“I get a lot of email” is your problem, not mine.

That statement was one made within a team of seven I currently am coaching within a project management space. The more intimate a team gets as they work together, the more direct they can be, especially when they feel they are in a safe space. Honest, direct communication will usually turn out to be a good thing, I think.

And by the way, I did let them know I would be sharing this anonymously. Who said it, and to whom they said it really doesn’t matter: I share it because I’ll bet we all have felt the same thing within our own workplace at times without feeling we could come right out and voice our frustration.

GMail Fail

For one thing, many of us have fallen into a habit of convenience with email: We hit “send” when we should be picking up the phone or having a face to face conversation with someone. Have this discussion with a group of people, and you discover your devil’s advocates in any bunch pretty quickly: They are eager to cite a litany of good reasons for when email can in fact be better.

Then there are those who will suggest more email etiquette, or specify new Rules of Engagement (I will admit I have tried that too).

However ultimately, I think the person who impatiently blurted out “‘I get a lot of email’ is your problem, not mine” on our project team was right. As with so many other things, the only behavior you can control is your own, and you have to set a better example.

Model the behavior you want others to repeat.

Lead, and refuse to follow.

If you want less email, send less.

If you want shorter emails, make yours shorter.

If you want priority lists or calls to action in emails, put them in the ones you send too.

If you don’t want email avoidance to happen, don’t you be doing it either.

If you want more phone calls on emailed subjects, pick up the phone and initiate the conversation.
Ditto if you want more face to face conversations.

If you no longer want hundreds of emails in your inbox, do something about it, but YOU do it. You will just get frustrated wishing and hoping for others to change their behavior to suit you: It probably ain’t gonna happen.

Tag this one self-leadership. As Mahatma Gandhi is constantly quoted for saying, “be the change you wish to see in your world.”

We really need to listen to him once and for all.

Photo credit: GMail Fail Whale on Flickr by anonymonk


  1. says

    It’s true of email and a lot of other things. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize that need for individual responsibility and that too often leads to cumbersome, inefficient and wholly unnecessary policies designed to save members of our teams from themselves!

  2. says

    Aloha Jason, thank you for visiting, and commenting for me.
    You are spot on: These kinds of situations do highlight that need for individual responsibility. Our Hawaiian value for it is Kuleana and I have always liked that our KÅ«puna [elders] insist on defining it as “one’s personal sense of responsibility” inferring that we have to have a self-awareness and sense of self kick in to claim it.
    With teams, I often think of that chain analogy, and that it can only be as strong as the weakest link.