accomplished. Leaders help people see potential — in themselves and the future — they may not otherwise see. This can be accomplished through vision casting and question asking. It may be helping people dream bigger dreams of what could be next in their own life or for the organization. It could be through training or development. Extra capacity energizes people to find new and adventuresome ways of achieving them.

Empower people

When you give people the tools, resources and power to accomplish the task and you’ve often created new capacity. Many times people feel they’ve done all they can with what they have. Provide them with new tools — maybe new ideas — assure them they can’t fail if they are doing their best. Continue to support them as needed. Then get out of their way.

Release ownership

Let go of your attempt to control an outcome so others can lead. Many people hold back waiting for the leader to take initiative or give his or her blessing. The more power and ownership you release the more others will embrace. The more initiative they will take of their own.

Lead people not tasks

If you are always the doer and never the enabler then you are not a leader. More than likely you are simply an obstacle to what the team could accomplish if you got out of the way. Many leaders don’t see this in themselves. Frequently ask yourself: Am I leading or am I in the way? And, if you’re brave enough — ask others to evaluate you — even anonymously.

When the leader creates capacity the organization and the people in the organization increase their capacity — and things can grow.

12 Killers of Good Leadership

wrecking ball

I know numerous leaders with great potential. They have all the appearance of being a good leader. But they lack one thing — or two.

In my experience, some of this self-learned the hard way, there are a few killers of good leadership.

I decided to compile a list of some of the most potent killers I’ve observed. Any one of these can squelch good leadership. It’s like a wrecking ball of potential. If not addressed, they may even prove to be fatal.

It’s not that the person can’t continue to lead, but to grow as a leader — to be successful at a higher level or for the long-term — they must address these killers.

Here are 12 killers of good leadership:

Defensiveness – Good leaders don’t wear their feelings on their shoulders. They know other’s opinions matter and aren’t afraid to be challenged. They are confident enough to absorb the wounds intended to help them grow.

Jealousy – A good leader enjoys watching others on the team excel — even willing to help them.

Revenge – The leader that succeeds for the long-term must be forgiving; graceful — knowing that “getting even” only comes back to harm them and the organization.

Fearfulness – A good leader remains committed when no one else is and takes risks no one else will. Others will follow. It is what leaders do.

Favoritism – Good leaders don’t have favorites on the team. They reward for results not partiality.

Ungratefulness – Good leaders value people — genuinely — knowing they cannot attain success without others.

Small-mindedness – Good leaders think bigger than today. They are dreamers and idea people.

Pridefulness – Pride comes before the fall. Good leaders remain humbled by the position of authority entrusted to them.

Rigidity – There are some things to be rigid about, such as values and vision, but for most issues, the leader must be open to change. Good leaders are welcome new ideas, realizing that most everything can be improved.

Laziness – One can’t be a good leader and not be willing to work hard. In fact, the leader should be willing to be the hardest worker on the team.

Unresponsiveness – Good leaders don’t lead from behind closed doors. They are responsive to the needs and desires of those they attempt to lead. They respond to concerns and questions. They collaborate more than control. Leaders who close themselves off from those they lead will limit the places where others will follow.

Dishonesty – Since character counts highest, a good leader must be above reproach. When a leader fails, he or she must admit their mistake and work towards restoration.

A leader may struggle with one or more of these, but the goal should be to lead “killer-free”. Leader, be honest, which of these wrecking balls do you struggle with most?

What would you add to my list?

Can you think of any other killers of good leadership?

7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

Handshake - extraversio

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team — so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is that leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge. Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t. Or that no one has figured out yet. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them. Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore — especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop.

Mentor them. Invest in them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience.

Give them more creative time to dream. This is huge. You might keep someone who feels they stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t exhibit fear to them. I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. They micromanage. They ask too many questions before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is easily discerned. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them.

Reward them. If they are doing well — let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization. Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Sure, keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Quit Your Organization

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If any organization expects to grow, they need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders.

Any argument with that statement? If so, you just like to argue. And, I get that too.

But, new growth always requires new leaders. Period.

Certainly the church needs good leaders. 

One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. So it’s equally important to know how to keep them. And, to know why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I don’t want to stand in the way of a leader leaving to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something the organization did wrong.

Here are 7 reasons leaders tend to quit an organization:

They couldn’t live out their personal vision. Leaders are internally driven. They have personal visions in addition to the vision of the organization. They need opportunity to explore, find their own way, and feel they are making their own personal contribution to overall success.

They were told no too many times. Leaders have ideas they want to see implemented. If they get their hand slapped too many times they will be frustrated. And, not for long before they respond.

They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities. This goes for all team members. People need to know that what they are offering is valued. Leaders especially want to know their contribution is recognized and valued.

They were given no voice . Leaders want input into the direction of the organization. They want a seat at the table of authority.

They were left clueless as to the future of the organization. Leaders need inside information so they feel ownership in the overall direction of the organization. They don’t like constant surprises or feeling they are always an outsider.

Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization. This is best discovered before the leader joins the team, but when it is discovered a leader will be very uncomfortable. Something must change. And, it will. Trust me.

They were micromanaged . Leaders don’t need managing as much as they need releasing. They more they are controlled the more they rebel.

You can allow leaders to work for the good of the organization or stifle them, discourage them and spend valuable time and effort consistently replacing them. If you want to keep leaders — them lead!

7 Ways to Lead Younger People

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.

Here are 7 ways to lead younger people:

Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned. 

Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.

Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time. 

Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder. 
Anything you would add?

