At the Running Remote conference last week, several speakers touched on the topic of establishing communication norms and rules for your team to improve performance.
David Collier of Clearword emphasised the importance of creating an agreed way of working with colleagues, for example “How we do communicate with each other? How do you want me to give you feedback?” This helps to manage expectations and reduce friction.
Hubspot do something similar, according to Eimear Merrinan who is their VP of Culture. She said that all employees complete a “Working With Me” document when they join and they share it with their teams to outline communication preferences, working hours, likes and dislikes.
Eimear (on screen) and David (right) at Running Remote
And Sacha Connor, CEO of Virtual Work Insider, said it’s vital to codify your team norms and expectations – particularly around communication, responsiveness expectations and availability expectations. She works a lot with global teams and helps them to "Design Your Team Time" to agree what working hours overlap, what hours are out-of-bounds for synchronous communication, and perhaps a day where meetings are off limits so that people can focus. Here's an example of what that could look like:
Mark Cruth, a Modern Work Coach with Atlassian, gave a brilliant presentation on day 1 of the conference where he talked us through how to actually set communication norms in your team and what it looks like in practice. He uses Atlassian’s “Working Agreement Play” which can be used to outline ways of working and create communication guidelines.
This play (aka workshop resource) is based on the idea that everyone in a team has different ways of working and communicating, but that a team needs to agree on ways to work together to be effective. You need consensus and agreement.
You can use Atlassian’s play to create guidelines for how you’ll communicate together as a team to achieve your goals. This works particularly well in distributed teams that do not share a location and may not share a time zone.
How does it work?
Each team member thinks about the communication channels they use. They each write out each channel they use for communicating in the team (e.g. Email, Slack, WhatsApp, Teams message, Sharepoint etc) and why they use each channel. For example, they might write that they use Sharepoint for sharing team documentation or that they use Teams for daily communication in the team.
Then the team will come together and try to come to a consensus on these communication channels. Discuss questions like:
Are we using the same set of channels?
Are we using these channels for the same purpose, or for different purposes?
Do we want to remove or add any channels?
What channel do we use if something is urgent?
Document this, share it and make it part of how you work as a team. Talk about it regularly and use it as guidelines if people veer away from the agreed norms. If an agreement isn’t being upheld, then discuss what might be getting in the way.
And importantly, you need to revisit this agreement regularly. Things change, new people will join, channels may be revised, your team may be restructured… don’t put the agreement in the bin, just revisit it and update it as you need.
Here's Mark's take on the impact of not implementing communication norms:
Is this something you could try in your team?