meeting presence

Email Overload

What’s going on here?

Our research, completed in 2010, revealed that the average person spends 30 minutes PER DAY deleting, or thinking about deleting, email!!

When did email become our work product and why do we have so much?!  It’s getting out of hand.

No one expects you to be a drone and tap away at your computer endlessly, tied to your machine for every minute of every day, but 3o minutes deleting email?  Over the course of a standard work-week, that’s 2 1/2 hours.  In a month, 10 hours; in a year 120 (15 eight-hour workdays).  That’s a lot of time you’ll never get back.  And that’s just you.  Multiply that over your project team, department, or company, and you just might feel a little ill.

Why?  Why do we get so much email that we don’t read?  I’m not talking about email lists that you sign up for giving you the latest sales from your favorite store.  Those aren’t counted in this research.  This research focused specifically on work-related email messages that were sent by real people to real people.

Does this mean that, even after all this time, many people still don’t understand how to use email effectively?  Yes, indeed it does.

What can you do?  They answers are not as simple as they appear on the surface (as is true for our most persistent problems).  For the sake of this article, we’re going to take a look at how a simple shift in your attitude toward email can help reduce the number of unwanted messages that you send and receive.

First, understand the purpose of the “TO” and “CC” fields. “TO” requires action.  “CC” requires none, it is a “for your information only” indicator.

Second, use “CC” sparingly.  Sending your manager or team leader multiple messages every week in which no action is required from them is just an annoying way to say, “look, Boss, I’m doing my job!”; “look at me!  look at me!”; “still here, working away!”  like some yappy little dog.  If you don’t feel trusted to get your work done, then that’s a different conversation you need to have face to face with your team lead.

Finally, resist the temptation to “CC” your team lead / manager whenever you feel a dispute is in the works and you want an “official” record of your position. This culture of “CYA” – “cover your … ahem, derriere” leads to unnecessary email messages and wasted time.  Take your dispute off-line and work it out in person.  It will be infintely better, trust me.

We get too much email.  We send too much email.  We delete too much email.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Start taking control through the judicious use of the “CC” field.

This article is the first in a series designed to help reduce your email overload.  Please share with us any comments / stories you have about your own email situation.

Virtual Meeting Confusion

Virtual Meeting ConfusionIt never fails to amaze us how many different places people can be in and yet have the ability to come together for a common cause.  The virtual meeting.  It’s fantastic!

Companies and people have the freedom and the technology to truly be flexible.  We can — and do — meet with people around the globe without ever getting on an airplane.

Most of us take this for granted.  The fantastic has become the pedestrian.

We are reminded that everything has its pros and cons.

One stumbling block that our coaches are constantly asked to provide answers for is the challenge of everyone talking at once in a virtual meeting.

This can, and does, happen in any meeting, anywhere.  When everyone is in a room together people exchange looks — someone shrugs, someone else gestures for the most-anxious looking participant to continue — the meeting resumes.

The massive quantity and quality of unspoken body language transmitted between people is glaringly obvious in its absence.

What do you do when everyone is in their own space, shouting at their computer screen, tablet, or smartphone?

The critical first question you have to ask yourself is:

Is everyone excited or is everyone disagreeing?

Either way, you need to reign everyone in and re-establish a conversational flow.  If the former, you must do so without dampening that invaluable enthusiasm.  If the latter, you need to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in a professional manner.


1.  Reclaim the floor with a simple phrase like, “Hang on!  I want to hear everyone’s opinion, so I’m going to call on each of you, one at a time.”

2.  Use this opportunity to call on the people you know to be a little more hesitant to join in the fray, but who have good insights and contributions.

3.  Continue to call on each person until everyone has been heard and the meeting is back on track.

Thank you for reading and we’d love to hear about your experiences in virtual meetings.  Why not get the conversation started?

En Garde! Dueling Loyalties

By nature, a matrix is flexible and allows people to come together when their experience, expertise, or knowledge is best suited for the project at hand.  It allows project leaders access to resources they wouldn’t have if they were limited to those people reporting directly to them in a traditional supervisor / employee structure.

The very flexibility that makes this a viable structure, also leads to the following challenges:

  • The lack of clarity makes people unsure, they don’t know how to proceed, and minor issues quickly escalate.
  • The lack of structure makes people feel unconnected and lost as they are squeezed between competing and conflicting goals.
  • Too many meetings, too much email, and too much personality drama.

In a perfect work environment, you would work half of each day for each team, assuming you are only part of two teams.  But our workplaces aren’t perfect and you constantly need to juggle these expectations.

What can you do to increase your effectiveness within this structure?

Have a presence with people — Respond to their requests, add value to others and they will be more likely to do the same for you.

