How leaders should write a ‘long-term vision’ email

When you write a “big idea” or long-term planning email, the danger is to write too much.

If your employees open an email and are smacked right away with 14 giant paragraphs that scroll and scroll, they will recoil and dread the 30 minutes they need to spend sifting through your manifesto.

That’s why, in Carmine Gallo’s new books, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, the author encourages leaders to explain ideas in “grade-school language.”

He writes: “ … so few companies, instructors, leaders, and entrepreneurs pay attention to the grade level of the words they use. Big words aren’t better; they’re confusing.”

That’s why, when a leader sends a “big idea” email to assess the road ahead, the message needs to clearly accomplish two ends:

  • Lay out a vision or plan in as few words as possible
  • Set up further in-person (or virtual) discussion

The email should not become the start of a chain with 137 messages from 12 different people. The message also shouldn’t prompt a planning session over an internal communication tool or instant message. Both approaches are wildly inefficient (and annoying).

Your email needs to set the tone and agenda so when everyone meets face to face, they have a starting point for dialogue.

That’s why I suggest a long-term planning email like the one below.

— — —

Subject line: Looking ahead to the new year

Hi everyone,

As we think about the new year and our business goals, I have laid out some big ideas on the direction I feel we need to go. We will reconvene after January 1 to discuss these points and hopefully refine them even further as a group.

NOTE: Right away, you explain the email is a starting point and that you plan to expand further during a group discussion.

  1. We’ve seen tremendous growth in our medical sales vertical in Q4. I want to brainstorm new ways we can tap into that space and generate new leads.
  2. Strategy or big idea #2 that’s a similar length to #1
  3. Strategy or big idea #3 that’s a similar length to #1
  4. Strategy or big idea #4 that’s a similar length to #1

NOTE: You can go past four ideas, but if the list becomes too long, then it’s difficult for people to remember or wrap their heads around. Less is more.

Please do some thinking on your own and be prepared to talk through these action items during our staff meeting. Of course, I welcome your own thoughts on how to attack the new year.

I look forward to the discussion,

– Your first name

Deeper insight

Again, the email is plainly written and designed to kickstart face-to-face conversation rather than 10,000 words everyone feels compelled to work through.

Set the table, explain next steps and then talk it all out.

As Gallo writes, “Long, convoluted sentences … might make me feel smarter, but it wouldn’t help the average reader.”

Short and simple. That’s how leaders operate with authority and efficiency.

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