Do Your Emails Suck?

Not sure if your emails are missing the mark? If you’re committing any of these 15 worst email practices, they just might be compromising your professionalism and effectiveness.


Your routine workplace emails might suck if you ignore the reality that every note you send a customer, colleague or manager can project your image of professionalism, competency and courtesy—or detract from it.

So, if you don’t want your emails to suck, just avoid these worst practices.

Email Worst Practice No. 1: Not asking if everyone on a large distribution list really needs or wants to see this message. 

Email Worst Practice No. 2: Retaining long strings of email addresses that precede your actual message.

Email Worst Practice No. 3: Using an ineffective subject line like ‘Report’ or, even worse, ‘no subject.’

Email Worst Practice No. 4: Writing long, rambling sentences and paragraphs with multiple key points that make your message difficult to read and digest in a hurry.

Email Worst Practice No. 5: Using ALL CAPS or all lower-case words instead of proper capitalization.

Email Worst Practice No. 6: Including humor, sarcasm or slang that can be taken out of context, misinterpreted or appear unprofessional.

Email Worst Practice No. 7: Not using white space, bullets, sub-heads or other text breakers to make it easier for people to effectively read your message, especially when they are in a hurry.

Email Worst Practice No. 8: Sounding too formal or stuffy with a message that should be more casual and conversational.

Email Worst Practice No. 9: Attaching very long documents that could easily get caught in spam or security filters.

And your emails definitely suck if you are:

Email Worst Practice No. 10: Using ‘cc’ that displays a long distribution list instead of concealing the names with a ‘bcc.’

Email Worst Practice No. 11: Failing to keep it short and simple so the whole message can fit in a single screen without scrolling down

Email Worst Practice No. 12: Sending your response to everyone because you hit ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply to Sender.’

Email Worst Practice No. 13: Beginning them with ‘Dear Bob … ‘ instead of simply using ‘Bob ….’

Email Worst Practice No. 14: Not proofreading beyond auto spell-check and actually reading your message twice before sending it.

Email Worst Practice No. 15: Failing to determine that an email is the best method for solving this particular communication need with this person or group and better than a text, phone call or face-to-face chat.

So, there you go—simple techniques to help you project a more positive, professional and courteous image and create emails that don’t suck. Your readers will notice and appreciate the difference.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com" www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  

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  • Next up: Easing Pain Points and Growing a Business in Northeast Ohio: COSE Member Profile

    Easing Pain Points and Growing a Business in Northeast Ohio: COSE Member Profile

    As part of our ongoing series getting to know our members and the issues facing their businesses, we sat down with Damon Piatek, president and founder of Welke Customs Brokers USA. Hear what he had to say about easing customer pain points and growing his business in Cleveland.

    Welke Customs Brokers USA provides comprehensive Customs and Logistics services to a large number of well-regarded importers and exporters, including Customs clearances, compliance, training and education and cargo insurance. Since our inception in 2008, we have redefined the term "quality services" by providing our clients Personal Concierge Care through our dedicated and highly qualified customer service staff. Welke Customs Brokers USA are certified members of Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). Due to our exceptional internal controls, Welke has been showcased to other foreign and domestic governmental departments.

    Website: www.welke.com

    Twitter: twitter.com/@welkecustomsusa

    Trade Secrets Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/trade-secrets-podcast/id1436618678

    MYB: What is the main pain point you try to ease for your customers and what is your unique approach for easing this pain point?

    One of the interesting things about our business model of being what we call an “operational” U.S. Customs broker is that oftentimes importing companies don’t necessarily know their pain points. We find that many companies are either spending unnecessarily in duties and other expenses, or leaving money on the table—things that their “transactional” brokers won’t look for, or bring to their attention. While for most brokers, the relationship is about the actual import entry, Welke USA acts as a partner to our clients, assisting them from the acquisition of raw materials all the way through the delivery of the finished product. So, we’re able to see things that other brokers don’t, and advise our clients accordingly.

    MYB: What is it about Cleveland that makes it a good location for your business?

    Cleveland has been an absolute blessing for Welke USA. Our headquarters is in Buffalo, NY, and when the time was right for expansion, Northeast Ohio was not only the perfect place to start—a similar market with related industries, also with unbelievable momentum overcoming a Rust Belt past—but incredibly welcoming. We have had nothing but positive experiences since we set up shop in Cleveland several years ago, and our experiences here have paved the way for new market entries coming on line for us over the next 12 months.

