4 Communication Tools
I really pride myself on being very tactical and practical about the recommendations that I make when it comes to productivity, but there is a lot of mindset stuff that goes into this. Technology will merely amplify habits, right? So if you have good habits, technology is gonna make them better. And if you have bad habits, technology is gonna make them way worse, way faster. Becoming intentional about the tools that we use is gonna be the key here. And as I have said before now, you wanna have multiple tools for communicating for different types of things, and at minimum, every company should have four tools, and I have to sidebar here for a moment and just tell everybody I am relatively tool agnostic, I don't really care which tool you use, it's not about the tool, as I said, it's the technology that amplifies the habits, it's about having a framework and a system in place. So if you wanna use a completely different tool than I'm mentioning, if the tools that I mentioned don't exist i...
n your country, there is an alternative that fits the bill. The first tool is a conversational tool. So this is a place where people can have conversations, they can be a little bit more freeform, a little bit more unstructured. In my businesses and the companies that I work with, I like voice communication tools for this, in particular a tool called Voxer. And again, could be anything, you could use Signal, or WhatsApp, or whatever is the flavor of the month for you. For me it's Voxer because it's a voice communication tool and it allows for not only very freeform communication but you do get a lot of richness when you hear somebody's voice, you can hear the intonations, the emotionality, the excitement, whatever it might be, and that is the place where people might be able to have some brainstorming, they may be able to ramble a little bit, or they may be able to complain about something that's happening in the business, but you need to have a tool that is for conversational purposes. The second type of tool is for what I would refer to as procedural communication. Now, for this, a great tool would be something like Slack or maybe Microsoft Teams, because it allows you to communicate information that people just kind of have to know, right? So Slack is a great place, for example, to say like, "Hey everybody, we have a new workshop coming up for the company on this date, who can make it? Thumbs up, thumbs down, yes, no, great." Not too much discussion, not too much conversation, or even, "What does everybody want for lunch today? Put your order in here." What those tools are not gonna be good for is that conversational stuff, that's not gonna be a place for somebody to say during the daily standup, for example, "Hey, I'm off to a bad start this morning because my car broke down and I was kinda late, and then this client called, he was upset." People do write that kind of thing in Slack, but they really shouldn't, if you think about the way you would read that or interpret that. And not to mention, even if you have threads, and channels, and everything set up right, those conversations are still gonna be interspersed with the other things where it's like you just need to know, and you're gonna have the people that see the thing about the workshop, like, "Okay, good, I need to know that date," and then they see somebody complaining about their morning and you lose them. So we have conversational and then we have procedural. The third tool is to bridge the gap between internal and external, internal and external, because now I've told you you shouldn't use email at all internally, right? So now what happens when the outside world sends an email and you need to discuss that? So first question usually comes up for people, so typically what would happen, right? Is that somebody's gonna get an email from a customer and they're upset about something, and that person now is gonna forward that email to the customer service manager, who then adds somebody on the CC to that, and it becomes this whole chain, nobody knows who's actually answering it, or dealing with it, or what happened, and it becomes a mess. Unified inboxes, or team inbox, or shared inboxes, depending on what you wanna call it, is the tool for this. So in my company, for example, we'll use a tool called Intercom, but there's also things like Drift or Front app, Help Scout, there's a lot of examples of these sort of more or less customer service ticketing systems, even though that's not necessarily what it is, it's basically like a shared inbox. Now, in that situation, somebody can send the email in, and now the team can see it, they can discuss it in that tool, without actually creating more email, know at any moment who's actually responding who's not, who's responsible, who it belongs to, and the issues get resolved, and again, we're not creating more internal email. Now, the fourth tool is an interesting one. This is the place where things get done, so technically this is not a communication tool, this is a project management tool we're talking about. And for me, that's Trello, for you it might be Asana, maybe it's ClickUp, maybe it's Airtable, doesn't matter, it's a place where things get done. because when you are having a conversation, whether it's in your conversational tool or in your procedural tool, and now there's something that needs to get done, there's a task, there's an action item, there's a project that's coming up, that literally has to leave that arena and go into the project management area, because now it's something that needs to be managed, it needs to be done, it needs to get taken care of, and we can now communicate very specifically on a very micro-level about that task in that tool. So if you're having a conversation in Slack, for example, and it's like, "Okay, now we have to create this new flyer for the workshop that's coming up," we don't wanna break into another channel now and start going, "Well, what color should it be? Do you like this graphic? How about this logo? Well, I found this person that can make it for us." No, we need to move that right over to a project management setting and start talking about it there. And yes, it sounds like you might have hundreds of little conversations going on, which is totally fine, because they're very specific, very topical, you know exactly what you're talking about, you know what room you are in when you're having that conversation. So those are the four tools at minimum, you may end up having more if you break down into more specific communication, but at minimum you need those four, and you need to write these down and plaster it on the walls. Literally this needs to be a poster that says, "This is our communication SOP, this is how we talk, and where we talk about what we're gonna talk about." That way, again, you are setting the intention, because even if you have something and your team's like, "Oh, I really don't like Slack, I prefer to use something that's voice related or whatever." It's still gonna create less friction if they know where they're supposed to be to have that conversation.