I recently worked with the head of a consulting team in Sydney. He was receiving a large volume of emails every day and was struggling to keep up. During our discussions I discovered that he was CC’d on every email sent to his clients by his team. This resulted in him getting over three hundred emails every day!
When I asked why he felt the need to be copied in on everything, he said that he wanted to stay ‘in the loop’ on what was happening with their clients. He was in the loop alright, and the loop was beginning to feel like a noose to him!
I reckon that in today’s email driven workplace, we risk sacrificing our ability to stay in control of our Inbox by asking to be in too many loops. For the partner involved in this example, he was totally in the loop, but his Inbox was totally out of control, causing him to experience a sense of overload.
But what if he asked his team to stop copying him on everything? Would that help? Maybe, but the risk is that his Inbox would be in control, but he would feel out of the loop. This would result in him feeling exposed to risk. Not an ideal position either.
If he left it totally up to his team to decide on what to copy him in on, he might end up confused, as they could end up copying him on the wrong things. He would feel neither in the loop nor in control.
But what if he sat down and had a conversation with them about what kinds of issues he should be copied in on and what issues he didn’t need to be copied on? What if he coached them to make better decisions when emailing? I reckon then they would copy him with purpose. He would feel in the loop, and in control of his Inbox. In this scenario, they would be supporting him.
The CC function in email is a very useful tool when used with purpose. But like any tool, it can be used in the wrong way, causing problems for others. Let’s be mindful about how we work with our colleagues, and try to make sure we reduce the friction we create for them. As leaders, let’s open up the conversation in our team and help everyone to be more productive.