14. Streamlining Communications

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Smooth Operator/Podcast/14. Streamlining Communications

14. Streamlining Communications


If there’s one thing that we’re not lacking in these days, it’s ways to communication with one another.

Most, myself included, find ourselves constantly connected to one never-ending stream of information that we need to quickly decipher and digest before we’re able to move on with our lives.

The positive is that this has enabled us to build completely remote companies, stay in sync with another, and be in touch with our colleagues no matter what side of the pond they’re on.

The downside? We’re always in touch with everyone and never get a moment respite from the contestant stream of information.

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Yo, what's up, I'm Adam Liette, your host, thank you for taking the time out of your busy and hectic day to join me for this episode, as we continue getting after it continue making our businesses better continue making ourselves better. Because we know when we are better ourselves, we're able to have a better impact on our team, better impact on what we're doing, as a company grow our company, take our business to the next stratosphere that we're after. Because I know if I know one thing about operators, it's that we don't know when to stop, we don't know when to say no, we don't know when to say I've had enough. We're constantly taking on new challenges, new, new, new, new projects, new, checking new techniques, we're constantly learning things, because we want to take everything we're doing, and continue to optimize the crap out of what we're doing. So this episode is dealing with one particular, it's been a bit of a bugbear of mine, the last couple of weeks, I'm trying to continue to refine the little things, my team's getting a lot better.

But there's a whole lot to say about communication. If there's one thing that we're not lacking these days, it's ways to communicate with one another, most, myself included, we find ourselves constantly connected and distracted to never ending stream of information. And this information stream, we need to quickly decipher it, we need to quickly digest it, it distracts us it brings us out of our groove when we're really in momentum working on a project. And suddenly you get a message pop up. Because you forgot to turn off your tool, right? The positive thing about all these communication structures is that it's really enabled us to build completely remote companies able to stay in sync with one another share with one another. Be able to build culture in a remote environment and be in touch with our colleagues no matter what side of the pond they're on. I noticed this experiences firsthand. myself when I was my first couple deployments, we didn't have Skype it I mean, it was a thing already, but the country is ours. And our bandwidth is about 10 kilobytes per second upload download, you know Skype wasn't working, worth a crap back then. So it's such a big difference. Now I want to mount a fiber optic lines, I'm a little spoiled, even out here in the countryside just happened to live right where a fiber optic line was running. So we're able to do a whole lot more than we used to. But the downside of this is we're always in touch with everyone. Everyone is always in touch with us. And we never get a moment's respite from this constant stream of information. Whether it be whatever tools you're using, with your team, from your with your phones, with our notifications on our computers, our tablets, everything is constantly almost put in front of us to distract the crap out of us.

So there's things we can control about this, like I mute notifications on every single device I own, I mute the device itself, because I don't want to hear it. I don't want to be distracted during the day. However, when I'm working with my team, I've noticed that having these all these various modes of communication has been somewhat detrimental to my own ability to work through things in a way that makes sense in terms of flow, energy management, not getting distracted, not having, you know that constant, having to change your mind and do a different way of of thinking. So over the years, I've really developed and refined some rules for how my team and I communicate with one another to get the best effect. When I say rules, I mean they are rules, I will ask us team member to go ahead and put this information in another area. That's not the appropriate place. Because the rules are what keeps us working together. It's what keeps us in sync. So there's a whole lot of different tools that we use. So I'm going to go down this in the list of terms of urgency, I find that to be the most effective way of really approaching how we're using different mediums, urgency, and when something has to be accomplished. So the first of these communication structures is SMS text messages.

So yes, I have a personal cell phone number. And I don't share with any business partners any any people I'm working with in any, you know, like my co coaching communities have it, but like anyone I'm working with in a partnership level or something like that I don't share my personal cell phone number with but my team members all have it. They all have my personal cell phone numbers. Why? Because that's my no shit SOS line. If someone texts me, it means I need something. I need it from you. And I need it right now, Adam, where are you, I need your help. My team all knows that my personal cell phone number is meant to be used with discretion. It's meant to be used when literally something is burning down in the company. And they need me to drop everything and jump in. And I have done that I've jumped in at ridiculous times of the night, when I was supposed to have the day off, because I got a call on my SOS line. And I established that way of communication because I want to make sure that they always do have that support. They never felt like they have to solve something on their own. When things in do do indeed burn down. It happens I've I've texted my own CEO at one in the morning before? Well, it was It wasn't one of the morning for me. He lives in England, I live in the United States. So it's about you know, 8pm my time something went down on the website, well, not something went down, the whole website went down. And so I SOS my CEO at one o'clock in the morning to let him know that the website was down and we needed to address it right now. Did he see at 1am? No, but I met when he was up first thing in the morning, it was the first thing that popped up on his phone, because, again, I'm one of the only people that has his SOS number.