    -RELATED: How to prepare for hard times as a business owner.

    MYB: What have been some effective ways you have worked to grow your clients in Northeast Ohio?

    Particularly with our business model, the Customs business is a relationship business. Coming into a market and spending a bunch of money on ads is not going to do the trick. We have made a full court press on building relationships in Northeast Ohio, through organizations like COSE, GCP, Wirenet and others, as well as good old-fashioned knocking on doors (it still works, no matter what the sales “experts” tell you!). We believe our business model, level of service and story sets Welke USA apart. So, it stands to reason that the more people we talk to, the better we’re going to do.

    -RELATED: Advice that has helped me to grow my business.

    MYB: How has your COSE membership helped you to achieve success?

    COSE has been absolutely essential to Welke USA’s growth in Northeast Ohio. Absolutely essential. Years ago, I was working a sales job for another company that had me calling on companies in Cleveland. I got involved with COSE, and saw the value of the organization for making connections. When I started Welke USA and knew Cleveland was an important market, joining COSE was a no-brainer. We’ve jumped in with both feet—attending events, sponsorships, booths at BizConCLE and other events, board service and more. COSE has delivered time and time again in meeting our needs.

    Learn more about the benefits of being a COSE Member by clicking here. Or, contact our Membership Team directly via email at memberservices@cose.org or by phone at 216-592-2355.

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  • Next up: Everything You Need to Know About the 9 Key Traits that Define 21st Century Leaders

    Everything You Need to Know About the 9 Key Traits that Define 21st Century Leaders

    This is Part 2 of our special series on what qualities define the 21st century business leader. Today’s article explores in-depth the nine qualities that comprise modern, successful leaders.

    In Part 1 of this series, we identified the nine key traits that all 21st century leaders need to master. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these skills.

    Key skill No. 1: Personal presence

    Personal presence is the dynamic energy that creates followers, energizes teams and builds creditability especially if it is built on authenticity.

    Key skill No. 2: High degrees of self-awareness

    Self-awareness is critical today as it is no longer acceptable for leaders to blindly act out with their team members. Self-awareness helps leaders understand where they need to either build skills, get support or bring in expertise.

    Key skill No. 3: Ability to acknowledge their habitual behaviors for the positive and negative impact

    Leaders can no longer act out blindly without consequence.  Even in the “old” days when leaders behaved badly, there were unacknowledged consequences that impacted organizational or team performance, morale, employee retention, and ultimately profitability. Acknowledging personal and habitual behaviors and then being willing to put mechanisms in place to change those with a negative impact and bolster or enhance those with positive impacts is critical to everyone achieving their goals and organizational success. Team members know that they don’t have to endure negative or bad behavior from their leaders and they are going public.

    Key skill No. 4: Clear and compelling vision

    We move toward the pictures we create. It is up to leaders to help their team to create a clear and compelling picture of the future that everyone can move towards. Sharing their vision in a clear and compelling way allows teams to connect to the end game and align their actions in support of getting to that picture of success.

    Key skill No. 5: Clear core values that guide their actions and decisions

    Values provide boundaries that guide decision-making and move away from “by any means necessary”. This keeps both team members and customers safe, legal, and walking in integrity. No longer can values be nice words that sound good and are placed on the wall or the back of business cards. They must be words to live by.

    Key skill No. 6: Facilitative skills to support dialogue and collaboration

    The complexity of today’s world and the fast pace of change requires facilitative skills to get team members to share the information they are holding and collaborate to create solutions or innovations that have not been done before.

    Key skill No. 7: Ability to see and hear others

    Being seen and heard is likely the most powerful experience we have as humans. Leaders who can hear and see their individual team members and the teams under their leadership have the opportunity to powerfully acknowledge and honor their work, motivate high performance, and sustain engagement in ways that keep team members engaged and satisfied.

    Key skill No. 8: Practical understanding of systems and how change happens

    For those leaders who have a keen understanding of how change happens and how their systems impact them, their industry and their people work, the more complete is the picture of their current reality and their ability to scan their internal and external environment and place their actions and timelines in alignment with the practical reality of their situation.

