Dear leaders, I haven’t been able to shake a phrase I heard and wanted to share it with you.
On a recent livestream, two CEOs were debating how the company driver has to be friction driven. Meaning; that you have to create friction and then apply control to run a successful company.
They both agreed this method is engineered for success.
I’ll be honest, this made my blood boil, it was two traditional CEOs suggesting you had to control people to garner performance.
IMHO this is mostly BS.
Ever since hearing this, I have been deep in thought and in conversation with other business leads about how you can apply three different models.
1/ Flex 2/ Freedom or 3/ Friction
Flex, flex is my go-to method of choice, flex provides guidelines and frameworks to be successful. It is empowered by the information you provide, celebrates wins and ensures quick and easy feedback is given in the right moments.
Flex works if you provide guard rails, often an essential part of “flex” is giving the right directions and speed signs (like you see while driving) and being able to be pliable, with the guidelines, with your people, but never too much with performance and goals.
Freedom is giving complete autonomy to your teams and allowing each team/department to go off and run it their way. Freedom works until it doesn’t (usually means performance has taken a dip or small pods abuse this) or freedom is taken too far.
Freedom has become the default for many and when freedoms become too free, the company has to react and often overreact and remove any freedom. Often then causing issues and increased staff turnover.
Friction – when tension is created to apply pre-determined control measures. This is often causing friction between department leads and cross-functional leads to build a competitive atmosphere where the strongest or most politically savvy survives.
I’ll admit, we can create situations that encourage friction (I have done it a number of times with my departments in the past), such as friction between two competitive teams or competitive executives, however, friction for many is combat (not conflict) and some will want to win so badly they will take this until one admits defeat or the other leaves, sending many ripples through the business and encouraging younger team members to mimic these behaviours – be aware of this before you drive this behaviour.
By all means, smartly test your teams, and understand their motivations and what really triggers the right reactions but learn quickly and do not push those who are close to the edge or unable to compete in these environments. Many CEOs were brought up in a time when only the stoic and “the strongest survive”, in today’s business world this only causes friction and the rewards never compare to the battle scars created.
This week ponder on what type of company driver you have and what behaviours you encourage from your business. I bet you are driving some behaviours that you will want to address in the next business cycle.
Dear leaders, for years we have used numerous different methodologies to try and crack performance and roll up into the company objectives.
The trendiest of recent times is the OKRs, I will save my experiences with OKRs for another dedicated leader’s letter, we use SMART goals as a way to help be specific and make the next period of time work clear and simple to understand and execute.
One of my personal favourites and the most effective I have used is:
Think Big Act Small By When.
The whole framework is intentionally simple.
Unlike some of the other goal-setting frameworks, it is designed to be understood by the whole organisation and as a way to keep others accountable.
Think Big: What is the big goal
Act Small: What are the smaller actions to hit the goal
When: When do we need to deliver by?
My addition: Who owns this (owner of the outcome) and who is the sponsor (the team or department lead)
Tips to win with think big, act small, by when.
Never allow ASAP to be used in when
Always be clear about why think big is connected to the company way strategy
Always be clear on who you will need to partner with and call this out
Only create this when you are given the company-wide objectives
Create and approve as a department (especially if you have a larger management team and many teams within a department)
Check-in fortnightly, repetition wins (this can be in person or asynchronous, the more you run in async the quicker you will become at working at updates and remove the most vocal colleagues)
Hold the owner and sponsor accountable for misses
You can add a score to each think big at the end of each quarter to understand performance and how it went, this is optional but can work well, especially if you are numbers driven or need a scoring system to rewards those involved
Can you benefit by using this framework instead of your existing tool?
Would this make collaboration easier and ensure the business understands the smaller acts to lead to appreciation and curiosity?
Remember when most frameworks go wrong is when you have to create cross-functional collaboration and be able to hold each other accountable, can you manage this?
Have a good week ahead and consider how you can leverage free frameworks to improve working styles, collaborations and deliverables.
We are in a standoff, the conditioned ‘office is best’ versus the more modern approach of work is not location specific and you don’t need to physically together to work and collaborate.
The easiest way to explain the office versus hybrid (and remote) is policing and boundaries and not being able to learn newer ways of working and making it work against your own biases (particularly those with proximity bias).
