Leadership Matters: How to Write ‘the Morning Email’ (to All Staff)

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By Stephen C. Wallace

5 minutes

Care of your human capital is paramount. How will you grow your people?

Ahh the rigors of the modern financial services environment. The pace is faster, the turnover is spiraling, technology changing, the complexities … well, complex. What is a leader to do these days to set direction, convey emotion, paint vision, foster support, create belief, inspire? 

Well, you can build boxes for your people, draft airtight job descriptions and have your management “enforcers” make sure everyone stays in their lane! The horror, the horror …. Or, you can perhaps take a different path, a road less traveled, make a commitment to inspire people, your people, help them achieve, help them to emotionally connect to your vision, help them become the best versions of themselves. 

Caveat: Reading beyond this point may mean that you are committing to writing a positive email to all your employees every day—a major commitment and not for the faint of heart … but the payoffs are amazing: goodwill built, positive feedback etc. The risks are many, but the rewards are boundless. 

The morning email or “MEM” for short. It’s your start of a new day, a message to your organization, your caffeinated communication to start your organization’s world moving. I, (in my various roles) over the years, now as CEO, have written one every day that I am in the office, for years, no light undertaking. But I have always wanted all employees to start the day with a positive message—short, long, humorous or serious—a positive message to start their day. The MEM can be all those things. It truly is what you make it and can touch people emotionally in so many ways. 

How to Write the MEM

Start with a catchy header: TGIM (Thank Goodness It’s Monday) and we are back at a great place to work, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday (knowledge, not drink), Friday Fantastic. The combinations are endless …. Over the years, I’ve used many; let your creative side wander. People will look for it in their inbox each morning; make it memorable. 

Now, the body of the MEM, what to write? Something positive, something engaging, something worth pondering by your people. I have written about successes in the organization, individuals and teams of people, celebrations and losses (one of my cats most recently). Let them see you are human, you experience life too; your people will connect with that and with you. Connecting lends itself to direction, inspiration, behavior change. Convey your experience, your knowledge, so they don’t have to learn things the hard way. Your people show up every day, and you have no idea what emotional shape they are in, positive, negative, neutral. Some will have the weight of the world on their shoulders … what are you going to say to help them? And you don’t know which ones they are!  

The Replies

What happens next Steve? It truly is amazing… some of your people will email you back!!! The ones you have touched that day, the ones you have inspired (if they feel safe), will write you back and tell you what they are thinking! Suddenly, you have a direct line of communication into all levels of your organization. Every CEO struggles with knowing what is going on, and now you have people all over the organization telling you! Priceless? Indeed, it is. 

The day the MEM went out letting people know my cat had passed, I don’t know what struck me more, the fact that I had lost my companion of many years or that so many in the organization emailed me back trying to ease what I was feeling. Emotional drivel some would say, but never lose sight of the fact that moving people to action is an emotional business, belief is powerful, and only those organizations that can tap into emotion truly excel in today’s ever-changing and shifting sands-like environment. 

I end my MEM with a “Quote of the Day,” something that connects with the message I’m putting forward that day. I draw from the hundreds I’ve collected over the years. Oh, the internet is a wonderful thing. Do these matter? I’ve seen them printed and tacked up in cubicles/offices throughout the company. It’s one more way for you to connect and inspire and move people forward. 

Care for Your Human Assets

In an industry where almost everything we do can be replicated (products, services, pricing), there is one asset that cannot: your human assets. Care of your human capital is paramount. How will you grow your people? How will you create a work environment that multiple generations will enjoy? How will you convey your hopes and dreams and vision consistently with words and actions for all to see? These really are the challenges that we as CEOs face today. The MEM is just one tool, one opportunity for us to move forward, to continue to move organizational momentum, to create and maintain success, adapting, innovating, growing our talent. 

Last tips for MEMs after years of writing them? Be honest, be fair, be upbeat, let your hair down, let your people see you, warts and all, they will reward you for it (loyalty, commitment, trust). Be positive and positively reinforce wherever you can. Throw a curve ball now and then. (On April 1, I always write a fictitious MEM. This year it was about opening a branch in Canada!) Have fun with it! Do an “Eeyore” MEM, once or twice a year … everything is wrong and the sky is falling. You’ll love the responses you get from those!!

In short, this can be an exceptionally effective tool of communication for your organization and you, and it can also be a daunting task to commit to day after day … choose wisely. 

I’ll close as I close all my MEMs: Have a Wonderful Wednesday (or Thirsty Thursday or ... ) everyone!!! Make it your own.

Stephen C. Wallace is president/CEO of $608 million Maine State Credit Union, Augusta.

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