Obey email preferences

Welcome to all new blog readers. I’m sorry to take a week between posts, but my lecture circuit work is furious right now. Newport, RI–San Jose, CA–Vancouver, BC and Fort Worth in the last week.

If you want to have a productive relationship, especially with someone of power, obey their preferences when it comes to email.

I learned this lesson at a critical point of my life at Yahoo. Anil Singh ran Yahoo’s sales and marketing groups for years and was the guru of numbers. He is a brilliant and powerful man, and everybody wanted to work for him. So he was pummeled with information, most of it useless. I wrote him an opus about a meeting I attended with a huge prospective partner. The next day, from his cube, he pointed to me and motioned me into his space.

“Look at all this reading material”, he opened. He was sitting in a mountain of documents, charts and bound reports.

“You should be able to fit any email message into my preview pane. Otherwise, come see me or call.”

I immediately realized that I could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Anil is a “preview pane” guy that wants pithy, to the point requests and answers to his emailed questions. For anything complicated, he liked warmer levels of contact (email cold, face to face real warm). I honored that request from that day forward and it made a huge difference in my relationship with him. When I went to work for Greg Coleman and later Wenda Millard, I learned their email preferences right away and stuck to them. This is a little known secret about how to handle brand new relationships at work. If you make this as important as knowing their birthday or their favorite football team — you will go far in your BizLife. Most people will not tell you like Anil told me. That was good luck, a gift. To obey, you first need to ask about the rules.

Mark Sanborn, a great author and speaker, talks about “The Platinum Rule”. Whereas the Golden Rule says that you reflect your preferences on others (which would suck for them if you are self-destructive), the Platinum Rule says, “do unto others as they want to be done unto!”.

Yep, that’s right. New email law: obey preferences.