When you sit down to a full-course meal, you start with an appetizer. This small plate awakens the taste buds and is an enjoyable opening to an entire dining experience. In fact, you can find restaurants that specialize in “tapas,” or small plate appetizers.
You have an opportunity to provide a professional “appetizer” nearly every day, in the form of your email signature and auto-responder messages.
Email signatures and auto responders are a great way to communicate to colleagues, clients, and those in your network–if they are done well. Even these pieces of automatic communication reflect on your professionalism. Are you using them effectively?
Here are a few tips:
- Make them complete but uncluttered. Include your name, title, phone number if you feel it would be wise, and company URL. A copy of your company logo is also a nice touch. Add other links (i.e. to your social media profiles) carefully because it’s easy to make a signature too cluttered. You might want to just simply direct people to your website and have all other connection points listed there.
- Promote with grace. Your signature is an opportunity to gently point out a product or service that may be of value to others, or share links to your latest blog posts. Keep it streamlined though…don’t add a half page of sales copy. Sometimes signatures end up being longer than emails!
Recently, I’ve been on a quest to try a dynamic signature that automatically provides a link to my latest blog post. Since I use the desktop version of Outlook (via my Office 365 subscription) I was unable to use a cloud-based service such as Wisestamp. (But I recommend it if you use Gmail or other cloud-based email.)
Right now, Live Signatures is working for me. It gives me a quick prompt when opening a new email to download my latest RSS feed so my business signature can look like this, and include links to the most recent three blog posts.
- Be warm. Some auto responders (i.e. for vacation) are clipped and cold. I once saw one that didn’t even spell out the message but used acronyms like “I’m OOTO.” (“out of the office.”) That type of response doesn’t communicate a desire to serve customers upon one’s return and is too casual for professional use.
- Connect without cliches. One of my colleagues offers an easy link on his signature to set up a brief phone/video appointment with him if the person feels the need to take the conversation further. I don’t see that often, but it’s a unique reminder of his willingness to serve, and stands out from the typical list of links and social media profiles.
- Be creative. Sign your emails professionally but with sincere warmth. Avoid using a standard closing line like “Sincerely” on every email, and instead, add one unique to that particular email. Here are some other possibilities, depending on your industry:
- Take care,
- All the best,
- Let’s talk again soon,
- Best wishes,
- Enjoy your day,
- Sincerely (can be cliche),
Use your email signature as a valuable communication appetizer to showcase your personal brand and the ways you can help people. Just remember…it’s an appetizer…not the main course, and share it tastefully.
HOPE Academy, an online school to help overwhelmed professionals excel, has launched a soft opening with its first course–and it’s free! More courses are planned on topics such as digging out from an overflowing email box, making your calendar work for you, and more. Courses will be designed to be easy to enjoy in small segments–our free course should only take you about 30 minutes.
We’re using this season between now and the end of 2016 to get your feedback and grow excitement for this community. So, during the soft launch, anyone who enrolls and completes the first free course (including adding feedback in the discussion forum) will receive a free downloadable from our Conquer Your Calendar course–information normally available for a fee.
Click here and let us know what you think!
1. Continually learn and refresh your mind.
2. Be realistic about your strengths and challenges.
3. Don’t make impulsive decisions.
4. Focus on using your gifts well and team up with people who have different talents.
5. Be sincere.
6. Do the right thing. Be ethical.
7. Be devoted to your clients and customers.
8. Honor other businesses above your own.
9. Be zealous and passionate about what you do.
10. Be optimistic and forward looking
11. Be patient in the hard or lean times.
12. Build on a foundation of values.
13. Share with others.
14. Practice hospitality.
15. Bless your haters.
16. Rejoice with others who succeed.
17. Be compassionate with those who fail
18. Practice cooperation, not competition.
19. Don’t be arrogant.
20. Be willing to network with people outside your industry.
21. Treat all clients and customers, small or large, with excellence and dignity.
22. Don’t take revenge.
23. Develop a good reputation.
24. As much as in your power, live at peace with everyone else.
25. Overcome evil with good.
Bonus: Remember Who the true Boss is.
Ask an overwhelmed professional why they are stressed, and you are likely to hear, “I have so much to do!”
When a large project looms, it’s hard to comprehend the finish line. Is it ever going to be done? Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable.
The next time you feel that way–be inspired by a 6-year-old.
The photo above was taken by the mom of three boys. She and her husband, who recently retired from military service (thank you!) are embarking on an adventure of living in an Airstream trailer and traveling the country. At one of the stops they found a beautiful rocky beach, but with access to the water was difficult.
