What are you signaling? It’s the little things that make a big difference. In reading the book by Vanessa Edwards, Captivate, I learned that you can convey charisma through two things, connection and competence. She says we need to balance both warmth (connection) and attention to task (competence).

One of the ways we can assess our warmth/competence ratio is to check out our emails. What are we signaling? Are we coming across as warm or task-driven?

Check out the difference in the following messages about an upcoming meeting:

“Hello Serena!

It was so good to see you last week! I really enjoyed catching up. Wonderful news about your family. By the way, we have a meeting coming up this Friday. We’re going to be talking about budget issues and what we can do for this upcoming quarter. I’m really looking forward to your input and catching up with everybody else.”

Now, check out this message:


Team meeting Friday [11:00] AM. Re: budget issues. Come with solutions, not problems.”

Both these messages are a little extreme. One is overly friendly and intimate and the other is very clinical. We may not think that these things have much of an impact, and yet it’s always the little messages that we signal as leaders that add up to a bigger impact. If we take the time to craft our messages better, we can have the influence we prefer.

So let’s have a look at a different version of this.

“Hello Serena

Great to catch up with you last week. Signals warmth.

We’ve got a meeting coming up this Friday with the team around budget issues. Please prepare your thoughts around what we can do moving forward. Signals task/business and competence.

I look forward to seeing you there.” Closes with warmth.

The first sentence signals warmth (Great to catch up with you.) The next part of the sentence is businesslike, but not as austere as the message above. Then it closes with warmth.

In this message, we have a mixture of both warmth and competence, the perfect blend for charisma. It’s a charisma toasted sandwich! Warmth, task, warmth!

Next time you compose an email, try a warm opening. This may include a brief question like, how are you doing? Or it was good to see you last week, or I’m looking forward to catching up.

Then in the messaging, make sure that your instructions are not too clinical and that there is some context around that. Finish with a warm message.

Notice what happens!