5 Thoughts on Leadership from the Life of David

A businessman at the entrance to a maze

The best book from which to find leadership principles is the Bible. I love, for example, learning from leaders like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Nehemiah — and I could keep going. Of course, the greatest leader of the Bible — and life — is Jesus.

And, I love reading about King David. From his time in the wilderness and serving as king, good and bad, we learn a great deal about leadership and what is required to successfully lead by observing David.

Take for example this story. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve used this dozens of times to encourage leaders.

When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”The LORD answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah. But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” 1 Samuel 23:1-3

Notice David had a vision — a word from God. This was a bigger request than David and his men probably felt capable of doing. They were still a young army. This was prior to David reigning as king. He had been anointed king by God, but did not yet have the position. He was hiding from Saul. He didn’t have a king’s palace. He spent much of his time in a cave. This new assignment was scary, his army was questioning him, and the future was unknown.

Have you experienced a situation like that as a leader?

Thankfully David’s story had a happy ending: (Imagine that since God put him up to it.)

But, even with a happy ending ahead — like most of our stories — that didn’t mean victory would come without challenges.

Read some more of the story.

Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. 1 Samuel 23:4-5

This story prompts 5 thoughts on leadership I think are appropriate for all of us:

We seldom get to rest for long – In church planting and in church revitalization — and in my years leading in the business world — I never knew seasons of rest for very long. They could be good seasons or not so good seasons, but there was always something demanding our attention. Something new was happening. There were challenges around us.

It reminds me that we must rest along the way. Don’t expect things to “slow down” so you can catch up. They won’t. You’ll have to be disciplined to decompress regularly. God even commanded it into the system. It’s called the Sabbath. And, we need it. Our souls need it.

Next steps are scary – If they weren’t people wouldn’t need a leader. Next steps involve risk, require faith, and the future is an unknown. If David had not been obedient his “team” would have easily sat this one out — ignoring the command of God.

Leaders lead – That’s what leaders do. They take people where they need to go, maybe even where they want to go, and sometimes where they are hesitant, afraid or may not yet be prepared to go. People don’t need a leader to stay where they are currently. We could manage that.

As a leader I have to be obedient, even when the demands are bigger than I think our team can handle — bigger than I as a leader know how to lead. That’s what leaders do. We chart the way — even when the way isn’t neat, tidy, and clearly defined.

Big visions require faith – God doesn’t call us to that which is easy. He would receive no glory in us doing things we can naturally do — and seriously — what kind of a dream is it if it’s easily accomplished? Surely the God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine would want us to dream bigger than that which is easily attained.

Victory won’t come unless we move forward – You can’t realize the rewards of a God-given vision until you take the required actions. Standing still is safer, but it doesn’t bring the satisfaction of a well-executed, bold move of faith. And, leaders must be willing to take the first step.

What are you being called to these days that is bigger than you?

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

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Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams. I love helping people attain their God-given visions. 

It occurred to me that there may be an additional post needed.

The fact is that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.

I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”. I have many of those areas in my life. I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no dreams – You may have some but you’ve never recorded them. You never set some tangible goals that get you closer to your dreams. Only then can you analyze them and organize them into reachable and attainable dreams.

You have no plan – A dream without a plan is just a dream. A dream with a plan is an avenue to success. You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships. Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through. Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory. Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block. Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears. Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand. If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step. If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish. What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

5 Tips For Leading Strong-Willed People

Stubborn donkey

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led?

The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one. Perhaps you are one.

(I know one personally — me!)

But, have you ever tried to lead one?

It’s not easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.

And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

Here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people. Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions — that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team. Make sure the rules you have — and again there shouldn’t be too many — are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule — make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles.

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

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One of my pet peeves in leadership is the controlling leader. Because of that, I have written extensively on the subject on this blog.

Controlling leaders are in every type of organization — including the church. Some of my ministerial friends who have encountered this would say especially in the church. It could be a pastor, a committee chairperson, or a deacon who glories in their own power.

And, sometimes, just being fair, leaders control because they believe they are doing what’s best for the organization. Not every controlling leader, in my opinion, is controlling from a power trip. Granted, some are, but many just naively believe if they don’t control things will fall apart in the organization.

I recently worked with a church where I witnessed a controlling leader firsthand. Talking to members of the staff it reminded me of the main reason I’m so opposed to controlling leaders — because it is counter-productive to creating organizational health. And I love healthy organizations.

But, I would even go so far as to say controlling leadership violates some important Biblical principles — especially in the church. The Body is not comprised of one — but many ones — who work together to build the ONE local church. To do it any other way tramples on a lot of truth.

In terms of organizational health, there are some common disruptions from controlling leadership.

Here are 3 results of controlling leadership:

Leaders leave – You can’t keep a real leader when you control them — at least not for long. I find that especially true among the younger set of leaders entering the work world. Leaders need room to breathe, explore and take risks. Controlling leadership stifles creativity. A genuine leader will soon look for a place they can grow.

Followers stay – The flip side is equally true. You can keep those who follow the rules many times under controlling leadership. They will stay because of loyalty, or a sense of responsibility, or just because they don’t realize there is any other kind of leadership. But their fear of venturing out on their own keeps them under the leader’s control. And, most often their work life is unfulfilled and they are often miserable.

Organizations stall – The real detriment of controlling leadership is that it always limits the organization to the strengths, dreams and abilities of the controlling leader. One person — one leader — can only control so much — so many people or tasks. It’s one reason we see churches plateau and a business’s growth stagnate.

Dear leader, take it from a leader who has to discipline himself not to control — controlling leadership simply doesn’t work.

Have you learned that principle, perhaps the hard way?

Have you worked for a controlling leader?