E-mail Etiquette for Busy Leaders

We’ve all gotten emails that either wasted our time, took us off task, or stirred up our emotions because someone just dumped on us. Email is both a blessing and a curse. One study discovered that we waste over eight hours a week from the distraction caused by emails [1]. Yikes! If you’re a busy pastor, ministry leader, or business professional, we can probably help each other by incorporating some simple e-mail etiquette pointers.

E-mail etiquette:

  1. Keep emails brief and to the point. Put the key message you want to convey right up front.
  2. Limit emails to one main subject. Try not to mix several subjects into one email.
  3. Don’t ‘Cc’ everybody. If you need to copy your email to another, make sure it goes only to the person who needs to get it, not to everybody that may have received the initial email.
  4. Don’t email messages that are emotional. If you need to communicate something emotional, criticize someone, or give negative feedback, pick up the phone and speak to the person. Or better yet, talk to them face-to-face. It’s easy to take an emotional email the wrong way.
  5. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE YELLING!
  6. Avoid the power play game by copying the email recipient’s boss. Sometimes it’s appropriate to copy the boss for information purposes. But if you’re trying to coerce the recipient by leveraging the boss’s influence, that’s not fair.
  7. Include your contact info in your signature.
  8. Re-read your email before you press “send.”

Any email tips you’ve discovered that make emails more useful?


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[1] www.drthomasjackson.com/pdf/Bad%20Habits.rtf

Are you a Transactional Leader or a Transformational Leader?

In a seminar I was privileged to hear Dr. James Galvin speak on leadership. He’s authored many books on the subject and has consulted with such organizations as the Willow Creek Assocation, Zondervan, and Wycliffe. He explained a concept called “The Full Range Leadership Model” which contrasts transactional leadership from transformational leadership. In this post I contrast these leadership styles. You can find a really cool visual that describes the two here.

Essentially transactional leadership is “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” At times we must lead as transactional leaders. For example, we set a ministry or organizational goal and when a staffer helps that goal get met, a reward comes. In contrast, however, we should seek to grow our leadership so that we lead more often as transformational leaders.

Based on the descriptions below, how would others describe your default leadership patterns? The first four represent transactional leaders. The last five characterize transformational leaders.

TRANSACTIONAL LEADERS:

  • I often avoid getting involved. I tend to be passive.
  • I loosely monitor what’s happening in the ministry and step in only if things go really bad.
  • I set clear goals and standards and closely monitor the staff and step in when things begin to get off track.
  • I set clear goals, provide needed support, and praise good performance.

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS:

  •  I listen to others and coach them to bring out their best.
  • I ask others for their thoughts and perspectives.
  • I’m genuinely positive, enthusiastic, and cast a compelling vision.
  • I often talk about shared mission, vision, and values with the team.
  • My simple presence can inspire others’ confidence.

Find a few trusted friends and ask them to share with you where they’d place you on this scale.

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What Every Leader Needs: Silence and Solitude

In my last blog post I suggested that the cure to our noisy, frenzied, busy world lies in practicing silence and solitude. I shared some quotes and key Scriptures that relate to these spiritual disciplines. In this post I suggest reasons why we should practice silence and solitude and some ways to begin to build that practice into your life.

In essence, silence and solitude are tools God uses to restore our souls by breaking engagements with the world. This discipline is really more of a state of heart than a place. Granted, it does include away-ness from others, but as you mature you can actually be in a huge crowd and experience the rejuvenating power of solitude. It can create the ability to carry around with you your own portable sanctuary, sacred place, place of rest, connection to God even in a loud, distracting world.On the other hand you can become a hermit and never experience the power of solitude.

Before I give you my suggestions, read this funny story.

A monk newly initiated into his order was told that he’d have to spend the initial 20 years of training in complete silence. He was told that he would only be allowed to say two words every three years. After 3 years of studiously keeping this vow he was summoned before the Abbot and asked if he had anything to say, in two words or less. He replied, “Food bad.” Three more years went by when he was again summoned before the Abbot. “Well, do you have anything to say now,” the monk was asked. “Bed hard,” was the answer. After three more years the Abbot found our friend and asked him if he’d like to speak. “I quit!” said the monk. “Well, I’m not surprised,” said his Abbot. “You’ve done nothing but complain since you arrived.” (source unknown)

Now, the practical benefits of practicing silence and solitude and tips for building it into your life.

Practical benefits of practiing silence and solitude

1. It breaks the power of hurry.

It breaks the adrenalin addiction, the “have to do” mentality of life. Willard explains it this way. The person who is capable of doing nothing might be capable of refraining from doing the wrong thing. And then perhaps he or she would be better able to do the right thing.[1]

2. It brings spiritual renewal.

Francis de Sales said (1500’s), “There is no clock, no matter how good it may be, that doesn’t need resetting and rewinding twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition, at least once a year it must be taken apart to remove the dirt clogging it, straighten out bent parts, and repair those worn out. In like manner, every morning and evening a man who really takes care of he heart must rewind it for God’s service . . . . Moreover, he must often reflect on his condition in order to reform and improve it. Finally, at least once a year he must take it apart and examine every piece in detail, that is every affection and passion, in order to repair whatever defects there may be.[2]

3. It reminds us that life will still go on without us

It interrupts the cycle of constantly having to manage things and be in control. It breaks us from a sense of being indispensable.

