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You know it and I know it: your people aren’t reading your emails. Instead of aligning and informing, your weekly updates are often taking a weekly trip to the trash folder. For modern-day leaders, that isn’t going to cut it. Our workforce is dispersed, Zoom fatigue is thriving, and inboxes are overflowing — it’s our job to do better.
It isn’t easy — believe me, I know. But through trial and error, I’ve discovered a formula that works. (Really!) This is how I keep my dispersed, global team aligned and informed with weekly updates done differently.
Communication for the modern workforce
As the CEO of Biteable — a startup that helps people make videos — I lead a 60-person, remote-first company working from every continent around the globe. As far as dispersed teams go, we’re scattered far and wide — and we’re still growing. Our team doubled in size in the last year alone. We have more people, in more locations, with nearly zero in-person contact.
As you can imagine, keeping everyone aligned is no small task.
I need a way to reach all of the people on my team, wherever they are and whenever they’re ready to listen. I also aim to live up to one of our core company values: to be transparent and inclusive.
By inclusive, I mean more than just diverse hiring (although this is important at Biteable, too.) Our company also values diverse input on decisions. This is integral to building and maintaining an aligned team, and it also helps shape our collective intelligence so we can better serve our customers.
I make a promise to my team every day to share information transparently and listen in a way that all voices can be heard.
To deliver on my promise, I send a weekly update to the whole team each week. As our first timezone wakes up on Monday morning, my weekly update is waiting to greet them. The contents of the update are never the same (although I do have a formula I’ll share in a moment), but it’s always current, honest, and transparent.
Transparent and inclusive communication is my secret sauce to keeping my team aligned, aware, and ready to take action.
Transparency isn’t just a Biteable thing. It’s an effective communication thing. Look at Howard Shultz. He built the Starbucks empire on a foundation of open communication.
In an interview with Let Go & Lead about connecting employees to the company vision, Shultz says: “Pushing information out, which I think is the old way, is not going to engender much trust. What will engender trust is communicating in a more intimate way, a more open way, and also in admission that we don’t have all the answers.”
And we don’t have all the answers. I certainly don’t, and I doubt you do either. You don’t need them. Keep your team up to date on what you do know, as you know it, and you’ll be better off for it. Here’s how.
The more mediums the better
It’s not that email never works. It does — but not for everyone. Your people absorb information best in different ways, so give them more than one medium to choose from.
If emails aren’t engaging your employees, engage them with a video, or send your update in Slack. You have a variety of mediums at your disposal — Email, Slack/Teams, meetings — use them all and mix them up.
For my updates, I lean on video. No surprise there. We’re all about video at Biteable (it’s what we do), but video isn’t the only trick in my toolkit. It’s one way to do things, but it isn’t the only way. I also send every update by email and Slack and include a link to my video update in both.
If I could, I’d fax it too.
Monotony is boring — for you and for your team. To maximize engagement, change up your updates week to week. Sometimes I film myself speaking, sometimes I use animation. Variety in all things.
But don’t overload your team with information — instead, look to the power of threes.
The rule of threes
Three is the magic number. People absorb information best in threes — it’s the human brain’s favorite number. Use the power of threes to your advantage and divide your weekly update into three main takeaways for better results.
My magic formula of threes
After much trial and error, this is the formula I’ve found works best for my team. Each week I share:
1. A result. Something meaningful that happened last week.
2. Something that’s happening this week. Something in the moment.
3. Something we’re working towards. A shared goal for the future.
And that’s it. It’s quick and to the point, and never takes more than 30 minutes to draft. But most importantly, it tends to work.
My formula looks something like this in action:
If you have more than three things, save the extras for next week. Try not to mess with the power of threes.
Less is more, but repetition is key
I’m purposeful when it comes to communicating with my team, but as I said before, I never spend more than thirty minutes on an update. Be intentional, but don’t overthink it. Your weekly updates aren’t the only way you’ll share information with your people so remember, less is more.
At the same time, it’s important to pay attention to when and how a message needs to be repeated.
Because I share video updates, I use Biteable’s analytics feature to track the success of my videos. I take a look at how many people watched and how many people I lost before the end of the video. All of this data helps me understand when a message needs more attention.
If I know that an important update didn’t reach my whole team, I’ll play it again at the next All-Hands. And if the message is core, it also goes in the onboarding library along with my own archive of weekly updates that any new hire can see.
The reality is that you’re never going to get 100% engagement, and certainly not every time. Instead, aim to set a new personal best each week. My goal is to improve the view count and engagement numbers from week to week. Sometimes I achieve this and sometimes I don’t, but I always learn something from the numbers.
Other updates I use to keep my team connected
Weekly updates aren’t the only updates I deliver to my team. When there’s a need to mix things up or reinforce a topic, I frequently turn to updates like these:
I use customer highlights to showcase customer feedback or highlight the incredible things our customers are creating with our product.
Recapping major events
Our people are busy. For major events and meetings, I try to share a shortened summary of the most important takeaways.
Celebrating recent wins and people
Culture is important to us at Biteable. We celebrate wins and acknowledge our talented people with kudos and video shoutouts.
Quarterly metrics, policy updates, survey results, and performance updates are standards I regularly share to keep my promise of a transparent and inclusive culture.
Boost productivity with an aligned team
To work at their best, your people need regular, honest updates about what’s happening at your company. Without it, morale and productivity can take a hit. Keep your team aligned and connected with weekly updates that work.
Experiment with mediums, harness the power of threes, and don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone to try something new.