The office had clear boundaries – workspaces, communal areas, and “meeting zones”.
Most knew when you were having private vs semi-private vs public conversations. You had a number of variables but most knew what these were:
At your desk
In an open booth
In a call booth
In a breakout space
In a conference room
Outside of the office
Headphones vs no headphones. Headsets vs no headsets. Background vs no background
Those who didn’t were often policed by colleagues (or then HR).
The Office Environment
The office was noisy or quiet, it didn’t have a perfect balance and often the most political debates were about how to move teams away from Sales and Marketing departments.
The decisions we made on the fly were complicated and required constant scanning in full offices, meeting zones free or full, what were the requirements was it a one-to-one, a breakout group, or a follow-up to the management meeting (where the best conversation leads to action), a team stand up, a weekly department meeting
The surfacing of this is the Product and Engineering area or this is Marketing’s area – it made it easy for some, hard for others, it was like entering the lion’s den for some and others easily entered and exited unscathed. This happens in every business and it is down to work status, title status and knowing how to operate in work/social and work/work situations.
Not to mention, the always bubbling beneath the surface, the air con wars, the ongoing conflicts of who ate my avocado, this is your seat (despite disliking those around you) and the constant social dynamics of where you sit and who you have to sit with or when you decided you had to work from home to get your work done.
These cultural moments and company culture movements create subcultures, all combining into how colleagues consider what a toxic workplace is for them and if this is a workplace you want to work at for the mid to long term.
The New Considerations:
Where are people working from: Work — Home — Third space. What type of work are they doing there?
Working in third space pros vs cons (the implications of having conversations that might include spending, budgets and company finances, firing and then attempting to interview in a coffee shop as its easier to navigate than the office)
How are we going to manage and balance the requirements of a meeting in IRL aka In person vs URL (virtual) and what if its split down the middle, half in the office meeting room and then others outside it
Habits die hard (habitual and routine) – it takes 88 days for complex habits to be forged and now in-frequency leads to fewer habits, leading to less footfall in the office.
It is important to note bad practices and bad habits are easily picked back up, with poor meeting etiquette being the easiest. Examples are those with headphones versus those without. Those in the room (physically) versus those who dialled in
The questions you should now answer to make the environments work:
Did you change the office?
Did you re-onboard your teams to the office? Without onboarding new colleagues and existing colleagues, how will you create a great and equal environment?
Did you make the office less daunting or less chaotic? How have you adapted the office to pre-2020 feedback and more recent actionable feedback around the office set-up?
Did you reshuffle what the office meant and how you removed the chaos? Without change, you will be forcing employees back into a broken system
Did you improve the software and tech to improve when working hybrid? Force fitting zoom to every use case is hindering businesses.
Did you attempt to build less reliance on meeting and real time decision making? Have you looked at embracing async work and more in depth deliberate discussion in writing, audio and short form video?
Did you interview and continue to gain feedback from the teams? Without feedback and discussing what feedback you received and the actions you take is removing all the hard work and hard decisions you made
Have you renamed working from home to – working from workplace home? The bias and conditioning can be removed with reframing.
Have you created a decision document? Helping the whole company understand how and why decisions were made?
There is an art and a science to the chaos of the office, many struggles to grasp the art and don’t understand its importance (many just do not understand PQ and are never taught office political intelligence). The chaos was deciding what’s important and what’s not and where to be and how to act as a constant test and challenge.
The hybrid office and working style is something so many did not make a plan for, they didn’t create a deliberate working shift to improve the quality of work and consider how to improve company culture and company performance.
How you and your fellow business leaders react now is going to set the tone for your next 12-24 months.
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This episodes guest Briony Gunson (https://brionygunson.com/) is a business + mindset coach, meditation teacher + trauma-informed breathwork trainer, Briony helps individuals and businesses to improve.
Follow Briony across social – LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube.
Briony's Introduction Video On YouTube
Podcast: Aubrey Marcus – not about the world of work but psychology, spirituality, human potential + behaviour
Book: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
Newsletter: Brain pickings AKA The Marginalian has a free Sunday digest of the week’s most mind-broadening and hear
Sign up to Briony's Friday Feels newsletter: https://bit.ly/3AiEOv9 – Briony archives them on her blog.
