Today, I started the first day of the 5-day management course at the Malaysia Institute of Management in Jalan Ampang. This is the second phase out of five phases of the Management Development Programme organised by the Group HR for executives in the company. The first phase was held late last year in UNITEN but due to some unforeseen reasons, the second phase is to be held in MIM building in Jalan Ampang.
Most of the participants were not informed that the course will start at 8.30am. Thus, the course instructor Mr John Hagedorn was 'forced' to start the class at 9.00am to accommodate the latecomers, so to speak. I came slightly later than 9.00am as I made the wrong judgement of estimating that it takes less than one hour from BJ to Jalan Ampang during morning rush-hour and how wrong was I, needless to say. But, this should serve me a lesson that from tomorrow onwards, I should leave home before 7.15am if I am to make the 8.30am class time.
Mr Hagedorn is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 1986. He is very passionate in his work and you can tell easily that he really likes what he is doing. He used to be a regular columnist for the Star Business Section but according to him he is no longer able to contribute to the daily newspaper because of his commitment in teachings and also his other management business. For the next two days of this course, he will be teaching the topic on Business Writings. Being an engineer for almost 20 years now, I take writing skill especially business writings too much for granted. Little that I know that writing business letter is an art by itself and it all about the reader that is going to read our letters.
What I learned today in his class is something which I wish I knew on the very first day I started working with this company. According to Mr. Hagedorn, Business writing or writing business letters is about SCOPE. S-sincerity, C-credibility, O-objectivity, P-positivity and E-externality. We always believe that writing a business letter is about having the format right and use of appropriate business jargon to convey the messages. This is in fact, inaccurate and could be obsolete as formats and jargon do not communicate. The modern business writing is all about the other party or the person that is going to read the letter. When we write business letters, the purpose is either to request, to reply or to convey goodwill as in greeting cards or festive occasions. Always start writing a letter by analysing the impact and the response of the letter to the reader and the real message that we want the reader to understand. For instance if we are to write a 'bad' letter as telling someone that their request for a loan extension has been rejected, use indirect approach by starting with friendly greeting, justification for rejection and things we can do to help. Try too avoid using negative words and what we cannot do.
In summary, for today's lesson, the three important rules to remember when we write a business letters are as following.
1. Maximize the 'you' pronoun unless you are 'blaming' the other party.
2. Maximise positive ideas e.g., talk about what we can do and help
3. Maximise the reader benefits to get his or her attention
Mr Hagedorn also told us that IKEA management use the word 'oversold' instead of 'out-of-stock' for unavailable items. This is an example of how we can avoid using negative words in our business. BTW, he also told that the total workforce in Malaysia is 51% female and 49% male. So, make sure when you are writing a business letter to anonymous in a Malaysian company use proper salutation such as 'Dear Sir/Madam' to avoid wrong gender greeting!
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