Elon Musk Loves Email. As a Manager, You Should Too.

elon musk loves email

I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.”

-Elon Musk

Elon Musk made news again last week when SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. While this is technically awesome and looks really cool, for our purposes I’m more interested in the fact that it is one more incredible thing that Elon Musk has accomplished. And I think I speak for everyone when I say that, obviously, all of the amazing things that Mr. Musk has done so far can be traced back to one root cause—his well-established love for email.

I know I’m biased, but hear me out: here is a dude who has founded or co-founded four amazingly successful companies, and is currently the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, as well as chairman of green energy startup SolarCity and co-chairman of non-profit venture OpenAI. He’s a busy guy. Most people would struggle to find enough hours in a day to successfully manage any one of these companies, and Elon does it with four.

And I don’t think it’s too bold a claim to say that his affinity for email is intrinsically tied to what makes him such a great manager.

Email is the perfect tool for formal, substantive, asynchronous communication. Let’s look at how each of these traits ties into good management:

1. Formality.

Formality is not a prerequisite for good management, but it is certainly helpful. Formality doesn’t have to mean ritualistic bowing or the right way to hand someone a business card. Instead, it conveys the idea that (with apologies to Michael Scott) a manager’s most important job isn’t to be his or her subordinates’ best friend.

In fact, the best way for a manager to take care of the needs of a company and its employees alike is to make sure that he or she is acting efficiently and effectively. And formality is a great default setting for a high level of productivity. It is a clear understanding of each person’s role in a system, which, in turn, does away with the constant need for renegotiation of status that can easily be born of chronic informality. If you’re the boss, be the boss. The people who work under you will appreciate it.

2. Substance.

Almost by definition, it is not the manager’s role to deal with the granular details of every day-to-day transaction. Instead his or her time should be spent looking a the big picture—deep diving when necessary to focus on a particular project or aspect of the company, but being able to easily tack back and take everything in.

To that end, the manager’s best mode of communication is a substantive one. When the manager speaks, it should be worth listening. Email is the perfect format for relaying complex ideas clearly, thoroughly, and thoughtfully—and clarity, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness are all key traits to being a successful manager.

3. Asynchronicity.

As the lead quote above makes clear, the asynchronous nature of email is crucial to good management. When you are taking a global view, it means that you will mostly not be on the same page as your subordinates. Different projects and departments will require different amounts of your energy and attention at different times.

Moreover, as any founder will tell you, when it’s your company, you never stop thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean other people in your company should have to be “on” 24-7 as well. Email allows you to communicate whenever is convenient for you (even if it’s immediately following a three-in-the-morning epiphany). But it doesn’t mean that others have to read or respond to that email instantaneously. Rather, they can integrate it into their own schedule in a way that makes the most sense for their own productivity. A good manager makes sure that everyone else is capable of doing their best work, and letting them manage their own schedules is an important part of this.

Timyo takes the effectiveness of email as a manager’s tool one step further by improving upon this third function. Now, whenever you send an email, you can clearly and easily say exactly when you expect a response, minimizing the guesswork and needless sycophancy that could otherwise occupy your people. And when your subordinates use Timyo, it allows them to let you know when a response would be most useful in formal, respectful language, so they don’t have to waste time trying to figure out how to word a request without offending you. This transparency can only be beneficial to your company’s long-term bottom line.

TL;DR: Email is the perfect manager’s tool because it allows for formal, substantive, and asynchronous communication. Timyo increases email’s effectiveness by enhancing the utility found in asynchronicity.

So will loving email as much as Elon Musk make you a visionary, world-changing billionaire with a cool, hard-to-place accent?

Probably not…but it’s a start.

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