With Great Politeness Comes Effective Follow Up

Batman - Are You Trying To Tell Me Something?

Being a Product Manager entails a lot more than just managing your inbox. But email is an unavoidable part of getting work done through others and delivering great products and experiences.

What emails do you find the hardest to write, and why?

For me, it’s the follow-up communication with someone who said they would deliver something by a certain date, and didn’t. Someone outside of our daily routine, whom I don’t know well, and is only reachable via email because they rarely answer the phone.

After much trial and error, I have a format that appears to work:

Hi [insert first name] –

I’m sorry to be a nudge about this, but [insert reminder]. [Insert reason why their response and follow-through is important.]

Please let me know by [date/time] where are we in [whatever is to be done], or if there are any questions I can help answer. If it’s easier to talk this through, I’m happy to discuss on the phone or in person.

Thanks again for your help!

Sincerely,

A practical example?

Say, you’re working with legal and they’ve gone radio silent on an important contract that’s going to block development if it’s not resolved asap. The email might look like this…

Hi Sally –

I’m sorry to be a nudge about this, but we’re in a very time-sensitive place now. We’re planning to install the new Bat-Signal next week… but we can’t begin installation unless the Wayne Foundation contract is in place.

Please let me know by the end of the day where are we in the review process, or if there are any questions I can help answer. If it’s easier to talk this through, I’m happy to discuss on the phone or in person.

Thanks again for your help!

Sincerely,
Chris

As my Uncle Ben always used to say, “With great politeness comes effective follow up.”

I think this format works because it opens with a greeting coupled with a brief apology, a reminder of why the help they agreed to provide is so important, and closes with a call to action.

That combination appears to defuse defensiveness and helps set a tone that conveys camaraderie coupled with a reminder of their responsibility, and a clear next step.

At least, it’s worked pretty well so far.

Bonus Content

For some very practical advice on writing quality emails, check out:

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