    Key skill No. 9: Spiritual practice that supports both their intuitive abilities and discernment

    If you interview any truly successful leader, there is some practice or place they go when all else fails them and they don’t have enough information to make the decision.  Often that is a spiritual place be it prayer, nature, meditation, etc. This allows them to access a power larger than themselves and move in a ‘good way’ with a solution that does the least damage to people, planet and profit.

    Remember, this is the first time in history that we have four and sometimes five generations in the workforce at the same time. Change is happening at an ever-accelerated pace. Things that were once unheard of are happening regularly or being created.

    The 21st Century leader needs to capitalize on their greatest asset, their people.  Both the younger generations’ enthusiasm, innovation and creativity as they want to make a contribution and understand how their work makes a difference and the seasoned team members who hold the institutional memory and understand the complexity of their systems and industry enabling them to see the implications of potential changes to the system. 

    The savvy 21st century leader can harness both of these vital perspectives and support the diverse perspectives hearing and valuing each other.  This allows them to use their team’s brilliance to powerfully shape solutions that take the whole organization into consideration and push innovation both internally and externally. These nine facilitative leadership skills of the modern leader support this kind of organizational culture.

    Monika Moss-Gransberry is a 30-year entrepreneur, business coach and organizational consultant, author of Life Mapping: A Journey of Self Discovery and Path Finding and The Technology of Doing Creating & Being, both self-mastery books teaching readers how to make their visions real. She is on the faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Initiative and the Gestalt OSD Center.  For more information on Monika’s work: www.mossgransberry.com and www.monikakmoss.com

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  • Next up: Expert Insights - Be a Leader

    Expert Insights - Be a Leader

    COSE recently reached out to members of its Expert Network to address questions related to his or her field. Featured today is Jim Smith, The Executive Happiness Coach.

    COSE recently reached out to members of its Expert Network to address questions related to his or her field. Featured today is Jim Smith, The Executive Happiness Coach.

    What aspect of leadership do your clients struggle with most and why?

    Easy question: doing instead of Leading

    If you’re like most leaders, you started your career in the trenches. As you worked your way up, your early successes were about doing a job well. If you founded the company, you were the production, service, and sales departments. Even if you began as a supervisor, you likely managed front-line associates and served as backup worker during peak times. 

    Now you hold a leadership role, but a conversation you still carry in your head is, “I can do X better than others.”  Stop that! You hired them to do the work and solve the problems—they need you to provide inspiration, coaching, and leadership!

    When you hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time to manage people,” that’s a huge red flag that signals misaligned priorities. Try this exercise: Write down everything you do, then ask, “What should be getting done by someone else?”

    When I started coaching Jack, he was stuck in a direct consulting role and unable to achieve Partner status. To help him bridge the gap between doing and leading, we created an image of him on an actual bridge. He’s holding onto ropes of various lengths attached to either end.  He can only hold so many ropes, and in order to step forward and pick up a new one on the leading side, he must hand off something from the doing end to someone else. 

    What's one thing business leaders can do to balance a happy home life with a happy work life?

    The one thing business leaders can do to happily balance work and home life is to Focus. Life/work balance is not about time—it’s about how “present” you are during the time you have.

    The core issue for most people is a lack of boundaries between their two roles. Technology makes work-at-home possible, but the downside is it’s always pinging itself into your awareness.

    Follow the advice of Frozen’s Queen Elsa, and “Let it Go” every so often.  If you are distracted or stressed, time you spend with kids can actually be detrimental.  What they need most from you is to be fully present. Studies show quality of time is far more important than quantity. When you are with your family, especially kids, strive to be fully present.

    Eat dinner together. Have conversation. Read with them. Do activities. Even if it’s a short time, you’re creating memories and connections built on significant moments, not on duration.  You will feel more balanced and everyone will, in the end, feel happier. 

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  • Next up: Getting Your Team on Board

    Getting Your Team on Board

    The staff of your small business is your most valuable asset. How do you go about engaging your staff and ensuring they are on board for all of the success you have planned? Here are some resources to help.

    The staff of your small business is your most valuable asset. How do you go about engaging your staff and ensuring they are on board for all of the success you have planned? Here are some resources to help:

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  • Next up: Giving advice to the younger you

    Giving advice to the younger you

    During COSE's Annual Meeting on February 24, we asked attendees: "If you had 30 seconds or less to give advice to the younger you as they were embarking on their business career, what would you say?"


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