Listen to Briony's guided meditations on Insight Timer, e.g. this is a popular one: https://insighttimer.com/brionyg/guided-meditations/letting-go-meditation-12-minutes
Briony also recommended Kirsty Hulse's work (Kirsty is great and gets my co-approval)
Briony takes us on a journey of:
Mental health and why it is so important to be aware of
How mental health is evolving
How your mental health can help to transform physical health
Why early morning open-air swims have been so important
Therapy and therapists role in peoples lives
Why breathwork is so important
Why our bodies are driven by our breath and controlling our breath
Why Yoga is vital to so many of us
Personal development starts with you
Everyone is facing similar challenges – it's how you find the best course of action
Why retreats are going to so popular and a necessary part of life and work
You are the expert of yourself – why starting to listen to yourself and your body is so important
The brilliant Anxious Achiever podcast host Morra Aarons-Mele (an introvert herself) provides a number of invaluable recommendations on managing and empowering introverts on your team:
From The FT Working It Podcast
Tips Provided By Morra & FT’s Kesewa Hennessy:
Remove Meeting Stacking: Remove the demand to do meetings back to back, remove the demand for being on camera (aka reducing mirror anxiety ) and reduce the demand to perform on camera
Stop Shaming Quiet Team Members: Stop naming and shaming introverted members who rarely speak in meetings
Run Better Meetings: Structure your meetings, have an agenda and reduce the demand for loud voices in real-time meetings
Enable Early Opinions: Encourage and embrace introverts (and ambiverts) early in the meetings and encourage more discussion in writing and asynchronously
Recovery Time: Enable introverts to recover their energy while working from home
Encourage Colleagues: to uncover the qualities of introverts (and ambiverts) within your team and encourage these colleagues to be involved in other ways than just speaking within a meeting
Embrace Culture: Each workplace culture is different but that’s what makes your company unique and offers a chance to embrace different colleagues with different personality types. Embrace this and lead by example with this in mind.
Important Resources To Help Improve Management
The FT working it podcast is available on all of the podcast players and full listings of their pod can be found here
Leadership lessons come in all shapes and sizes, we often overlook the parallels in business to many different industries. There are three we look to constantly.
The first is the armed forces, we look to the army or navy for leadership lessons in the toughest environments.
The second is often politics, rightly or wrongly we compare situations to previous life events or difficult calls political leaders take to drive countries or states forward.
The third is sports and despite it not landing with non-sports fans they are many similarities we should take direction from.
All or Nothing is a behind the scene’s sports documentary series on Amazon Prime Video.
All or Nothing has gone behind the scenes in soccer (football) Brazil national team, Manchester City, Spurs and most recently Arsenal, other stand up docuseries include the NFL (American Football) with the Arizona Cardinals and LA Rams, in the NCAA (college football) with The Michigan Wolverines, with the most respected rugby team New Zealand and in the ice hockey league (NHL) with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The behind-the-scenes nature of the series highlights coaching sackings, player and coaches disagreements, players’ connections and the outside-of-the-game issues the clubs face.
In the latest series with Arsenal, here are ten lessons you can take with or without watching it.
Simple Messages Work Best – often goes unseen is how managers motivate their players and prep them before a game, in all or nothing it really shows how Arsenal manager boils his ideas down simply to help reasonable with the team and motivate them for the match ahead. Arsenal coaching staff place posters throughout their dressing room and rival dressing rooms (on away days) with unity and identity commonly appearing and being referenced by the head coach Arteta. These simple gestures often have a larger long-term impact and something many leaders overlook is the power of a poster to influence their business or their teams.
Game Management and Tactics – Like all great leaders you have to set your team up for success, whether it is a big campaign or a tough quarter ahead. Arteta shows the players what he expects and how it down to them on the pitch throughout the school. He coaches every moment until the game and very often it is down to the team to respond in the match and own the change of the game, this is similar to how large products and projects go.
Speak In The Language Your Team Knows Best – Arteta speaks six languages and speaks to his players in their native tongue when English isn’t as strong. This is a way many leaders can speak to their team in the most simple language or the words they speak and clearly understand. It is unusual to think you can speak many languages but using the words and sentiments they understand goes a long way and is something many leaders discount as important. Language and sentiment matter.
