Emails are one of the three biggest time wasters in business. Reducing emails though is simple and cheap. It begins and ends with leaders.
Last year, the research cited in “To Reduce E-mail, Start at the Top” (Harvard Business Review, September 2013 edition) by Chris Brown, Andrew Killick, and Karen Renaud made the rounds. In a case study, simply reducing the executive team’s email output cascaded throughout the company. Their 54% reduction translated into a 64% reduction by employees. The time savings equated to a 7% increase in productivity.
The solution is cheap. Only leaders need to seek help. In the study, employees required no help. They needed neither training nor tracking software. They received fewer emails from their bosses requesting updates, information or follow up unless it was really critical.
Emotionally, we enjoy being busy. It triggers emotions of importance and security. It’s easy and seductive to make work, especially for others. Emails, especially responses to work we issue, tap our most basic reward centers. Yet, they are empty calories. They yield many wasteful activities.
In addition to being cheap, simple and productive, reducing emails helps leaders have more effective relationships. In the study, leaders used alternate communications forms such as phone and in-person. These are more effective relationship-building modes.
Better relationships make better teams and business cultures. Better cultures make better implementation of visions, strategies and processes. They are the secret to change. Successful change is directly correlated to the strength of relationships between management and employees.
Looking at emails from these perspectives, reducing emails is excellent leadership. It’s excellent management. The only obstacle is what lies between leaders’ ears. It’s difficult to see one small email as a problem.
One time our ceiling collapsed. Water came cascading down. Tracing it back, our plumber found a small hole above our shower head. It was so small we never noticed it. As water splashed off our heads and shoulders, drops also fell through this pin-sized hole. With no place to go, many drops had collected over months.