4. It clears the storm of life and mind for wise decision making and planning.

Jesus illustrates this in Luke 6:12-13 before he chose his disciples. “And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”

5. It creates inner space to hear the voice of God.

After Elijah’s power encounter on Mt Carmel with the Baal worshippers he fled because he heard that Queen Jezebel had a price on his head. He hid in a cave and whined to God. God told him to step outside the cave and cover his face because he was about to speak to him. A storm and wind and earthquake and fire appeared, but God was not in any of those. Rather, God spoke in a whisper. 1Kings 19.2…And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

6. It helps us disconnect from the world and deeply connect to our soul.

Henry Nouwen said, “In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding.” Scaffolding is the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, friends, family, TV, radio, books, job, technology, work, achievement, our bank account, etc.[3]

7. It helps us control our tongue

If frees us from the tyranny we hold over others with our words. When we are silent, it is much more difficult to manipulate and control the people and circumstances around us. Words are the weapons we lay down when we practice silence. We give up our insistence of being heard and obeyed.

8. It helps us with the other disciplines

It enhances the other disciplines.


Practical tips to incorporate silence and solitude into your life.

1. Plan for it.

2. Find a quiet place.

3. Be considerate of those who will be affected.

4. Zip it

James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

5. Expect some apprehension.

Our busy world often hinders us from looking within, so don’t quit if deep things in your soul begin to surface

6. Length?

Walk before run.

7. Realize that this discipline comes more easily to some.

I recommend a great book to understand your particular spiritual pathway. It’s a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.

What do you find most difficult about silence and solitude?


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[1]Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p. 359.

[2] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 94.

[3]ibid,p. 92

How to Break the Power of Hurry

We live in a world that bombards us with incessant visual stimuli and noise. It’s easy to become addicted to that noise without realizing it. We often turn the radio on in the car when we drive. We leave the TV on, even though we aren’t watching it. And our cell phones are seldom silenced. Not only do we live in a noisy world, but we live in a busy one as well. Our time saving devices (cell phones, computers, faster internet connections) relentlessly remind us that we should get more done in less time so that we have more time to get even more done. As a result we are addicted not only to noise, but to hurry. John Ortberg says that, “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.”[1] So, what do we do?

Ortberg also writes about an article that appeared in a newspaper in Tacoma, Washington, a few years ago about Tattoo the basset hound.

Tattoo didn’t intend to go for an evening run, but when his owner shut his leash in the car door and took off for a drive with Tattoo still outside the vehicle, he had no choice.

Motorcycle officer Terry Filbert noticed a passing vehicle with something dragging behind it, “the basset hound picking them up and putting them down as fast as he could.” He chased the car to a stop, and Tattoo was rescued, but not before the dog had reached a speed of 20-25 miles per hour, rolling over several times.

He then observes that often we live like Tattoo, “our days mark by picking them up and putting them down as fast as we can.”

Hurry, noise, and incessant busyness are enemies of a healthy spiritual life. I can attest to that in my life. It easily sneaks up on you. But God does not want us to conform to a superficial lifestyle marked by incessant noise and busyness. The Apostle Paul wrote these familiar words.

Rom. 12.2 (NIV) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I believe the cure for this malady lies in two related spiritual disciplines: silence and solitude. In this blog I quote some famous people who wrote about these disciplines and list some key Bible verses on the subject. I hope this blog will stir your thoughts about building this practice into your life.

In my next blog I will list ways that silence and solitude can help us become better leaders and Christians and I suggest a simple plan that can help incorporate silence and solitude into your life, if you’ve not yet done so.

But first, some simple definitions.

Solitude: The practice of temporarily being absent from other people (in isolation or anonymity) and other things so that you can be present with God.

Silence: The practice of voluntarily and temporarily abstaining from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought.

Powerful quotes on silence and solitude:

Henri Nowen: “Without (silence and solittude) it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”[2] “It is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn’t be better served by our silence than by our words.”? (The Way of the Heart)

Dallas Willard: “… this one (silence and solitude) is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”[3]

Pascal: “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”[4]

Austin Phelps (a pastor in the1800s): “It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.”[5]

Significant Scriptures on silence and solitude:

Eccl. 3:7 there is. . . a time to be silent …

Eccl. 5: 2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Psa. 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God…

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

How has silence and solitude helped you become a better leader?

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[1] John Ortberg, The Life Youve Always Wanted, p. 84.

[2]Devotional Classics, p. 95.

[3]Dallas Willard, Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 161.

[4]Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p. 358.

[5] Whitney, The Spiritual Disciplines, p. 194.

Is this the #1 Reason Why Leaders Succeed? Take this quiz and find out.

Bill George, Harvard Business School Professor and best selling author thinks self awareness or the lack thereof is a key to why leaders succeed or not. When he did research for his book True North he interviewed 125 authentic leaders. These leaders revealed that self-awareness defined the essence of great leadership. You can read his article hereRead the follow 10 questions and rate your self-awareness.

  1. Am I aware of my strengths and gifts?
  2. Am I aware of where satan trips me up the most?
  3. Am I aware of my internal mind chatter that drains me?
  4. Am I aware of how I come across to others?
  5. Am I aware of unhealthy relational patterns I bring from my family of origin?
  6. Am I aware of how much God loves me, despite my faults?
  7. Am I aware of how much God loves those who give me fits?
  8. Am I aware of when circumstances are setting me up for a fall?
  9. Am I aware of my deepest longings and dreams?
  10. Am I aware of my blind spots?

Honestly answer all 10 questions.

Did any area of unawareness jump out at you?

If so, what should be your next step?

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