Consistent weekly comms

A recurring bug in many leaders’ operating systems—including mine—is overlooking just how much useful context a leader can have than folks on their team.

A regular practice I’ve adopted is sending a brief, five-minute weekly video communication to my team. The weekly comms, in fact, has been a long tradition in my org predating me that I have continued. Having been on both the receiving and sending end of the regular weekly comms, I’ve come to believe that this is a critical leadership activity on a growing team.

Information dissemination is a core responsibility of a leader. Leaders have access to a huge amount of information that most individuals on the team do not. Why is Sales hiring so much? Why did we decide to work on X instead of Y? What exactly is Marketing working on? By communicating habitually with my entire team, I can tell them what is going on, why it is going on, and critically, reinforce core cultural values.

The format

My weekly comms consist of an informal 5-8 minute video and transcript, published internally and announced on our internal all-company listserv. I record a video for a few reasons:

  1. There are people willing to watch a video but not read an email.
  2. It feels more personal and creates a bit of face-to-face connection on a distributed team.
  3. It is easier.

The last bit is surprising. It surprised me, at first, and would not have been true a year ago. But now I am practiced at talking to a camera and have a good video setup that I use every day. Another factor is some excellent software called Descript that makes it simple to edit video and create transcripts. It feels like a magical advance in video editing.

I’m someone who obsesses over word choice, so I’ve found it easier to bang out a video script because I don’t worry as much about polishing it to the same extent as a stand-alone document. In the past, I tried to write a weekly email in the same format, but I was never consistent. It always felt like too much work. Recording a video is more sustainable.

I record in one take.

In practice, about one-third of the team watches the video, and one-third read the transcript, for about 2/3 total penetration.

What I talk about

  • Welcoming new team members.
  • Acknowledging major, company-impacting accomplishments.
  • Acknowledging significant accomplishments that can fly under the radar of the business. Things like open source contributions, technical debt paid off, continuing iterative improvements after a big-bang launch.
  • Announcing new policies.
  • Connecting revenue numbers with project initiatives, site traffic, major closed deals, etc.
  • Project team spin ups and spin downs.

A regular weekly comms is a great way to get a consistent message out to the entire team at once.

The habit

The key to making this work is forming a habit. If I wait until Friday morning to sit down in front of an empty text editor, I create lots of head-scratching and not much writing.

So on Monday, I create an empty document for the week that will serve as a script and transcript of the recording. I leave it open all week. On the side, I keep a running document of possible, non-time-sensitive topics to cover or topics that didn’t make it into the previous week.

Throughout the week, as I learn things from leaders on the team or hear of any information that needs to be flowed down, I capture that in the script as a quick bullet point.

On Friday morning, I write a quick draft and often send it to a few people for a quick review. Their feedback is critical—it’s a quick check to make sure I’m communicating what I mean. It is especially important to ensure I acknowledge the right people for accomplishments and don’t leave anyone out.

Then I record, almost always in one take. My assistant edits the video, exports, and then I Slack and email it to the team.

I dedicate 1.5 hours to my weekly video. Is this a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes. It is a chance to acknowledge efforts that could go unnoticed. It is a direct conduit to people on my team. It also makes me a better listener. Consistently creating a weekly comms puts me in a mindset of asking questions like “Is this important?” “Is it important for the team to know?” And critically, “what culture values can I communicate and reinforce?” It gets me out of my own head. It makes me a better, more informed leader.

What you talk about is what gets thought about

The weekly comms is a nudge. Done well, it can consistently and subtly shift the conversation in a positive direction. The weekly comms is an opportunity to create a story around the team and give it purpose.

References and further reading