This is our mantra when we think about communication:
Talk to each other, often and honestly.
Did your head explode? Don’t fret, let’s break that sentence into pieces.
Talk to each other. Being part of a Team is not that much different than other forms of relationship: communication is key. In fact, if you’re not co-located, communication is even more important. Upset that your co-worker/spouse/friend can’t read you thoughts? Well, they definitely can’t read them over a video call. Confused? Upset? Don’t keep it buried deep inside, say something. Concerned about how to say something? Talk to your role accountability partner. Just don’t not talk to each other.
Talk to each other often. We recommend a daily video stand-up for around 15-30 minutes, four days a week and an hour long retro at the end the week. Keep those cameras on as it’s important to see people. Chat as needed during other times. Don’t want to get bugged with notifications? Mute your systems and respond at agreed upon times during the day. As mentioned, we’re not fans of one-size-fits-all anything. So while someone might say, “Only check your email once a day,” that might not work for you. Everybody is different. Anybody who tells us what “the market” is gonna do, we categorize as fraudulent. Nobody knows what “the market” is going to do. Put a similarly skeptical eye towards those who claim they have “the solution” for productive work. When we say, “Talk to each other often,” it’s up to your personal style and team culture to find the right cadence.
Talk to each other honestly. Most teams struggle the most with this one. Surely we do as well. Why? For numerous reasons, humans tend to avoid confrontation. Think about it like this: Sitcoms (or situational comedies) are far-fetched. Most groups of people would become quickly exhausted if every interaction involved some sort of confrontation. Can you imagine if every time George or Kramer came over to your apartment it was “an event?” If every time you left your home, you’d undergo some Larry David like neuroticism about every random occurrence? Watching these situations makes us uncomfortable. We don’t even have to partake in them.
We find that once you add trust and respect along with agreements on values and goals, honest communication becomes something you look forward to hearing. We’ve found that well-thought out, constructive feedback is usually welcomed. Most people do seem to find “feedback a gift.” Honest feedback shows you care. And people like to feel cared for.
It’s important to note that while it’s easy for us to write something nice like, “Talk to each other, often and honestly,” it does not come naturally! We struggle with this too! Whether out of fear of rocking the boat unnecessarily or just plain human desire to be liked, we sometimes fail at heeding our own advice. As such, we purposefully create a culture where all thoughts and feelings can be shared without shame or judgment. This takes continual work. It’s one of the most important parts of the Future of Work (Be Yourself), but it is not the most natural.