For better or worse, part of my current role requires me to get really busy people to answer my questions or give me information so I can ultimately help them do their jobs better. For example, I’m currently gathering some information on business challenges from the members of the test leadership team at Microsoft in order to help them prioritize the cross-company work they want to focus on in the next fiscal year.

After our last meeting, I sent meeting notes to the leadership team alias, along with a request to provide the information by the end of the month.

Two weeks later, I had two responses. This was not, of course unexpected, but I had a secret trick that has never failed me. I’ve discovered in my career that the more senior people get, the less likely they are to respond to email sent to an alias – regardless of the seniority of the people on the alias. I could have sent a follow up email to the alias, but it would have met the same fate as the first attempt.

Instead, as mundane as it sounds, I typed up an email in Word, and then used the mail merge feature to send each TLT member a “personal” email requesting the information (boy, I hope nobody on the alias reads this blog and discovers my secret). The result was immediate success. I sent the email to 24 people on Saturday evening, and by Sunday afternoon I had 3 responses. I currently have 10 responses, along with promises for at least a few more by Wednesday. It’s a dirty trick, but it works – people just love personal attention, and if you find a way to give it to them (even if you cheat just a little), they will likely give you what you’re asking for.

Testing posts will reconvene shortly – thanks for allowing the diversion.