Keep Coaching – Arsenal have a young squad, they have an average team under 25 and is a team that needs to grow together and gain more coaching than many others would in their position. A younger squad was a deliberate tactic deployed by the Arsenal management team, coach the players and adapt them to a style of play (tactical choice for department leads) to build into a successful team in two to three years while connecting with the fan base and introducing different players in the squad to the media.
You Have To Build Personal Connections – Arsenal manager spots one of his players (who was new with the club) left back Nuno Tavares is quiet and doesn’t provide much feedback to the coaching staff. Often the environment might be right or the players might be introverted, Arteta and his staff single him out individually to try and get more from the player and understand his motivations. Nuno is Portuguese and this season has been sent out on loan to grow his confidence and to see how he fares in France.
Unfortunately, the loan system is not available to most companies however this is something we can do to help to develop our team members by offering them a chance to gain experience and get exposure to different maybe more testing environments with other companies or in other departments.
Passion – There are many passionate personal stories delivered by the Arsenal head coach (Arteta) that brings the group together and Arteta does this through the docuseries with the players and often when answering questions. Passion is one of the leadership qualities many lacks, alongside storytelling. When you can merge the two together, especially with younger players you will shape a special company.
A Great Story Works – “a great night” is a powerful story of the team coach meeting his wife and attempting to connect with his players with a story before an important game. Arsenal didn’t win the game but you can see how it brings the team closer together and you can feel something developing between the group.
A great story works, you don’t have to deliver this in person as shown when the head coach is working from home with Covid, but it does prove how important a message and a story work.
No Me Before We – A star player / employee is not worth the disruption (brilliant jerk), the “star player” breaks trust a number of times and is eventually removed from the squad and then the football club. Often as business leaders, we wait too long or allow behaviours like this to continue too long, even at football clubs they need to speak to HR and lawyers. It is part of the modern world and a lesson to take forward.
Build For The Long Term (Vision) – Mikel Arteta came under fire for poor performance and a large section of the fan base was not impressed calling for him to be sacked. With parallels to how CEOs come under fire publicly, you must stick to your long-term plan, reiterate your strategy and connect with your biggest critics. Arteta is deliberate in trying to connect his players with the fans and take the responsibility for the blip in form.
Don’t Be Afraid To Experience In Public – A documentary is a scary thought, it is access behind the scenes and closed doors that will expose your biggest weakness and highlight the flaws within your business. The more positive side highlights the journey you are on, the bond between the teams and the importance of all of the staff and the impact they have from the youngest players to the oldest players.
This is not something you do in big organisations but a fly-on-the-wall documentary might be something that enables change within your business and with your leadership. The best way to improve is to watch yourself and learn from your mistakes. With the cost of technology and the ability to do more with less, is this time for you to consider something similar? Maybe.
The choice now is which of the 10 lessons are you going to take forward and which are going to be in your leadership arsenal in weeks and months to come.
Dear leaders, this week I want to reintroduce the power of communication and the importance of the right communication within the workplace.
We have seen an explosion of new tools over the last decade, we are expected to stay on top of the numerous channels, slack and teams constantly wanting our attention, understand the important emails, manage the flow of information and data from meetings and take the most important actions and insights, distil and then deliver on these.
Superpower: Communication I have said this before on leaders letters and I will say many times in the future, communication is the superpower most do not work on and it is the key skill for the majority of high-level c-suite execs have (that and being able to juggle 100 things at once and stay somewhat sane).
Communication in my eyes is often the difference between good company culture and company performance and is the element you are in the most control of.
Remember less is very often more.
Something that many feel is the best way to communicate is to send many messages, appear on many threads and add their opinion. The best communicators and the best operators rarely have to do this (from my 23-year working career), they know how to and when to communicate.
Here are the ways communication is key in organisations and why developing your communication muscle is vitally important on your leadership journey:
Communicating the potential downturns and the impact this can have on the company, your department or individuals up for potential layoffs. The best layoffs (if there is such a thing) have been those that have put EQ first and put their team’s well-being first
Celebrating the wins and what it means for the company
Working asynchronously – despite what many believe, we are moving towards async work more and more and hybrid is forcing function in dividing the best leaders and communicators and the worst
Handling hundreds of inbound signals and being able to boil them down to the three most important actions for the company or team to focus on
Ability to retell the same story numerous times and not get bored of creating new ways of telling it and reshaping the narrative to fit the situation
Being able to distil the strategy onto one page and ensure it makes sense across the business and land with all team members
The ability to write a ten-slide deck that lands across the leadership team and gain buy-in for additional budget requests or a large investment into your business area
The expertise to know when to write, when to call an all-hands and speak in person or when to record a video and distribute it across the company.
