So far I have given you four tips for writing effective emails:
- Have separate email addresses for social and business communication
- Make the subject line work for you. Think carefully about how you word it
- Be as brief as possible without losing necessary content
- Make reading your emails a pleasant experience
Now, here are three more which will help you be interact thoughtfully with your reader
5. Proof read
Badly spellt emales, bad use of punctuation; or the useof abreviations, comunicates something about U. They imply UR a bit slapdash and so make the reader take the email/you unseriously!!!!
Checking (proof reading) is important. Make sure the information is accurate and well expressed. Abbreviations may be acceptable but make sure they are clearly understood. For instance, does lol mean ‘laugh out loud’ or ‘lots of love’?!
Is it too long? I find when sending out notification about my blog I usually write a short email to introduce it to help the reader decide whether he/she wants to read it. When I then try to put the same text on Twitter it is always too long – and I have found that I can usually shorten what I already thought was short to the 140 characters allowed!
Proof read the email before sending it.
6. Contentious matters
Emails are very dangerous! It can be very tempting to dash off a response to an email that annoys/insults you – but you are likely to live to regret it. Imagine yourself face-to-face with the sender. How would you address the issue that has upset you? Be polite – this applies to all communication. Politeness goes a long way to defusing a tense situation.
It is always best to handle delicate matters face to face if possible, or maybe by phone. That way you can get some immediate feedback through body language or tone of voice. Emails are the worst way to respond. But if you have to do it that way NEVER write it and immediately press ‘send’. Preferably draft it, leave it for 24 hours (or at least overnight) and then re-read it. Whenever I have done this I have never sent the email I originally wrote – I have always softened it or decided not to send it.
Don’t use emails for contentious issues if possible. If it is necessary don’t be hasty – build in a cooling off period.
7. Responding to emails
So far I have assumed you are the initiator. As responder most of the same rules apply. But if the response deals with several points it can be helpful to cut and paste the original email into your reply and put your responses at the end of each section. I usually do this in a different colour.
Alternatively, enumerate the different points according to the original, or start an enumeration if the points were included within text.
Respond to emails containing several topics either by numbering or ‘interlinearly’.
Next time we will look at managing and organising your emails
Continuing the section on writing emails it is self evident that you are writing them so that they are read. How can you help your reader?
2. Subject line
If I receive an email I want to know what it is about; ‘Hi!’ is not a very helpful subject line.
- Give the topic or, if more than one, list them 1…. 2….
- Consider whether you can get the whole message into the subject line eg “Can you give me an update on the schedule you are preparing?” It may not be necessary to put any text in the body of the email and you will (hopefully!) get a quick reply.
Make the subject line work for you. Think carefully about how you word it.
3. Less = More
People are busy and you must arrest the reader’s attention. Emails that are very wordy are a recipe for the reader to ‘put it aside until I have time’, which may be never.
It is good to start with a personal greeting but don’t make this long-winded.
Once you address the content be brief and focussed. If a lot of text is require consider either attaching a separate document with the detail, or even using the phone to talk through the detail.
If the email covers several topics be sure to use numbering for easy reference as the conversation develops. Alternatively (preferably?) send separate emails for each topic so that the subject line accurately reflects the topic. This is particularly helpful if a thread of emails is likely to develop on any one of the topics.
If it is necessary to write a long email covering several inter-related issues I suggest a summary at the beginning – ‘This email is to seek your response on 1… 2…. 3….’ – or at the end – ‘In summary, these are the actions I hope you are able to take: 1…. 2…. 3….
Be as brief as possible without losing necessary content.
To be faced with a large block of text makes my heart sink! Presentation is important – don’t be tempted to think that an email is just a quick note and does not require care in presentation. Its all about getting the reader to read it!
Here are a few ways to help you achieve that:
- Use an attractive typeface
- Have short paragraphs
- Don’t be afraid of space – put a line between each paragraph.
- Use bullet points to help highlight different topics/sub-topics
- Be careful how you present emphasis/emphasis/EMPHASIS/emphasis. Use it sparingly – TOO MUCH EMPHASIS is COUNTER PRODUCTIVE and LOSES the IMPACT.
Make reading your emails a pleasant experience
Next time I will give another three tips to help you write effective emails.
Continuing my Questions and Answers series I have been asked if I have any comments or advice about emails. A big topic!
There is no doubt that emails are a tremendous boon. They make communication quick and keep a record in one place. It is easy to send the same information to several people at the same time, although this can be both an asset and a disadvantage – does everyone really need to know?
This takes us to the other side of the email coin – they can also be the bane of our lives. In the days of snail mail how often did you receive 20, 30, 50 or even 100 pieces of mail in one day? Yet for many, such quantities of daily receipts in your inbox are the norm.