One of her boys didn’t let the rocks stop him. Oh, being a boy, you might be guessing that he just climbed right over them. (That’s fun, too.) But instead, he methodically moved one rock at a time, clearing a sandy access path to the beach.
“He kept at it and moved every. single. rock by hand. We had come down to the beach because I was so overwhelmed at the projects we are drowning in with the#airstream and this transition of #moving and had hit a breaking point. Watching him was a real lesson in taking our challenges one rock at a time and before we know it, we have moved mountains.
The next day the ocean was full of people enjoying the water there where they could not before.” – Karen Roush
This wasn’t easy. We aren’t talking about pebbles here, and the path he cleared is not just a foot or two long.
So what can we learn from a six-year-old about tackling big projects?
Believe it can be done. With childlike faith, he believed he could make a path to the water. He didn’t think, “I’m six. There’s no way I can get down to the water.” When a large project looms, remind yourself that you are capable of accomplishing it.
Broaden your options. Sure, climbing over the rocks is an option. But it’s not that practical and can be painful. E figured out that with some work, a long-term better option could be made available.
Break it down. E moved one rock at a time. He wasn’t capable of carrying a bunch at once. With many projects, breaking them down into manageable tasks is a very helpful step.
Be diligent. One rock at a time, steady over time. He kept at it. Consistently doing the tasks needed for the larger project will reveal results in due time.
Bless others. Not only did E clear a path for himself, his work helped the rest of his family. And they left the path intact. They got the joy of watching other people take it down to the beach where they could more fully interact with the water. I bet most of them wouldn’t have figured that a six-year-old cleared the path for them. Who knows how many more will enjoy it after they leave? Think of the bigger impact of the project on your customers, clients, or those who follow your platform. Don’t underestimate the positive ripple effect it can have.
So what project do you have looming? Believe you can do it. Broaden your options. Break it down. Be diligent. And bless others. You have no excuses unless you are younger than six.
Special thanks to Essentially Wandering for permission to use this photo and their contribution to this blog post.
International Speaker, Professional Engineer, Leadership Expert…and Recovering Over-Thinker
Beth is amazing. She reads, synthesizes, and summarizes my work so that it can be shared with others. She manages and publishes my newsletter and makes sure it is distributed through social media channels. If it weren’t for her excellent work, far fewer people would have been engaged. She’s made my life easier and my work more robust. Thank you, Beth!
What HOPE says about Shelley:
Shelley is an interesting and well-spoken writer and speaker. I enjoy learning new things simply by reading her material! She’s open to my ideas, respects my gifts, and makes efforts to work ahead which smooths everyone’s workflow. She’s smart, helpful, and resilient. I’m glad we’re part of her team!
“First, I need to apologize. We understand what it means to work on a deadline, and we’ve made that difficult for you.”
I was working on an interview-style article that required a good deal of input from someone else, in this case, two business partners*. While they had agreed to be featured in the publication, they were having a challenging week and were not able to mentally focus on gathering the information I needed.
I sent a gentle reminder and received a gracious response. Instead of an excuse or request to give them some more time, I received what was essentially a professional apology, the words you read above. I was impressed and am happy to report the article went well and turned out great.
There are times in your professional life (personal too!) when you are going to have to apologize. Hopefully, your reason for an apology isn’t that you’ve purposely behaved like a jerk. But overwhelmed professionals can unintentionally cause stress to others. Maybe you have misplaced something someone else needs, or have forgotten to do something, or are feeling pulled in all directions and get snippy with a colleague. In those cases and more, a professional, sincere apology can go a long way toward keeping the relationship strong.
In the scenario above, this duo handled the apology in a way that provides an example for others. Let’s take a look at why it worked
They immediately acknowledged the need to apologize. There was no sidestepping the issue (they had broken the expected rhythm for the project) but they took responsibility for the delay. (This wasn’t a case of, “I’m sorry someone/you were offended” which puts the responsibility on the other person.)
They articulated exactly what stress they caused. “We understand deadlines, and we’ve made this difficult for you.” This wasn’t just an off-the-cuff “Sorry this is late.” It took my feelings into consideration.
They provided what I needed. In this case, they were able to not only apologize, but include the material I needed, which moved the project along. While that may not always be possible, it’s the ideal way to make amends. At the very least, giving a hard deadline for when the material would have been ready would have also been acceptable.
Apologies aren’t easy. We all want to think we are consummate pros who do all things right. But that is not realistic. You WILL have to apologize at some point. Don’t make things worse by not giving an apology well. We have plenty of poor examples in popular culture. Don’t be one of them.
*scenario has been changed to protect privacy