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Forced positivity is grim, right? The weight of being exceedingly cheerful, upbeat and enthusiastic in all your emails all of the time, can wear the most resilient person down. Is there a different way to gain the action you need from your the person you are emailing?

I have been working with groups of people who run international clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies to test out new drugs. Often the people they need to influence in their emails have many other and competing priorities. They may be doctors, regulators, medical administrators, a raft of other professionals in their own organisation to name a few.  The task is to find, enrol and conduct the trial with suitable patients. This work requires project organisation, co-ordination and liaison over months, sometimes years.

Delays can cause a whole project to fail. Delays increase costs enormously. Delays cause burn out in staff.

I have seen these professionals work really hard, sending out emails like hamsters in wheels. They think that if they pedal harder, they will get replies with the information they need. Unfortunately they don’t always get action, or replies to their emails as fast they would like. They are sometimes demoralised, feeling that they put in more effort than those to whom they write.

What can be done to improve things?

We have created the following tips:

  • Rapport. Build a relationship with your top email recipients. You may never have met them, they may reside in a different country, neither of you may be in your first language, yet try small talk. Remember their holidays (“How was Crete?”), national events, weather, food and families. It’s harder to do than face to face or Skype yet it’s still worth a try.
  • Impact. In as neutral, non-judgemental and non-blaming way as possible, point out the consequences of delay. The impact on the project, on other team members, on other parts of the trial. Help your recipient understand that how they prioritise is important. Thank them (a lot) for helping you to keep both of you to the overall, agreed timescales and schedule.
  • Telephone. If all else fails, phone them. It’s amazing how many times having the courage to try another method can make a difference, speed up understanding, help you understand their perspective, generate good will and a result which works for both of you.

The most important tip of all though, is to connect with “Why”. It’s key to communicate why the work is important, how it connects to purpose. So often with emails we communicate “what” we need, “how” it should be done and “when” by. We can forget or leave implicit the “Why”.

With “Why” we can tap into our own inner motivation to produce good work, and help others do this too.

When training people (this particular workshop is called “Writing for Impact”) I love to see participants put down the burden of forced positivity. The resulting negativity is draining and a dirge.

I love to help participants move towards more balanced, nuanced, “I’m OK, You’re OK” ways of working by email. It’s great to help them gain action which genuinely puts a smile back on their faces. This small change probably helps their email recipients smile a little more often too.

If you have fallen into the trap of enforced positivity, and would like new perspective and new skills to behave differently, get in touch. I’d love to help you, your team and your organisation gain more action from your emails too.

Gill How loves to help people develop their professional skills to achieve their career ambitions and help their organisations become more effective. Please get in touch  for an exploratory conversation about how her skills could support you or your organisation’s success. She has availability to work as a coach, a specialist trainer or as part of your project team.

Feedback from recent international workshops:

  • The aspect of the course I found particularly useful was discussing real-life examples, challenges and concerns shared by some of the other attendees. I appreciate it that Gill helped create a positive environment conducive to exchange of thoughts and ideas.
  • The very gripping, effective and useful training. I was really impressed. The session time passed quickly. The trainer is competent, responsive, attentive and friendly.
  • This workshop was rather interesting. Several things are new to me. The coach is very civilized, friendly and supportive.


Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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