Reading, responding, binning etc can take a significant proportion of your day. The benefits of rapid communication can be counter-productive if handling emails dominates your day. You can become the slave of other people’s priorities rather than pursuing your own. So it is worth spending a little effort to streamline how you use and deal with them.
I will consider two aspects: Writing and Organising.
1. Social or business?
Emails have become such a part of everyday life that they tend to be used for all correspondence. (Nb Please interpret ‘email’ broadly to include equivalent communication through social media etc). But the way you write depends greatly on whether the email is for social or business communication. Social communication tends to be much more chatty and descriptive, replacing the hand-written letter of yester-year. Business emails, however, are usually about gathering or disseminating information. This needs to be more succinct and easily accessible to the reader. If it is also long-winded it will be put in ‘pending’ – which probably equates to ‘never’.
So my first tip is probably obvious:
- Have separate email addresses for social and business communication.
Next time we will look at some specifics and a few tips. Meanwhile, try keeping your emails short, sharp and to the point.
Several months ago I was asked to prepare some videos for the Newfrontiers Bible School in Nigeria. I realise I never made these more widely available but think they would be of great help to many people working in church administration.
They appear in my YouTube channel Feeding 5000 is no picnic….. There is associated reading with some of the talks, as shown in the side panel.
Here are the links:
The Gift of Administration
Administration in the Bible is a spiritual gift. It is a ministry that not only helps a church to function effectively but also helps liberate leaders and members to serve and realise their potential according to their talents and spiritual gifts
Event Management – Jesus style
When Jesus fed the 5000 he modeled how to organise and implement an event. We can learn much from his example
Planning and Implementation part 1 – Planning principles
Planning is a key tool in the armoury of the Church Administrator. Here are some basic principles including a model from the Biblical book of Nehemiah
Planning and Implementation part 2 – Planning skills
There are many skills associated with good planning such as the mind map for creativity and developing a clear timeline for monitoring progress
Planning and Implementation part 3 – Planning a ministry
Planning a ministry in the church not only requires care in planning the detail with a clear action plan but also needs to include ways of monitoring on a regular basis whether the goals are being achieved
Meetings that work for you
Meetings can be boring and unproductive or stimulating and fruitful. Here I share tips and techniques about managing meetings that will help you prepare agendas, take accessible minutes, and chair meetings that achieve goals and help the members to feel fulfilled and satisfied.
Mobilising the church part 1
Church members define the local church; they are the most valuable resource the church has and shape what ministries the church carries out. By helping members to identify their Skills and Talents, and their Spiritual Gifts, they are better equipped to discover places of service in the church.
Mobilising the church part 2
In the second part of Mobilising the Church we shall continue to look at a persons spiritual gifts as well as other aspects of his unique personal profile such as availability of time, any sense of calling, a strong heart’s desire to impact a particular area of need and so on.
Making the best use of time part 1
Most people struggle with the use of their time. This describes some very practical ways of planning your time, particularly prioritising your daily diary. it is based on the Insight Time Management system developed by Charles Hobbs
Making the best use of time part 2
Careful planning and prioritising time ensures that you maximise the use of your time and end each day satisfied
Watch, Enjoy and be Equipped!
Look back, look forward
2015 has ended and with it the final date has passed for the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved. How successful have been the efforts to tackle them?
Recently I read a helpful article by Chris Hoy on the Overseas Development Institute’s website which gives some indication of areas of success and failure. This is far from the full story but at least gives some indication. The article is brief but for those of us who have been involved working with churches in some of the relevant areas of the world it is both encouraging and sobering to see what has happened. There is also a helpful short video from the United Nations Development Programme.
What were the MDGs?
In 2000, at a UN Summit, the goals were defined with a target date of 2015. In 2002, in Monterrey, Mexico, an international consensus was agreed for financing development. In 2005 specific ways of providing the funds were agreed by the G8 finance ministers.
The eight goals were:
- To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- To achieve universal primary education
- To promote gender equality
- To reduce child mortality
- To improve maternal health
- To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- To ensure environmental sustainability
- To develop a global partnership for development
Four of the encouraging results are that:
- Extreme poverty has more than halved, falling from almost half the developing world population in 1990 to around 14% today
- Previous disparities between boys’ and girls’ enrolment in primary education no longer exist, on average, for the developing world
- Between 2000 and 2013, tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives.
