The success of your company will be defined by the culture of communication you set across your team. Tweet This Quote
I have been leading startup teams since my freshman year in university (i.e. for the past 11 years). I’ve learned the hard way just how critical it is to bake good communication practices into your company. I have lost teammates, lost contracts, and even had to shut down companies because of the culture of communication, or lack thereof, that I created on my teams. Beyond my own mishaps as a startup CEO, I have seen communication be the root of most all the problems our alumni across Unreasonable programs experience. Overtime I’ve come to believe that the success of your company will be defined by the culture of communication you set across your team. As a CEO, this must be prioritized.
Taking all of this to heart, at Unreasonable Group, we now look at our team’s culture of communication as seriously as we look at the health of our balance sheet. About two years ago, our small team came up with what we now refer to as our “communication architecture.” This dictates our daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly communication habits as a team. Below I’ve outlined the broad-strokes for your feedback, critique, and hopefully in some cases, for your use and benefit.
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we have a team wide 10-15 minute standing meeting. These meetings are designed to quickly hear how everyone is feeling, to celebrate an accomplishment from the day before, to layout everyone’s one key goal for the day ahead, and to make certain we clear out any bottlenecks. Here’s how this meeting unfolds: We start with a moment of silence and then everyone goes around the circle and with 1-5 words, they describe how they are feeling at the moment. Everyone then goes around the circle and shares their “triumph” from yesterday (i.e. the one thing you got done that you needed to accomplish). Then, everyone shares their “boulder” for the day ahead (i.e. if you get nothing else done, what is the one thing you need to be focused on completing today). We then go around and share if we have any bottlenecks that are getting in the way of us completing our boulder. Lastly, everyone shares if they have a headline announcement or not (i.e. something we should all be aware of as a team). This meeting literally takes on average 10 minutes and never goes over 15 minutes. It’s a way to ensure everyone is in-synch at the start of every day.
MONDAY ALL HANDS ON DECK
Every Monday we have a company wide team meeting for an hour. In this meeting we get a pulse for the team as a whole, we go over our action items from the week prior (note: each individual sets these on their won), we lay out our action items for the week to come, and we give space for “critical time,” points of gratitude, and burning questions.
SUNDAY ONE ON ONE(S)
Every Sunday, each team member shares a 30 minute conversation with their manager. This call is the employee’s meeting and s/he controls the agenda. Whatever they want to discuss, this is a safe space to dive in, ask questions, be critical, and bring up topics not conducive to the daily grind. Weekly tasks are not discussed. This conversation is about getting out of the weeds and looking at the big picture. For example, on one of these calls a question like “If you were me, what would you do differently in my roll?” may be asked. The conversation may be about family, about health, about a frustration you are feeling, about how we can better create a culture in which you realize your full potential, or about a “yellow flag” (i.e. a hunch you have about a potential concern that may become a red flag if we don’t discuss it early on). Most importantly, the agenda is set and the conversation is led not by the manager, but by the person being managed. As a CEO, these are the most important meetings I have all week.
Each month we have a company offsite for 48 hours. Most companies hold retreats… this is intentionally called an “advance.” The 48 hours spent together is dedicated to GYSHIDO time, team bonding, and always asking ourselves whether or not we are climbing the right mountain.
MONTHLY DEEP DIVES
Once a month, each team member will meet with their manager for a 1 hour “deep-dive.” These conversations are centered around personal trajectory, being challenged, ensuring that the team member is thriving…etc. This, like the weekly 1-on-1, is the employee’s meeting and they dictate the agenda.
QUARTERLY UNREASONABLE WIDE GATHERING
Once a quarter, Unreasonable Group hosts an Unreasonable wide get together. Designed to bring together all the different companies, organizations, and teams who wave the Unreasonable flag. The goal is around bonding, cross-company communication and cohesion, and to learn from one another while making room to celebrate the quarter passed. (note: I have failed at prioritizing these and in writing this post, it reminded me that we need to schedule these in months in advance to ensure they actually happen).
WE WALK, WE HIKE, WE RUN, AND WE LOVE DOGS
We strive to take all our meetings outside and in the fresh air (i.e. not in fancy chairs). Over time, we believe conducting our meetings on-the-go will lead to more creative breakthroughs and healthier lifestyles. WARNING: most our meetings involve dogs. If you don’t love dogs, you probably wouldn’t like working with Unreasonable Group ;-).
I’d deeply appreciate your feedback, questions, and reactions to our communication architecture and I’d love to learn about your own best practices – so please don’t be hesitant to share your comments below.