How To Email an Executive

This post on email first appeared on Strategically Speaking


It’s not unusual for Russ Bernthal, President of ProfitStars, to check email from his phone when he’s on the road. But scrolling through long threads looking for the point of an email is a fate he doesn’t suffer well.

“Long threads drive me nuts,” he shares with me. “They’re particularly annoying when I’m traveling and looking at emails on my phone.”

Stacey Zengel, President of Jack Henry Banking, is no different. Each day, he receives anywhere from 150-250 emails of which approximately 100 require responses. Lengthy, rambling texts are the source of his email pain.

“I like to get straight to the point unless foundational information is required to make a decision  …. most of the emails I get are usually lengthy and require reading time.”

Dealing with hundreds of emails is part of every executive’s job, but that doesn’t mean they understand why they have to be included in so many. Greg Adelson, General Manager of Payment Solutions for Jack Henry Banking, says,

“I would say ‘Reply All’ when not required is the biggest pet peeve for me. The second most-frustrating relates to long/drawn out emails that you are ‘CC-ed’ on versus on the ‘To’ line, but you can’t tell if the content is FYI only or requires action on your part.” 

If this is what they hate, why are people so quick to include them by hitting CC, FW, or Reply All? For the most part, associates don’t mean to make things difficult for executives. In fact, most probably think they’re helping out by including senior management in email conversations. And while most executives want and need to be “in the know,” these three at JHA believe a little forethought goes along way.

Recently, I asked these three leaders for some advice on how employees can make their email correspondence with them more effective. Here’s what they recommended:

“Think about who you are including in an email, and if they need to be included. Make the email as succinct as possible. Lastly, read it for grammar and spelling – how you write/email creates a perception of you to others. I think some of our Associates forget that at times. It may not be a bad idea to have someone else read an important email before you send it for this very reason.”
– Stacey Zengel, President of Jack Henry Banking


“Brevity makes a huge difference. If you send a long thread, tell me the essence of the thread in a summary at the beginning. I can look through the details if I need or want to.”
– Russ Bernthal, President of ProfitStars


Be succinct – I prefer bullets to long sentences and include proper spacing to make it easier to read. Provide clear subject lines and explicit directions for actionable items so the group and/or individuals receiving the email understand what to do. Finally, if it is FYI ONLY, indicate that’s the case.”
– Greg Adelson, General Manager, Payment Solutions, Jack Henry and Associates

It’s common sense really. Make it easy for executives to do their job by constructing your emails in a way that helps them make a decision, take action, or approve your request. It’s a small act, but a small act multiplied by 100 people can make a big difference their day; that’s doing the right thing. So before you fire off your next email to a senior manager or an executive consider these six tips:

  1. Get to the point. Be succinct.
  2. Check for grammar and punctuation errors.
  3. Be explicit in the action you want people to take.
  4. Summarize long threads, so your recipient doesn’t have to figure it out.
  5. Double check who’s in the “To” and “CC” fields. Do they need to be included?
  6. Make sure the subject line is clear, so the recipient knows what the email is about.

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