So he knows if a communication comes from Adam in that manner, he needs to answer it right now. So it's not a matter of only a matter of having the SOS line, it's setting the expectations for that, and what exactly it means when an SOS comes in, and then making sure you all remain very, very disciplined about how you're using that do not allow that line to be to degrade into memes, or jokes. It's literally meant to be an SOS emergency line and treat it as such. Alright, so the second most time critical function for us is Slack. Slack is what we use for our daily communication within our team. Everything from Hey, we're having a meeting, here's the link to zoom. Hey, here's a here's the meeting agenda. Here's hey, I need this done real quick. Right? When I when I put something on Slack it it basically signifies I need something from you soonish. So I'm really thinking in a 24 to 48 hour timeframe. It's not time critical. Well, it is time critical. But it's not like I need it now. It but it is it must be done within a certain time frame. So I try not to Slack too much. I definitely tried to stay out of slack debates over things. If we start to go into a long, you know, braided multi page, Slack diatribe, I would much rather prefer just to jump on Zoom, it's much more time sensitive, you're able to get a whole lot more done and a whole lot sooner time over a face to face versus a Slack debate. So I try not to get into those. But it is a good place to have that communication. That is a lot a lot less time critical, but definitely time sensitive.

That being said, things get lost in Slack. Have you ever noticed that? You get a message in Slack? You think oh, I'll remember that in three days. Do you ever remember? No. And it gets lost? Whether it's get lost? You end up finding yourself in a debate. Was it in a DM was in in a group thread? Was it in one of our channels? Oh my gosh, I can't find this and before you know it, you spent 20 minutes looking for a message that was critical to something bigger, like a project oriented message or and something that you needed to remember and here you can't find it, which is why we use a tool called Asana. Asana is our project management tool. So project oriented communications go in Asana, if it's directly related to a project or something that we're working on together in a collaborative nature that has an Asana task assigned to it or you know, either a project or a task or some kind of Asana representation. I prefer to keep all communication within Asana. Of course at mentioning the person that you you need to see that and making sure that they are aware that you need something from them.

And I like Asana for a number of different reasons. A it keeps the communication on a card that's related to the project so you don't have to try to remember what the heck you were talking about. It's also a whole lot easier to find it. You can see the back and forth if you're in a you know attended 20 message debate over something. You can see that evolution you can see the end state and you can see the various do ads that come along the way. Asana is a whole lot better at managing those. It's a whole lot better you being able to find them later because it is on the that card related to that specific project. A lot of times I'll see things in Asana that I put as a reminder, on a long term project. And I see it two, three or four weeks, maybe a month, two months down the line, depending on the duration of that project, of course, but having that message in there having the information that is more long term or near term oriented. In that one place, oh my gosh, it just saves me so much time, I don't have to try to recollect where things are. And it's able to really document the the the evolution that projects tend to go through over the duration of those projects.

Alright, the another one that we use as agendas. So we have a lot of meetings on our team as most remote teams do. And we're getting a whole lot better about always having an agenda before we start a meeting. In my opinion, a meeting should always have an agenda, it should have a deliberate, here's what we're going to talk about on the meeting. And that should be bullet point level, we don't need to get in a whole lot detail about what we're going to talk to talk about. But having an agenda keeps you honest, it lets everyone on the team that is attending that meeting, they get to come in with an expectation of what they need to bring they haven't, they have an understanding of what might be expected to them because they have an agenda to work from. It also guarantees that you work through everything on that agenda. So a lot of times, I'll get a one liner on Slack about a specific various problem that we're having in one part of our company. And what I'm starting to do is I instead of trying to solve it there in Slack, or trying to try to redirect it, I say, Okay, thank you put it on this agenda, please. And we'll discuss it our meeting. And I like this for two ways. A, if your team comes to you with something, it's because they do need your support. And sometimes, if we just tell someone, Hey, bring it up at the meeting, it almost feels like we're discarding them. And we're pushing them aside saying I can't be bothered with this. I got more important things going on. Bother me later. No, that's not the intention, what you're really trying to say is, look, I'm really trying to concentrate on something I know we have a meeting about this in three hours, can we talk about it, then can you put it on the agenda, by allowing them to be able to put it on the agenda to be able to take whatever's bothering them and put it somewhere, it allows them to relieve that tension, that whatever problem internally that is causing them by just being able to do something as simple as write a one liner in the agenda, saying that we're going to talk about this problem that I'm having, you're giving them a pressure valve a way to release whatever anxiety that problem is causing them. So they can go about the rest of their daily duties with much more ease a whole lot more concentration, and without whatever burden is being caused by that problem. So by having that agenda, like I said, you're solving multiple things, you're able to get through everything, everyone comes into the meeting with an understanding you have a place for people to put their their areas of concern.

