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You’re on Mute ~ scaling communication on a growing team

We all know that communicating effectively, both internally and externally, is the cornerstone of your team’s success. Good communication = happiness. But how does this look in reality?
You're on Mute - whale blog

You’re on Mute ~ scaling communication on a growing team

In the year when Twitter cut 50% of its workforce and Meta 13%, not to mention cuts in other premier tech brands, we managed to grow our client’s businesses and our pod. (Yes, this is an actual image of the team going off to surf school for Whales).

Team Whale blog

BUT it hasn’t come without some growing pains. Doubling team size in just a few months across territories has meant that more than ever, we’ve had to eat our own dog food, or rather we’ve had to really walk our Whale talk! 

We all know that communicating effectively, both internally and externally, is the cornerstone of your team’s success. 

Good communication = happiness.

The last few years have brought a lot of change and evolution—especially for entrepreneurs. 

We’ve seen teams work through hard situations and come out the other side unscathed but we’ve also seen the pitfalls of scaling a team and the silos of communication that can come with it.

Challenges with communication on a scaling team

As a business grows, communication processes that were previously informal and lightweight become difficult to maintain. Things become slower as communication has to filter through ‘department’ heads and through structured meetings.

To add to the pain, there’s often a point when employees start to leave taking vital knowledge with them. Then they’re replaced with new team members who don’t understand the current environment.

Symptoms of communication beginning to go wrong can include;

  • Having company documentation in twenty different locations used by different people, each with their own secret annotations
  • Death by a million unnecessary meetings
  • Communication siloes where teams only communicate within themselves or within a few people within the team
  • Team members getting upset because they don’t know what’s happening
  • Broadcasting – where one group of people begin to ‘send’ messages to another group in a one way stream, rather than a dialogue
  • More time spent discussing than doing
  • Too many links in a chain where messages have to be conveyed from person to person or team to team, across ranks, which ends up wasting a huge amount of time.

Welcome to scaling life!

It can be a frustrating time in a business but it doesn’t have to stay like this.

“When you are a small startup, communication is relatively easy: engineering, marketing and sales, and operations teams, and the CEO, all share the same desk, let alone the same office space. Alignment on vision, goals, and tasks is easy – you just shout over your laptop and ask questions as they come up. You discuss, agree or disagree, and then commit.”

How to unmute your teams

In a recent webinar with Nadia Vatalidis of Remote, Alice Kramer of Bloom Growth™ and our very own Gary Vanbutsele 🐳 looked at habits that teams can use to ‘unmute’ communication and communication bad habits.

The 5 Unmute Habits

1. Acknowledging signs of trouble and checking assumptions

Misunderstandings often occur when employees assume that their colleagues are approaching a problem or project the same way that they would, based on their personal frame of reference. It’s important to check assumptions, especially in written communication and messaging tools, where tone can often be lost or misinterpreted.

2. Create a rhythm and cadence for communications

Creating a cadence for communications is important for consistency and getting teams in the habit of communicating. In a world of technology, it’s easy to bypass communications. At Whale, we run meetings with BloomGrowth’s software to keep it structured and outcome-based. No, this isn’t a product punt but we do believe in giving credit where credit is due!

3. Creating connection

Strategy sessions are fantastic, but nothing speaks “Unlocking growth” (our core purpose), like getting out there and trying new things together. Once a month and once a year, we get together but really get together. To learn and to play. And yes, that’s our CEO at surf school this summer.

Team Whale at surf school

 4. Having a System

Of course we’re going to punt Whale here but only because it’s true. Having things undocumented means that things are open to being misinterpreted. It leads to chaos in a business, especially when someone leaves. And it’s not about documenting things and then leaving them. No, documentation in a centralized place and utilizing them in daily work is an important means of communication.

We continuously document key processes and ways of doing things on our own product to make sure to maintain consistency.

5. And rethinking your culture in general

If you’re going to have a number of levels of hierarchy in a business, communication is going to be slow and ineffective.

To the same effect, if you have blocks such as lack of trust, it’s going to affect communications negatively.

A series of interviews with over 200 tech workers in 2019 revealed that almost half the workers chose to hold back information that could be beneficial to their company. If anything, this is now worse as team members fear losing their jobs.

"Psychological safety and involving team members in team communication plays a key role in creating a culture of communication.”
A black and white photo of a woman laughing.
Alice Kramer
Marketing Strategist, Bloom Growth™

Communication Quick Fixes

Generally speaking, things don’t get fixed in a day but there are a few things you can implement within your team that within one week, could make the world of difference!

Earlier this year we banned internal email but had to look at a couple more elements within our communication, especially while we were scaling.

We put these practices into place; 

  • We used Slack for fun and for immediate reminders or quick messaging
  • We implemented a weekly team meeting to share what we’d learned and reflect our value of unlocking growth.
  • We high fived! We just LOVE KarmaBot because it’s a tool to specifically acknowledge each team members. As it turns out acknowledgement leads to feeling good which leads to better communication and collaboration. And don’t take our word for it, just ask Adam Grant.
Being appreciated helps you become stronger in knowledge and procedures.

We also

  • Assigned each team expert within our business, their section within Whale to ensure constant documentation review.
  • Decided to fly in our remote members once a quarter to meet in person.
  • We created the best employee handbook in Whale.

Want to improve your team communications? Check out our eBook on Team Training.

How to integrate and Optimize your boarding processes white paper

How to Integrate and Optimize your Onboarding Processes

In this ebook “How to integrate and optimize your onboarding processes”, we give you everything you need to understand and implement the three most important types of training.