✍ Don’t Commit, Just Do

I’m fresh back at work for 2023, and feeling the energy as people set their mind to the year ahead. I’m quickly hearing a theme around team communication and connection, as the leaders in my network refine their approaches to hybrid work and distributed teams.

I’m hearing leaders planning to start writing a weekly note, start a monthly newsletter, or refresh their town halls. These are good, important plans; it’s foundational for leaders to consistently provide engaging and timely insights.

But I don’t think these particular plans should be advertised.

The first weekly note will be good, but not great, because it’s the first. Or it’ll be delayed under the pressure of waiting until it’s great before starting.

The second one will be light on content, as it turns out that not much new has happened yet. Maybe we should have done this fortnightly instead? Did I put too much in the first one? I can’t break the pattern this early! You use some fillers, and the content quality takes a dip instead.

Some weeks will be great. Some will be a chore. Some will be a complete overload of comms from other teams or functions, and then you’re throwing more content on the fire.

Is this even my communication style? Does this work for me as a leader? Is it working for my team?

Having a structured communication approach is important.

Having a content plan, and a regular rhythm is really useful.

But your audience need to know the content – not the plan.

Don’t start with a commitment. Just publish your first one. Then your second one. Then your third. And then you have a trend.

You’ll find your rhythm. You’ll find the weeks that it makes sense to post something, or the ones where it makes sense to wait a week. You’ll find the day that works best. You’ll find the content that resonates. You’ll discover how the conversation plays out: how people engage, respond, challenge, or enquire.

People will work out if you’re posting most weeks, about monthly, or each sprint. Or they won’t care, and it doesn’t matter. What matters more is the actual communication.

Keep space to change your priorities and iterate your plan. Some weeks, your priority as a leader won’t be communication or engagement, and that’s ok. If it doesn’t stick, you can just stop; you don’t have to announce an intent to stop / cancel / give up.

Start the year talking about what matters. There should be a million things more important and more engaging to start with than “I’m going to start a weekly update”.

Some practical tips:

Know your reason, write the content

People often transpose their reason for writing into the opening lines. They’re sitting down to write their first weekly note, so they write about writing a weekly note.

“Hi team. This year I’m going to start writing a weekly note, so here’s the first! These notes will include regular updates on our strategy, our plans, our performance, and other key messages that come up throughout the year.”

Know why you’re writing, but write about the bit that matters.

“Hi team. I’ve been reflecting on our strategy and plans. Here are the five areas that are top of mind for me, and why:”

It’s just an update

The subject line or title box can be another publishing papercut. I’m a fan of keeping it generic, and just using the format “[Team/Project/Group Name] Update”, like “Digitisation Update”. I find words like ‘newsletter’ a bit formal, and I think the starting focus should be on quality content over brand names.

Blank, 2, 3, 4

I’ve found it useful to number the updates once you get going. They help to softly demonstrate regularity, and make it easier for people to know if they missed one. When we were launching Telstra Purple, I started with “Purple Update”, then “Purple Update Vol. 2”, “Purple Update Vol. 3” and onwards. Suddenly a year had passed, and I found myself writing “Purple Update Vol. 23”.

If you’re posting to a platform like Teams, Yammer, or Slack, then you’ll be able to link to previous posts.

I like to include a little back link like this as the end of posts:

🔙 Want to go further back? Check out volume 20.

This makes it possible for people to join at any point, and still discover the recent history. They might be new to the team, back from holidays, or just taking a new interest. The process of quickly grabbing the link also gives me a prompt to compare back on what I said last, and make sure that I’m not repeating myself.

Photo by Stefen Tan on Unsplash

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