10 Ways Email Will Build or Break Your Personal Brand | Stewart Leadership

10 Ways Email Will Build or Break Your Personal Brand

I can remember sitting in Ms. Brooker’s high school AP English class back in 1988 like it was yesterday. Who knew that her writing lessons back then would be utilized daily through email communication 30 years later?

A common practice in her class was editing papers with a red pen circling every sentence that began with the word “I” or other similar words repeated too many times. She’d have us look for words that were repeated in the same paragraph over and over again challenging us to consider substitute synonyms. What was this all for? (Oh, and you can’t end a sentence with a preposition either so what I meant to say was, “What was the impact of these lessons?”) These small writing strategies that supported my work in high school turned out to have a strong impact on my reputation in business. Writing, whether it be internal memos, external press releases, or day-to-day email communication, has a direct impact on our professional reputation.

With email being our primary source of communication, let’s explore the 10 ways email influences our personal brand and reputation in relation to our image, leadership, and emotional intelligence

Image

Email impacts our executive presence related to image in a variety of ways. For example, what is your impression if you send an email and get a response back within two minutes? It may be that you got lucky in catching that person while they were on email – almost like instant messaging. Or, if the response is always that timely, do you have a concern that this individual is only focused on micro-managing email and not carving out time for strategic priorities or being visible with customers or their internal teams? Timing of your responses alone can have a tremendous impact on your reputation. Take these 4 following considerations into account as you look to improve your personal brand in the workplace

  • Timing of email sends and responses. The time of day you send email and how quickly you respond is noticed. Be intentional in managing the expectations you set.
  • Review for grammar and punctuation errors. How often do you review your email after you send it and feel embarrassment because you made a mistake? Take your time.
  • Purpose of the email matters. Browsing or speed-reading email is common so if your email is taking more than a minute to read, is email the best form for the communication? Consider length of email, number of attachments, and the call to action.
  • With every email you write, assume it will be reprinted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Even if that’s a stretch, assume it will be forwarded or printed and left at the copy machine. If this causes you concern, don’t send it. Perhaps a phone call or office drop-in is more appropriate.

Email as a communication vehicle is a tangible reflection of your image in the workplace. It is as important as how you speak, dress, and interact with others. Consider the conclusions and  assumptions you make regarding the emails you receive and treat others the way you want to be treated.

Leadership

It’s known that email can be utilized as a micro-management tool either intentionally or accidentally. “Micro-manager” has never been a trait people list when describing a role model leader. Be sure that your use of email is a reflection of your desired leadership style. I had a manager once tell me that she didn’t believe in the “cc” of email. She told her virtual team that if something was important enough to send to her, she should be sent the email directly, not copied on it. She also didn’t believe in “reply to all.” She informed her team of her expectations related to the use of email and this drastically reduced the time she spent reading emails that she was copied on where the issue had already been resolved. It saved the rest of us time as well! Determine what your preferred style is and communicate that to your team. Here are 3 ways email can impact the perception of your leadership style:

Email can be a tremendous benefit as a delegation tool. It is common practice to give work direction through email. Be sure that your email usage aligns with the needs and style of the individual receiving it. Consider things like your opening line or greeting, context and background offered, clear expectations and deadlines.

Anticipate the needs of the email recipient. By providing the answers up front and the additional information needed, your leadership capability will shine through.

Lastly, find ways to use email to show appreciation or recognition and not only when you need something. It’s lovely to receive an email focused on praise and gratitude and fun to send them too!

Email is a leadership communication tool and how it’s used has a direct impact on your personal brand. Be sure you use it strategically to represent your leadership style, whether your goal is to inform, appreciate, or delegate, all while anticipating any additional questions the recipient may need answered.

Emotional Intelligence

Email can be an asset or a liability when it comes to managing emotions. Think of a time when you read an email, felt your frustration level rise, and then fired back a response only to regret doing so later. It is important to manage emotion to protect your personal brand in your professional life. Consider the following 3 ways email influences your reputation related to emotional intelligence:

  • Language and tone are difficult to interpret in an email. Be watchful of this and re-read your email before you send it. Add an opening line to soften your approach or add background to the situation. Connect with the individual in a way that is personal and will be appreciated to set your desired tone. Then communicate your request or information.
  • Personality and style can be beneficial in email but always consider the needs of the recipient. Examples of things to watch out for may include acronyms, abbreviations, and more personal topics such as the use of humor.  
  • Sleep on it. When emotions rise through email, consider drafting your response but not sending it until the morning when you read it again with a level head. Your options that next morning are to send as is, make adjustments, pick up the phone instead, or give it more time. It’s no fun feeling regret after you hit send so give yourself the room you need to be sure.

As a leader, strong emotional intelligence is critical. Ensure email is used effectively to enhance and support your personal brand, not hinder it.

Next Steps

Your personal brand is your reputation. It is what people think, feel, and say about you. Identify one or two email strategies you can implement today to move the needle in strengthening your personal brand in the areas of your image, leadership, or the way you manage emotion.

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