- More than two and a half billion people gained access to clean drinking water since 1990
Sadly, two of the disappointing ones are that
- The global maternal mortality rate fell far short of the target and, with the present rate of progress, the MDG will not be reached even by 2030
- Giving people access to an improved sanitation facility also fell far short
As churches continue to seek to help impact and support their communities it is good to know what the larger goals are and how we can integrate our efforts with the wider community. As we now enter a new phase, with a target date of 2030, let’s play our part in helping to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
There are 17 goals with 169 targets. The headlines are:
- No poverty
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Zero hunger
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Good health and well-being
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all
- Quality education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Gender equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Clean water and sanitation
Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
- Affordable and clean energy
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Decent work and economic growth
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
- Industry, Innovation, Infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
- Reduced inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries
- Sustainable cities and communities
Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Responsible consumption, production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Climate action
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Life below water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
- Life on land
Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
- Partnerships for goals
Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
It would be easy to be cynical as not all of the MDGs were achieved, but let’s not be put off by the ambition of the new goals. For the sake of our fellow human beings let us be conscious of these goals as we help to affect communities in which we have churches for the better.
- How many people will there be in the world in 2100 compared to now?
- How many babies are born per woman in different regions of the world?
- What percentage of relevant aged girls are enrolled in primary school worldwide?
- What is the average life expectancy across the world – 50, 60 or 70?
To find the answers to these and many more questions I urge you to watch The Data Lecture by Hans Rosling. He does not present the data as dry figures but relates them strongly to life issues facing real people.
In recent years Hans Rosling has revolutionised data analysis and their presentation related to social statistics. He is widely accepted as an authority. On his website www.Gapminder.org he presents data of the wealth and health of all the nations of the world over many decades. These data are able to be interrogated at will (ie by you) in dynamic graphical form (start with the ‘How to use’ tab) – I warn you it is easy to get hooked if you visit the site!
The Data Lecture
The Data Lecture was delivered at the Overseas Development Institute, London, in October 2015. In it Rosling particularly looks at the world population projections and relates them to such data as referred to in the questions above about education etc. He is an excellent communicator. Be prepared to be fascinated – and shocked. It is about 1½ hours long but is easy and interesting viewing; it could even be viewed during the Christmas holiday.
Enjoy, and be educated!
Here is a book to request as a Christmas present!
It would be naïve to think of ‘African culture’ as homogeneous. Nevertheless, in this substantial book (600+ pages) Richard Dowden, former Africa editor for the Economist, draws from three decades of personal experience to examine several cultural issues which are manifest in many African countries in a way that I found enlightening. He then considers specifics related to fourteen nations from different parts of the continent.
To remind the reader of the size of Africa the first few pages show diagrams with substantial nations – The United States of America, China, India – superimposed on the outline of Africa. Each seems relatively small compared to Africa and these serve as a reminder of the danger of over simplification when trying to understand the African continent, which embraces 54 nations. (As an aside, you may like to follow this link for an interesting presentation of similar data).
Through the book the author alludes to many examples of cultural issues, particularly those which differ from the Western mind-set. It is helpful to realise that there are no right/wrong stances on many cultural issues; they just differ. So it is important to read this book with an enquiring mind. Let’s touch on a few examples.
The concept of the nuclear family is foreign to the practice of much of African culture where the extended family is normal. In addition to the biological parents others are often involved in a child’s up-bringing who may have as much influence as the mother and father; parents’ siblings, grand-parents etc. Life is lived very openly; ‘private space’ is a western concept.
Finance and material goods
The visitor may be offended by open requests for money or goods – even interpreted as begging – but this is the norm in many African cultures.
Most African nations have a President, a post that was first established when independence from a colonial power was granted. Yet to vote him (or occasionally her) out of office after, perhaps, two terms of five years is foreign to an African mind-set. The Big Man is not for voting in and out; he has status that puts him above popular will. Dowden also shows how the relationship with the former colonising nation may operate.
When considering specific nations Dowden masterfully guides us through the historical and political issues most prevalent in each, not always being complimentary to the former colonial power. The nations he considers in some detail are Uganda, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia. These overviews do, themselves, cause the reader to realise the widely differing nature of African nations, and their cultures and practices.
What about the effects of AIDS? Where does China fit into Africa’s future? How do aid agencies cope in conflict areas? What is the impact of Islam? What is the future for Africa? The early euphoria after independence often gave way to incompetent military rule and economic decline in many nations. And yet there is an African optimism that does not easily get suppressed. Is that optimism well-founded? You will have to read Africa – Altered states, ordinary miracles to find the author’s view!
Effective Spirit-led administration is one of the keys to helping churches in their commission to fulfil the Great Commission. This annual conference, organised and hosted by New Life Church in Milton Keynes, has spread its wings this year by inviting an international speaker from Bethel Church, Redding, USA. I do not know Paul personally but have heard much about him and am pleased to pass on the brochure details.
An incredibly gifted administrator Paul has a passion for seeing the gift of administration released in the church today. He first trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse, and then transferred to the prison service where he became a prison governor with a vision to see lives transformed and restored.
