A recent issue of Business 2.0 magazine has a feature with a number of top executives and business world celebrities (Balmer, Zander, Cuban, etc) providing advice and insight. Most of them are the typical “power of positive thinking” type of thing, but a couple of them were really pretty good:
Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail. — Eliot Spitzer (NY Attorney General)
I really like this one because all subtlety is lost in email or IM. It’s so easy to fire back a quick response without reading it from the recipient’s perspective… and without the benefit of tone-of-voice or facial expressions, statements that were meant to sound neutral can seem overly direct or even derisive (I think this is especially true for tech professionals, many of whom are either very direct to begin with or not always strong on social subtlety).
Sometimes, you just have to pick up a phone or walk down the hall to make your point — in addition to making sure that the message is received the way it’s intended, it’s also often faster. For all the convenience of email and IM, the lack of subtlety and clarity often means it takes three and four replies to get a point across. So what might be a five minute conversation in person takes an afternoon to resolve via back-and-forth messages.
When you get out of bed in the morning and think about what you want to do that day, ask yourself whether you’d like others to read about it on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. — Warren Buffet
This one struck me because it’s so easy to go through the day bouncing from one task to the next without thinking about the big picture or how the outcome of those tasks is received. If you’re planning your day with accountability to a larger audience in mind, you’re more likely to focus on the right thing instead of just the next thing in front of you. It’s not hard to imagine that larger audience — your company’s management, its shareholders, your customers, your family, etc.