These are all areas you can identify, you can plan for and build your muscle memory around to improve your communication.
I strongly believe the best leaders make the time to improve, despite how busy they are, they find the time and energy for personal development and invest in their own training.
So the questions to ask yourself and answer over the next month:
How are you improving your communication style?
How are you learning to story tell better? (Hint: read storyworthy)
How are you learning to develop your own voice? (Hint: Write more, craft more executive summaries and record you’re saying this loud)
How are you improving your writing style? (Hint: Written communication is most frequent and how the majority of decisions are based on and decided with)
How are you working on your in-person delivery? (Hint: Use your smartphone and practise reviewing yourself)
Are you practising your presentation skills? (Hint: Use the record function on Keynote, PowerPoint or a tool like Dropbox Capture and present a number of decks you have created, watch back and tweak)
Are you looking for training in information design? (Hint: Your company slide template is likely hindering how you present)
Thanks for reading Leaders Letter newsletter again this week, I always welcome replies and conversations around the topics, and happily get in touch if you would like to dive into these points or a previous letter.
Dear leaders, I recently went for a walk and talk coffee with a mentee stepping up to a leadership team. They were a blend of excitement and anxiety about moving to a new company and being able to show their skills.
We got onto the subject of good managers, bad managers and management traits. Something I suggested, even the worst managers believe they are good managers and will be able to list out a number of traits that makes them a great manager. Many good managers will list off their bad traits, humans are complex.
Whether you’re starting a new job or becoming a manager or being promoted to a new position, the challenge for everyone’s how to be a good manager and what traits you embrace and those bad habits you mimic from a previous boss, you have to shake.
I offer one very simple exercise to my mentors and coaching clients and it’s very simple.
Find a quiet space where you can concentrate and focus
Grab your pad and pen, open apple notes or your spreadsheet software of choice and start to think, then
Write down the ten good traits, the ten that made you stop and appreciate the gesture or the extra thought, the traits like protecting the team when results dipped, something didn’t land or backing you over a senior colleague when it was needed.
Write down the ten bad traits, the ones you really dislike, that frustrated you or made you question your skills and made your confidence drop.
When you have finished these, select the five non-negotiables you will use and the five you will never use.
Write these 5 good, and 5 bad traits out on a post-it note or onto an apple note, you must revisit once a week and ensure these are your management guiding principles. This way you will hold yourself accountable and have a framework that holds you accountable for your management style.
Something I have done in the past is run through with my team and I asked them to call out my bad traits and hold me accountable. This takes a complete level of trust but will drive you forward as a manager, build trust and encourage a culture of feedback and importantly improve you as a leader.
Have a great week and I’ll be back next week with another instalment of leadership advice.
Other Great Free Frameworks To Improve Your Leadership Career
Dear Leaders, this week I want to introduce you to something that is likely bubbling under the surface of businesses who have returned to the office (be it part or full time).
Fair Hybrid? The return to the office has been playing out for a year in some countries and a few weeks in others. Hybrid work is now mostly the default choice within the office-based business world.
Everyone is doing hybrid differently, flex work (remember renaming home to ‘workplace home’ to be on the same level of importance as the (workplace) office is going to reframe the negative conditioning) locations are where most have landed.
Many adopt the popular 3:2, 3 in the office 2 at-home model. So the 3 days of in-person in-office time is being seen as more important people time.
Many leaders are suggesting in person and in-office work is helping address issues. With hints of better connections and more collaboration.
Many suggest performance has improved. Is this a temporary peak? Or a trend that will continue?
A Celebratory Micro-Moment? Should the leaders be celebrating this micro moment just yet? Or should we consider behaviour shifts, or, behaviour resets?
A Quick Consideration: In-person is often a performance, several treating an office like a stage or a Shakespeare production? Remember the common thread in classic literature was the trusted confidant or friend… was actually the manipulative middle person, controlling situations and skillfully outwitting the protagonist or the leader who ultimately suffers a downfall?