A call into full-time Christian ministry led him from the United Kingdom to Bethel Church, Redding where he serves as the Senior Administrator. He runs a week-long School of Kingdom Administration that has blessed many people from around the world, helping both individuals and churches to value the gift of administration and those who have it. To find out more about Paul please visit www.paulmanwaring.com
Who should attend?
This training day will be valuable to everyone working in administrative roles, whether in a church or a secular organisation. Paul has extensive experience in both spheres, and will encourage you to hone your skills, and your ability to partner with the Holy Spirit whatever your workplace.
If administration is a key part of your job, discover how to introduce Kingdom values into your workplace.
Format of the day
The proposed programme is:
10am – Registration
10:15 am – Welcome and worship
10:45 am – Session 1
11:55 am – Session 2
1:00pm – Lunch
2:00pm – Session 3
3:15pm – Q&A
4:00pm – Finish
I recently read an excellent article on the Towinsome website. I felt it was so good and thought provoking I would like to point people to it, especially leaders. Although it is written primarily for non-’Western’ cultures it raises some very interesting and challenging points about assumptions it is easy to make. Thanks Andy for writing this.
“The things that go without being said are some of the most important parts of culture.” – E. Randolph Richards
I am not anti-American. Neither am I anti-leadership.
But I am going to list 10 reasons not to read American books on leadership, especially regarding church leadership.
These kind of books seem especially laden with tacit values that may have been contextually true in the place of writing, but are definitely not true in many other places.
1. Requirement of being a Linear-active planner, therefore eliminating most people in the world from ever being comfortable wearing this type of leadership.
According to the Richard Lewis model of culture, most Multi-actives could not be successful leaders because they will not be strategic, logical, planned or on task, and most Reactives could not be successful leaders because they do not initiate, create or drive. The problem is, I know many godly, faithful and yes, successful leaders who break all of Maxwell’s laws and don’t cultivate any of Covey’s habits.
2. Homogenization of leadership personality type (the “Extrovert Ideal”)
Susan Cain in her popular book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking is good on this. Her book was extremely successful, but it hasn’t changed the ingrained American leadership culture. I can remember wishing I was a Myers Briggs ESTJ (because all the leaders I admired were ESTJs), even though I am INTP, an introvert. “Introversion – along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness – is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” – Susan Cain, Quiet
To read on click here…
I am seeking to answer questions sent to me. If you have any feel free to write to me with ‘Question’ in the subject line.
This one is about delegation
As an administrator I am caught between the 2 worlds of the ‘doing the thing yourself’ world & the ‘delegate it to others and keep myself free’ world. Right now I am in the 1st world and how should I get out of it. Because at the end it finally stops with me and so I might as well do it because if others don’t do it properly then I have to do it anyway.
This is a familiar challenge to the efficient and gifted administrator (and maybe others!). I think there are three things to recognise and consider.
On my business card I have ‘Pursuing Excellence’. I am a great believer in doing things well. I believe this is God’s heart (at creation he repeatedly looked on what he had created and said it was good Gen 1:4, 10 etc). I long for the day when the world comes to the church to find out how to do things well. This is the philosophy behind the Ministry Health Checks I carry out to help churches with their ministries with the poor ie how to evaluate a ministry and improve it, with an action plan to help them.
But beware perfectionism. That can be a rotten ‘master’ and lead to unnecessary attention to detail. Only God is perfect. To aim high is good. To strive to be perfect will only lead to frustration and disappointment, even burnout.
We need each other; it is no accident that we are called the body of Christ. In I Cor 12 and elsewhere Paul uses the analogy of the body to show that we are not all the same; to try to ‘do it all’ yourself will lead to failure as this is not God’s plan. ‘If the foot should say, “because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body’ (I Cor 12:15). It is not easy to feed yourself with your feet nor to walk on your hands! Each needs the other.
So, as an administrator who is used to getting things done try to be disciplined in being willing to get others involved. Not only will it save you from burnout but, if approached appropriately, people like to be asked and so you are blessing them! At first it may take a bit longer but as people develop you will be the winner with more time available to you for other purposes.
3. Developing others
As a corollary to the above try to delegate strategically so that the other person’s skills are being developed. I acknowledge that someone may not do it as well as you at first but we all have to learn. To give a responsibility or task to someone and show them how to do it is a great opportunity to teach them and develop their skills. So to keep a task to yourself can even be seen as selfish!
Jesus himself delegated. When feeding the 5000 he handed the rolls and fish to his disciples to distribute. I don’t believe this was only about getting the food distributed more quickly. It also developed their faith. Can you imagine their surprise when they say the bread multiplying in their hands?! And this was despite the fact that they had just returned from a ministry trip when they saw the miraculous happen (see Mark 6).
Delegation can and should be strategic. Next time you are tempted to get on and do something yourself, stop! Consider if there is someone else you can bless by inviting them to do it with or for you.