TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read.
There are many things CEOs care about, but arguably one of the most important things is their time. Whether they are running a Fortune 500 company or a startup company, CEOs have a lot on their plate and in a global economy every second counts.
When I first entered the startup world I wrote novel-like emails to my team members. This ended in long drawn out email chains that took up a great majority of my time as well as my team’s. I quickly learned to “filter out the fluff” and focus on the one or two key points I was trying to make.
TL;DR: Be concise.
Spending time in email chains is not productive. Spending time on the phone is even less productive. While I personally only have a few years under my belt being CEO, in total my board of directors and Chairman have over 30 years of International business experience as CEOs or executive leaders. Communicating with them taught me quickly to transform my writing and make it even more compact, sometimes down to one word emails.
One sure-fire way to get started is to cut out what I call “fluff.”Here’s an example:
Hey Andrew I just wanted to email you and tell you about an interesting opportunity. (FLUFF!: Don’t tell me what you are going to tell me, just tell me. Don’t say “hey” this isn’t AOL Instant Messenger.)
It’s great to meet you, my name is John Smith from Abc Inc.(Have we met?) I spent a lot of time following your work and I really think that we can do some great business together. (FLUFF!: No one likes a brown noser, you’re wasting my time here I’m 5 seconds into this email and now I’m deleting it.) Our company is from New York and we are funded by x,y,z. (FLUFF!, sorry doesn’t matter: what do you want with my time?)We are working to do X. (Finally.) We do it better than Facebook because 1,2,3. (FLUFF!: I’ll be the judge of that.) I know a lot of people say X, but on the contrary we believe Y. (FLUFF!: how can you help me or what can I do for you?) I’d love to set up a call with you. (Probably not happening.)
Communicating like a CEO:
I’d like to help you solve problem X. I do Y and Z suggested that we connect. Are you free to chat this week?
Boom. Direct, concise, solving a problem I have, and to the point.
There are many more examples, some like the image below from my own personal communication that include little to no words at all. One helpful way to practice emailing like a CEO is to pretend your emails have the same character limit as Twitter. The more you practice the more you will sharpen your word choices and save hours per week not answering lengthy emails.
For emails that require a more in-depth response: schedule a call. Immediately set up a call that will last no longer than 5-10 minutes. If a call needs to last more than 5-10 minutes, make time to meet with the person over lunch.
That being said, climb the communication ladder as slow as possible. Do you really need a ten minute call or can you fit your key points into a few concise tweets? Challenge yourself to think critically and efficiently when connecting via email or any other form of communication. Whether you are a CEO looking to save time or an unemployed worker looking to capture the attention of a CEO: you’ll soon find your response rate and time saved increase exponentially.
Think you have what it takes to communicate like a CEO? If you believe there is anything I can do to help you send me your best “CEO email” and see if you can catch my eye: Andrew@Kuhcoon.com.
EDIT: Many people have emailed me (including my Chairman) and suggested that this does not mean CEOs shouldn’t have longform creative discussions to solve complex in-depth problems. I completely agree. Open dialogue and round table discussion help us critically think through difficult issues.