Performing: The office is often multiple performances a day, from 1:2:1 meetings, to cross-functional meetings, to team standups all performing for different audiences.
The office is a series of politically-charged performances and games many have worked out in the return to the offices, you have to put on the work game face on again and perform to get ahead or put a brave face on to get your job done while navigating others doing this.
Is It A Win, A Loss Or A Draw? While ‘leadership’ reports returning to the office have been positive, are you seeing the return of the savvy in-office operator?
Have we seen those who know how to work in-person system gaming the system in their favour?
Have you seen the return of the savvy middle manager who knows how to answer questions better face to face? Have we seen the reappearance of the manager (not leader) who can appear to police the in-person physical office more effective, where hierarchy and structure are almost fully recognised? Whereas online work removes some of this.
Should this political intelligence be celebrated? Or should this be something you should keep a closer eye on and understand from the signal not the noise of the performances. Time to have a stance and step up to investigate.
Leader Lead! Is this something to be concerned about as a leader?
Have you seen individual performance and feedback actually change apart on the surface level?
Has the performance increased over a prolonged period of time?
Dear leaders, recently I was part of an ask me anything series, it is always interesting to see what people will ask in different formats. I love AMA’s and have recommended them in leaders letter 22, (alongside hosting my own AMA with you previously) and implemented correctly, there is something magic about sharing information and answering questions you may not have received previously.
One answer that came up stuck with me:
“Don’t assume your manager knows what you are doing day to day or even from week to week”.
This answer has resurfaced a couple of times in slightly different formats over the last month.
Why this answer? It was in response to a senior exec concerned that their work was being lost or felt like they had to constantly update their CEO on their work and their team’s work.
This is a true statement, most CEOs or founders aren’t on top of their direct reports workflows and do not feel the need or have the time for micro-management. Most execs are in their role because they have to lead their department and workstreams, rarely needing management from the CEO, COO or founder.
Q: Should this company exec see this as a sign of trust from their boss?
When we dug a little deeper it was that they have fortnightly one-to-one and there are no updates between the two unless an email or instant message from the CEO asking for updates on projects.
Being proactive seemed to be seen as wasting the CEO’s time, but they never asked about updates and never agreed upon their leadership principles which are a must-have!
Culture Change Needed?
A tip I recommended was building a culture around updates and switching it to a growth mindset, where learning and updates go hand in hand.
The recommendation leaned on:
The management team to get together and put forward ways of working that kept each other updated on important projects, keep them curious about results and asked to provide feedback and concentrated on sharing the updates throughout their team
Roll out a new system where there was a captain owner (read the captain system for more context) and a champion collaborating on the project or campaign and ensuring internal comms improve knowledge flow and developed a subculture of ownership and learning to cut through the noise with the most important updates.
The CEO or founder would need to be on board and on-boarded, however, the improvements would remove the time to chase, digest and understand the language used.
There would be a home for the updates in email (most CEO’s live in their default app… email) but more importantly on the company wiki so there is quick access and the ability to work asynchronously without interruptions and needing meetings.
When you are looking to remove micro management or improve company culture it is essential to know what is expected and what success looks like and manages these at every sign of confusion or miscommunication.
Company culture thrives when you are aligned, people know how to be successful and what is expected of them, even the most senior of executives need to be reminded and guided from time to time and what better by better communications, not more.
This week, consider this and how you can add value by offering better and fewer updates and allow for this to be async in the future.
In recent weeks, we have seen numerous issues with internal conversations being shared and leaked to the press from internal slack and Teams chats.
Elon Musk Issues: One of the biggest examples was from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, 2600 staff were concerned over their CEO’s tweets. An internal memo raised a number of concerns and a number were fired, with the SpaceX COO commenting:
“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism”
— Gwynne Shotwell. SpaceX COO
This is a pretty extreme take on genuine concerns raised.
Elon Musk’s recent town hall at Twitter was basically televised via slack and commented in real-time externally via journalists’ accounts. With Bloomberg sharing insights.
Brian Armstrong Issues: Coinbase is another large company example, with the staff concerned over the performance and misguidance from the Chief Operating Officer, Chief People Officer and Chief Product Officer, addressing concerns in their open letter. Coinbase also had issues with political issues throughout 2020 and 2021.
