“Amazon executives dread emails from Mr. Bezos with a question mark, but Mr. Jassy’s most common response to emails is ‘Nice!’” The Wall Street Journal, July 2
No one can predict what type of CEO Amazon’s Andy Jassy will be; he just started on the job on July 5. But as PR professionals, we should be encouraged by Jassy’s habit of responding to emails with: “Nice!” Never mind Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager Leo Durocher’s admonition that “nice guys finish last.” The opposite is often true.
Jassy clearly has a hard act to follow; anyone would when your predecessor is Jeff Bezos. But if Jassy wins the day as an effective, yet kinder, gentler CEO, it will be a great example that you can succeed at the highest levels of business while still being kind and considerate.
Email provides just one way of judging whether an executive communicates effectively. Many of us have met poor email communicators who turned out to be some of the nicest people. But Jassy’s reported email style teaches us a lesson as we emerge from the pandemic and rely increasingly on digital communication: a simple exclamation mark and word of praise can do wonders.
Too often, the following happens. A busy executive receives the following email. “Hi, sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you would like to attend tomorrow’s internal operating committee meeting. Please let me know. Best, J.” The executive merely responds, “Yes.” No emotion, no thanks and no reciprocity of the sentiment.
Some of our PR colleagues might say that the executive in question doesn’t have time to respond with more. My argument, and as someone who spends time coaching Fortune 500 executives: a “Yes, thank you!” would have taken just three seconds more to type. A simple exclamation mark with a positive word might make somebody’s day better and, yes, nicer. It’s an easy way to say, I appreciate and can make time for you.
Showing enthusiasm also creates a more level playing field. Certain executives will write a polite, gracious response to a C-suite colleague or new business lead, but won’t do the same for a “vendor” or “team member.”
Some might argue that an exuberant thank you or other enthusiastic sentiment carries little weight, especially if overused. Perhaps. But we send so many communications to people all over the globe on a daily basis and are making less time to see each other in person. The post-pandemic world has exacerbated that trend.
When not on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, we’re not just sending emails but chatting, slacking and texting. The subtleties of written communication matter more than ever. Just ask anyone who follows politics on Twitter, no matter what side of the aisle. As all of us in this business know, words and punctuation have meaning.
Jassy’s style could set a great example, and I hope he will use his role to inspire not just at Amazon but as a leader on the world stage. He has a big responsibility. So taking my own advice, Andy Jassy, if this piece somehow comes to your attention, warm wishes and good luck!
Seth Linden is president and partner at Dukas Linden Public Relations.