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Coach's Corner--August 18, 2008

Readers talk back

It’s time again to hear from readers. I’ll share your tips on managing e-mail, along with comments on several earlier columns.

Managing e-mail (July 14): Many readers have useful strategies for managing e-mail. One cleans out her inbox completely once a day, forwarding some e-mails to online to-do lists for future attention. “The idea is that you manage what you can manage quickly (two minutes or less) when you first open e-mail, then you forward other e-mails to the day you want to work on their content or request.” More information on this approach is available at or in Mark Hurst’s book, “Bit Literacy.”

Another reader, who receives about 300 e-mails a week from many sources, organizes contacts by company/organization and first name of the person. “This system keeps me organized by where the e-mail is coming from, followed by what department, and finally by subject or person who sent it.”

Finally, one reader suggests “a ‘Golden Rule’ for e-mail: Send unto others what you would have them send unto you. Don’t ‘reply to everyone’ unless everyone needs to see your reply. Don’t forward jokes to everyone in your address book. Be civil, but also be as brief as possible. And please proof your e-mail before sending it!”

Returning to work (July 28): A reader noted that cover letters are not optional if mailing a résumé. Good point. There are times, especially with online applications, when cover letters aren’t an option, but if you can include one, you should.

As a number of people have pointed out, providing context for employment gaps is harder with automated résumé systems. As one said, “you have little opportunity to present yourself, you just have to fit in their little boxes.” The emergence of online systems presents new challenges to applicants. When applying for jobs online, make sure that you carefully plan your response in each section. Then, follow up with mail or phone contacts if possible, and bring hard copies of your résumé when you interview.

Multitasking (May 12): Gaining input from her boss worked well for one reader. She made lists of her assignments, and when they were overwhelming, would take them to her boss for his input on priorities. “If there was a time crunch, we could reallocate assignments. … He knew better what was going on and the amount of work. It reduced stress on me, because I wasn’t trying to do all of them all at once and managed my workload better."

Clarifying expectations (July 21):
The column on clarifying expectations drew this question: “Many colleagues just don’t understand that time spent planning up front saves time down the road by avoiding mistakes and misunderstandings. How do you encourage people to see the value in taking time up front?” As this reader noted, many companies reward “firefighting”; the challenge is to slow down and value planning. Changing this requires changes in the culture as a whole. Each person can help by asking questions up front, thinking about “what ifs” and supporting others who are trying to take a longer view. More on this in a future column.

The last word comes from a reader who observes, “If you’re not committed to your boss’ success, you won’t be around very long. That’s the way the world works.” Be committed to your boss’ success and your colleagues’ success — it’ll lead to success for you, too.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted August 17, 2008
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