Many other companies have seen issues with tools like Slack and Teams where departments convene and raise concerns or create tribal movements to challenge the leadership’s direction or raise issues externally to force a conversation when ignored internally.
Social Networks Vs Work Communication Apps
These tools act like social networks with reactions, video and photo sharing and often groups forming around non-work-related topics, leading to internal debate and disconnect. When these actions occur, this often causes internal movements to apply pressure for the company to respond to external political topics that the company often never would have.
As we saw from the SpaceX example, we are seeing a lot of hard kick back (including firing) from large firms.
Much of the debate centres around a ‘them vs us‘ scenario, however, are the chat-based apps becoming less work-related and too centred around the private chatter.
A question to answer at a partical level and importantly an operational level? Can you focus work apps around work? Ask 25% of your workforce in an anonymous survey and it will surprise most c-suites.
Hybrid Work Not Hybird Chat?
Hybrid work relies on asynchronous and real-time conversation, many opting for real-time and long threads in slack or Teams, making this the centre point of work rather than software tools like Asana, Monday.com, Notion, Google Docs or Office products.
Remote companies have worked through specific guides and do’s and don’ts for chat-based tools. Without chat apps, these firms would greatly struggle.
Many departments and colleagues fail to remember the apps are there for work and developing out projects.
Teams sole focus is to connect the Microsoft suite in a team-centric environment. Enabling everyone theoretically to stay on the same page and get work done.
Slack is focused on bringing your digital presence to the workplace through API integration and quick decisions and cross-functional project hubs.
For many, chat apps were the saviour of forced work from home in the height of Covid, many relying on chat apps to stay connected, keep company culture flowing as best they could and be introduced to new colleagues via apps like donut.
Would there be a huge backlash if you decided to phase out your chat app?
Would Removing Non-Work-Related Chat Work?
An issue that has spanned over a decade, could you remove non work related chat from apps like Teams and Slack? Do colleagues simply move their conversations to group chats on their personal devices and over to apps like iMessage and WhatsApp?
Rightly or wrongly, we know a number of managers move to text messages when they need a quick answer and remove boundaries, is this where leaders need to really consider the work life blur and respect that email is for x, chat apps are for y and workspaces is for z (async and deep work)?
Could you remove Slack Or Teams tomorrow?
The likely answer in most execs head is a simple yes.
To most underneath the C suite or founder team it is a hard no.
A few years ago I had to put together a business case for Slack over Teams, the business was reliant on Slack for the integrations into automated reports, for alerts into news items and we were deeply invested in channel management for effective real time work.
Removing Slack would have meant a number of issues for the business and a wealth of knowledge (in conversations and workspaced) removed – this would have removed many different working styles and history of sales conversations, pitch decks and a huge number of celebrations of how we worked under pressure and numerous micromoments and micro events where we beat out competitors and achieved hyper growth through real time collaboration in our newsroom approach.
We were lucky to have a rigirous workspace async working principle that helped us to centralise the most important information.
Many do not have these style of work and struggle to keep up with email, chat apps, team hubs and workspaces. Removing the chat app over night would mean a huge change to the business and a loss of huge amounts of invaluable information that would not live anywhere else.
Removing chat apps sound good in theory but in principle, it will require a huge amount of planning, a huge shift for most working styles and force a step change in communication.
Is there better and more effective operational ways of working away from chat apps? Yes.
Is it worth removing chat apps and centralising conversation around more async documentation – likely but this won’t work for those untrained from this working style and in hybrid and remote work it could actually do more harm to performance and culture.
The Move To The Work Metaverse
When Microsoft, Slack and many other companies see themselves as the work metaverse, it is going to be a challenge to remove your companies and department’s reliance on Teams or Slack. Particualrly when the work metaverse promised more immersive settings and presence in remote and hybrid meetings.
The question for many to answer moving forward is – can we concentrate work on projects and campaigns and remove the tribal working nature enabling all colleagues forming together? Or is chat apps a vital part of modern day work and there will have to be more policing on usage and policy making around chat apps. Most likely.
All in all, removing chat apps will be a huge undertaking and will need such intentionality you may just push colleagues to email, private documents (like open Google Docs) and workspaces.