Be clear about decisions – Is someone asking you for input, an opinion, a vote, or an actual decision?

Be proactive with conflict — Deal with tensions and misunderstandings quickly and explicitly. Often, simply acknowledging disagreements aids in a speedy resolution.

Clarify expectations — don’t assume!  As with any team, priorities shift.  When you are on multiple teams, it is incredibly easy for them to shift unbeknownst to you.  A quick email to confirm action items, goals, objectives, perhaps even which processes to use, can save you a lot of frustration.

Thank you for reading.

Have a comment?  Why not get the conversation started? ( :

Toxic Texting

Recently, a client confided that his staff’s texting habits are beyond frustrating for him; that staff members “whip” out their cell phones and begin texting at any time, and at all times!

Sound familiar? Is this disrespectful or efficient?

This client assumed these texts were of a personal nature and he wondered why he was paying people to have personal conversations on his dime. Would these same people answer a personal phone call in the middle of a work conversation or meeting?

When is it okay to text at work?

Each of us is likely to have a different answer to that question, based on our generation, industry, function, economic status, and perhaps even where we live.

We know that some, perhaps many, of your texts are legitimate, work-related messages. Texting can be a quick and efficient way to have a work question answered, to find out where the meeting was re-located to, or to find out where a co-worker is if you need to find them.

Ask yourself:

What is your body language when you text? How do others interpret that? If you are smiling and chuckling, does that tell people around you that you’re having a personal conversation? If you look serious or are frowning, will other’s think your text is work-related?

What about if you are working independently in your cube or even in a group setting, what assumptions might people make when they walk by and see you texting?

Next time your phone alerts you to a new text, stop and consider what is going on around you.  Are you in a setting with other people who are expecting you to pay attention, to be engaged with them? If so, how are they likely to interpret your actions if you are distracted with texting? What do you suppose they are thinking about you and your commitment to the task at hand? No matter how discreet you believe you are being, everyone around you is aware that you are texting.

Why does it matter, anyway? We live in a society where texting is fast becoming the go-to mode of communication. Even my 72-year-old mother has a smartphone and sends me text messages. Who cares if I read it and respond during a part of a meeting in which I have nothing to contribute at that moment?

Therein lies the rub.

People do care, and they care a lot.

There are unintended consequences of allowing personal conversations to distract you from the work that you are being paid to do. Short of a bona-fide emergency, these distractions often make a person appear unprofessional to their peers and leaders. Just last week, two co-workers were clearly texting back and forth during a meeting and the presenter was distracted by their behavior. We wondered if they (the co-workers) thought that no one could figure out what they were doing or if they just didn’t care that they were acting like junior-high school students passing notes?

Are you a Toxic Texter?

TRY THIS — for the next two days, track how much time you spend engaging in personal text messages while at work. Include time spent reading, pondering, composing, sending, editing, and checking for a response.   Additionally, keep track of your work-related text messages.

Evaluate your results. It might be time to turn off texting while at work. If you’re not sure if your workplace is “text friendly”, ask! Having an explicit conversation about acceptable and unacceptable electronic behaviors can be relationship-building and help bridge distance.

Happy Holidays and thank you for reading!

Meeting Presence

You have a lot of meetings across a variety of platforms: face-to-face, phone and/or video conferencing, online conferences, and group chats (to just name a few).  Do you feel like you spend too much time in these meetings? Many people, of course, do!  So what can you do about it?

You can evaluate your “Meeting Presence” — the value that you get and give in each of your meetings.  This will provide a stronger understanding of which meetings are important for you to attend, and which meetings you can opt-out of.  Understanding your meeting presence will save you time and energy every single day.  Wouldn’t it be cool to actually save an hour or more each day?

There are several key criteria in determining your meeting presence:

The most obvious is the exchange of ideas and information.  Ask yourself — “What am I contributing to the content?  What content contributions am I receiving?”

The less obvious, but equally important criteria, is the building of relationships.  Ask yourself, “Am I getting to know people better?  Am I learning about others’ work habits?”  Getting to know your team members and their individual and collective work habits is an increasingly key component to success into today’s virtual work environment.

Even less obvious, but fundamentally crucial to your continued success, is the development of your virtual presence.  Ask yourself, “Are others learning about who I am, how I work, and my role within the team?”  In the increasingly virtual work environment, you must create and convey a positive virtual presence in order for you and your team to achieve optimal success.

Over the course of the next week, at the end of each meeting, take the time to reflect on this criteria and on your meeting presence.  Let this evaluation guide your attendance at future meetings – and see if you actually begin to save time!

Thank you for reading, and we’ll be in touch soon.
Your friends at Bridging Distance