Death by 1000 Emails…Email’s Impact on Leadership and Change
Kimono me this: what do you get when you follow 48 managers over 10 consecutive workdays? Besides a headache that’ll bring you to your knees and drive you to drink, you learn, firsthand, of the damning effects of email. We know it to be true, but if you’re wanting for some empirical evidence, read on….
Email really isn’t a problem, is it? Nahhh. Just that McKinsey reported that 28% of a knowledge worker’s week is spent on email. For those of us challenged in math, think of it this way: it’s like giving email all of your Monday and a good portion of your Tuesday morning. And like moths drawn to a light, scholars Jackson, Dawson, and Wilson found that we check email over 90 times a day.
Back to the Headline News from the study: email sucks, especially for leaders, except when the email is from The Kimono. The critical research finding is that one should always stop what they’re doing to read The Kimono. Okay, the first part is true. Truth in advertising is below.
Responding to Email Impacts Leadership and Change
The results are a bit complex so we’re going to stay high-level here. Because of the distracting nature of email, leaders reported less progress towards their goals. For those where email is, maybe, a central or critical part of their job, they reported less of a nuisance of email interfering with their goal progress. All other leaders, where email is a part of their job, but not mission-critical, reported more interference with goal progress. What’s particularly interesting is that responding to emails screws up our opinions of our own work progress and goal achievement and also messes with our ability to engage in transformational leadership activities such as driving change and inspiring employees. Put differently, the demands of email harms our ability to motivate and inspire and deal with complex change because we’re pissed off that we’re not making progress or accomplishing our day-to-day goals. The results are a touch better or, less bad, for those that boast amazing self-control. You know, the lone moth that can resist the temptation of the light. For the vast majority of us that lack Herculean willpower, we’re screwed. If you’re a leader and want your team to reach its goals, practice some email restraint and don’t let your team get bogged down in their inbox.
The Bottom Line
If anyone cancels their Kimono subscription because of this research, we’ll report you to the Kimono authorities. Anyway, read Kimono emails outside of work where you can laugh and learn in private. For all other email traffic, know that the fight rages on between the cocaine-like effects of electronic messaging and our own willpower.
Kimono’s taking a break. We need to go check our email.