Understand bias first.

We are biased, even the most open-minded amongst us.

Nobody talks about bias better than Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt in her much-acclaimed book “Biased.” We hold biases based on so many characteristics from gender to race to height. Dr. Eberhardt narrates her story of how she was body slammed by a police officer on the top of the roof of her car for driving a car in Boston that had its registration in her mother’s name. Later, a meta-analysis of 18.5 million traffic stops across the US between 2010 and 2016 done by her graduate student, Nicholas Camp, showed that when “black drivers are pulled over, they are more than twice as likely as white drivers to have been stopped for an equipment violation (broken light, expired tag etc) than a moving violation.”

The stereotypes in our heads are generations old and social media makes us more biased. Today, it’s easy to spread what’s wrong faster than what’s right.

Everyday biases at work can stunt careers and prevent opportunities for growth. In an article in the Harvard Business Journal “Are you aware of your biases?” leadership coach Carmen Acton tells us why she had shunned a smart employee from good projects because she assumed he was not fit to do the job because he didn’t have a college degree.

Understand your biases before you start launching your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. Being aware of oneself is the first step towards a journey that includes everyone and excludes none.

Invite an audience to open your email

Leads invite you to read a story. A straight lead gives a chronological summary, an anecdotal lead teases us with something relevant, while a zinger baits us with an attention grabbing sentence. Then there are feature leads, summary leads and question leads that leave us curious.

Great leads make us read a story.

Email subject lines are similar. They invite your audience to open your emails.

They fight for our attention but subject lines like: “I am working all weekend for you,” make me nervous.

Bland subject lines disappoint me. “Something amazing is heading your way…” (Qatar Airways). Do I really care?

And, the perennial mediocre subject line: “Time is running out…” (Sling TV) makes me wonder if people ever open those emails. Let’s not forget the end of the year routine: “How will you start the year off right?” (Zoc Doc).

Subject lines that tickle my ego for a response make me anxious. “You are the expert…” (Indeed). If I am an expert, I wonder who the other reviewers are!

15 years ago, I tested subject lines to mobilize volunteers during Hurricane Katrina. Simple, specific subject lines got the most effective results: “250 volunteers needed: 6 pm at Salvation Army.”

People want clarity and a call to action.

Here’s an effective one from my child’s music school reminding me of her guitar lessons on Mondays: “Allegro: Lesson reminder.” Or, the apartment complex that says: “January rent due,” instead of “buy one get the other half off.”

Hotstar, an Asian streaming service recently had an interesting email subject line: “IND V SL. Jan 5. Stay Tuned.” Cricket lovers get this. Hotstar will stream a match between India and Sri Lanka on January 5, so stay tuned. Isn’t it better than: “Don’t miss the epic match of the century…”

I was disappointed when the “Houston Chronicle” carried the following subject line for their December 31 newsletter: “New cash crop is a tasty crustacean.”

A better subject line would have been: First baby of 2020.