And you also make sure that everything does get accomplished within that meeting that needs to go to happen there. Alright, the last thing is a weekly report. So everyone on my team, so meets submits a weekly report to me. And I submit a weekly report to the whole team of what I've been doing all week. This includes our CEO. So on our weekly report, this is where I communicate. Everything that happened during the week in this is often some very tactical oriented tasks, a lot of the big picture stuff. And most importantly, anywhere that I need support anywhere that I need my team to either directly help me or step up and take over something from me. I highly encourage weekly reports and I'll talk about some of the structure that in a later episode. But that last critical function of where do I need support gives your your team members another release valve another way to put another place for them to put what's bothering them, something that might be not going right for them. And they're able to put it in there in a safe environment where they know that they can ask for support and you are looking out for them and you are paying attention to where they do need support. And a critical part of that is make sure you act on that I missed that one time and I will never do that again. Pay attention to what they're putting in where they need support and make sure you take the time to either directly take care of it yourself or find someone on your team who can help alleviate that pressure and give that team member the support they need. So what's missing in this list?

Email. I hate email to be honest, I hate email so much. Maybe because I get you know Roughly 500 emails a day, from everything from project management tool to slack to partners to, you know, other tools that we use, oh my gosh, emails too much. And emails way worse than slack in terms of losing stuff, like losing something an email, when you need it two days later is so easy. It's so easy to lose stuff. So I try to avoid email as much as possible. No matter of fact, we have a standing policy on the team is you will not email each other, we do not allow emailing. And we do have some shared inboxes that we use. And those are through a a, like an inbox management tool like Help Desk or Freshdesk, what we're current or HelpScout, or Freshdesk, what we're currently using, if you if it's going to one of those tools, tend to forgive that a little bit. If it's my personal email address, no that no dice, it's not working, I will personally go out and build any other mechanism for information gathering. If it keeps me out of my email, when working with my team, my email is for a very deliberate purpose in my business, and what I'm doing with external partners and various, you know, contractors that we're working with, that's a lot of times I email my team nope, ain't gonna happen. So really what it comes down to it, you need to have ways of communicating with your team, you need to communicate the structures in which you want those, those messages to come from, go figure you need to communicate how to communicate, right, I think if there's one way that can sum up this episode, it's that communicate how you want to be communicated to, if you establish firm rules for your team and put those team wide, really, that's really going to set you up the best for success, because there's going to be an expectation, and you're not going to have to remember each individual team member and how you're supposed to communicate with them, or they're supposed to communicate with you know, there's some university and universality to this. And some clear cut rules that make it little easier on everyone in the team to just remember how they need to communicate with each other with you and with one another.

And so just establishing these, communicating them, making it part of what you're doing, as an operator is really going to help your team become more in sync, step forward together, be in momentum, get those big projects accomplished. And keep the day to day workflow in the and the tactical tasks that have to happen to keep the business open, running smoothly, and keeping everyone from getting just a little bit less frustrated and a little less overwhelmed. And man, if we can do that every single day just relieve a little bit of microcosm of overwhelm each and every day. How far are we going to be down the path in 3060 90 days if we're alleviating just a little bit of pressure each and every day? All right, thank you so much for joining me for this episode. This is definitely a little bit of a passionate thing of mine, especially as I'm going through some significant changes in my own business. But I hope you got a lot out of it and just have some ideas on what exactly you should do. There is no right answer. It's more of whatever works for you and whether or not that is scalable. And that's the key way of looking at it. All right. So in the meantime, check us out at www dot Adam liette.com I do hope to see you send me an email. It's Adam at Adam liette.com and I love to hear what you think of the show any specific areas that you want me to dive into. Be happy to, to take that on and any way I can help. Please do shout alright. I'm out of here. Talk to you soon. Bye.

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