✍ Don’t Commit, Just Do

Black and orange keyboard photo by Stefen Tan

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

Discussion on LinkedIn

✍ Friday is your timeline, not theirs

It’s Monday, and you’ve picked something to work on: we’re finally going to get that new policy launched internally. We just need to write up the post and get it out to the team. It’ll be done and live by tomorrow. Maybe Wednesday at the latest.

Hold on; we missed a scenario. Alex can help fix that. Got five Alex?

Great chat! That really helped, and thanks for pointing out those other stakeholders we missed. We’ll check in with them quickly.

It’s Friday morning. They’ve found a gap. It’s annoying, but it’s good that we found it, and we can fix it quickly this morning.

Hey folks! I think we’re ready to go, yeah? We really need to get this out this week!

It’s now 2pm Friday.

Stop. Don’t publish.

Work can be like a gas: it expands to fill the container. The easiest scheduling container is a working week: it starts fresh on a Monday with a new burst of optimism, then everyone’s mutual optimism collides into a ball of messy work, and finally culminates with everybody wanting to feel successful before closing off for the week. It’s nice to tick off the ‘simple’ things you set out to achieve at the start of the week, especially if they evolved into something not-so-simple.

There are very few things that make sense to publish after noon on a Friday.

Your end-of-week rush collides with everyone else’s. When most people are also in output/closing mode, it’s hard to effectively inject new input.

Your comms won’t be perfectly contained or reaction-less. Hopefully they’ll be quite the opposite! People will have questions or feedback. They’ll have scenarios you didn’t contemplate. All of these are ok, if you’re able to respond effectively. You could leave the responses until Monday, but that’s a bit of a dump-and-run that pays for your good-feels (yay, we published!) with other peoples’ unnecessary stress or anxiety over a weekend (but how does this affect me?).

Work on your timeline, but publish to your audience’s timeline. Friday was your timeline; it’s probably not theirs.

Publish when your audience will be most receptive to new input. In a corporate environment, that’s typically earlier in the week, not later.

Think of a post/publish/send button more like a ‘Start Conversation’ button. Press it when you’ve actually got a chance of sticking around and engaging.

Finish your week comfortable that you’ve already got the first set of steps sorted for Monday: all you have to do is hit publish. That’s like two wins for the price of one: finishing the week with everything done and sorted, and starting Monday straight out of the gates.

✍ As you may know…

Announcements to a company, team, or project rarely occur in complete isolation, and thus typically include multiple references to prior context.


  • “As you may know, embracing diversity is one of our company’s core beliefs.”
  • “You will recall that Alex wrote last month about the enterprise planning process.”
  • “As you know, we do this through the Figwizzlygig process.”

I frequently see such context surrounded in the filler phrase of “As you may know”, usually from a desire to avoid repetition of information that the audience already knows, but then introducing that information anyway.

I always advocate for dropping those filler words. Here’s why:

“As you may know, embracing diversity is one of our company’s core beliefs.”

💡 “Embracing diversity is one of our company’s core beliefs.”

If it’s a core belief, take the opportunity to state it. It’s worth saying again whether the audience knows it or not.

“You will recall that Alex wrote last month about the enterprise planning process.”

If I do recall, the phrase is redundant: it becomes more of a trigger to tune out, as the author has just confirmed that the following information is redundant.

If I don’t recall, then we’re jumped straight to implied fault: my memory isn’t good enough, or I wasn’t looking in the right place. There are many other plausible scenarios, which aren’t the reader’s fault; to start, they might be new to the group/project/company and never been in the audience for the previous communication. Whatever the case, avoid the unnecessary implied accusation.

💡 “Last month, Alex wrote about the enterprise planning process.”

Changing to a straight-up statement links the context to the prior communication, without any of that other baggage.

💡 “Last month, Alex wrote about the enterprise planning process.”

Better yet, link to that prior communication. Tools like Yammer, Teams, and Slack all provide the ability to link to a previous thread. This gives the reader a one-click jump back to that important context. Whether they’re new to the audience, or just want to brush up on history, the reader can continue to hop back from one communication to the next. They’ll be able to read the communication, and the resulting replies/reactions.

If you’re stuck referencing back to an email, attach it. For the recipients who never previously received it, the attachment removes the hurdle of needing to ask for that content, leaving them better informed, and you needing to write less duplicated follow-ups. For the recipients who want to go back and re-read the context themselves, it’s now one click away, instead of a search-mission through their inbox. Making the context proactively available helps underline the importance of it, and better respects the readers’ time, especially in aggregate across a large group. You likely already have the original email open yourself, as part of checking that your reference makes sense.

“As you know, we do this through the Figwizzlygig process.”

This is another opportunity to lead the reader towards success and test the availability of information in the process.

Where a process or tool is important to an organisation, it should be well documented, and readily discoverable. Intranet > search > first result > #winning. For many organisations, this is a struggle between the content existing in the first place, it being published somewhere linkable, and then the search/discovery process being up to scratch. Whilst these can add up to seem insurmountable, announcements are a great time to chip away at them: the content you’re talking about is likely the most important to have available.

First up, is the Figwizzlygig process well-defined and documented? When somebody asks to know more, is there something ready to share? If you’re expecting other people to know the content, you should be confident in this. Now’s a great time to check.

Does that content live somewhere accessible to the audience, with a URL? Nobody wants to be trying to get something done but be left second-guessing whether the PDF they were once sent is the latest version. Now’s a great time to check.

💡 “We do this through the Figwizzlygig process.”

If you can find the link, include it.

If you struggle, then you’ve identified a gap.

“As you may know, as you may know, as you may know”

When so many announcements start with context in this format, it also just gets down right repetitive. Take a look at some recent announcements you’ve received or written, and consider how much opening impact was wasted on the phrase “As you may know”.

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