The biggest (and smallest) action leaders can take to improve work for their teams

What’s the one marketing rule we all know to be true? 

If you can get someone to take action at the right moment, magic happens. 

What we tend to forget is that this technique should not only be used externally to attract users or customers, but also internally between coworkers. Unfortunately, these basic principles of communication go out the window when we consider how we interact with each other internally, especially communication between leaders and those they’re leading. 

As we’re all still figuring out what the most effective and happy way to work in a remote-first environment is, it’s vital that we consider our professional habits and assess how they’re contributing to – or inhibiting – the ways that we work. And if we examine our most fundamental work habit of communicating with our peers, it’s apparent that small actions can have significant impact. 

The biggest (and smallest) action leaders can take for their teams is scheduling their messages.  

Think about the last time you sent a message to one of your employees. Was that time only convenient for you or did you also take their schedule into account? Ultimately, remote teams default to power dynamics when it comes to responsiveness. No matter what your employee handbook says or how your company stresses work-life balance, if you’re the founder and you’re sending Slacks at 9:00PM on a weekend, your team will feel pressured to respond. 

Culture is what we do, not what we say

Scheduling your messages, no matter the internal team hierarchy, signals to the recipient that you’re being empathetic and conscious of their time. You’re showing that you recognize their priorities might differ from your own, even if you’re both working toward the same goal. You’re showing them that you feel their priorities are just as important as yours. This is huge. Teams that respect each other produce exceptional work. Hierarchies feel less “high,” and work flows more efficiently.  Unfortunately, waiting until it is convenient to message your employee might mean that you forget to send it. Message scheduling can easily solve this issue.

How this simple action actually helps

Scheduling messages can have a host of cultural and operational benefits, including:

  • Training team members to work when it works best for them. This is beneficial for both the sender and recipient. If you’re the type of leader that loves working non-traditional hours, nothing is stopping you! You don’t have to feel obliged to “lead by example” and refrain from working during the hours you might be most productive; the recipient only sees the message when it is actually sent, so work as you wish, without subconsciously affecting the psyches of your staff. 
  • Increasing productivity to prevent context switching. When project management systems are bursting at the seams with overdue tasks, nothing says “let’s make sure this never gets done” like adding to the list in a completely different platform. Scheduling messages helps teams keep one communication action channel or tool, so they aren’t attempting futile efforts by doing things at all times in all places. 
  • Increasing efficiency so the recipient has the right information at the right time. How great would it be to get last minute deliverables from the leader of your team 15 minutes before the meeting instead of two hours after it already took place? How inspiring to  receive an outside thought partner's ideas on a new project timed when ideation was occurring, not when action is already being taken? Batch messages to send ideas when conversations will occur to increase team efficiency, even if the sender can’t be in “the room where it happens.”
  • Building trust and mutual respect within an organizational culture. See above – there’s no greater action in showing someone you work with that you respect their time! 

Where it can go wrong: 

While these actions are small, it is still possible to oversimplify the concept and execute it incorrectly , which will backfire for both you and the rest of the team. Make sure you don’t:

  • Schedule all messages to go out at the exact same time.  Getting messages at all hours of the day (and night) is an operational nuisance, but getting 20 messages all at the same time is crippling. Decision fatigue might set in with the recipient, and while the messages may arrive at the most convenient time, the feeling of being “dumped on” can negate any benefit. 
  • Schedule the same message in multiple channels. While you might want to make sure the recipient “doesn’t miss it because it’s important”, you’ve now created two information streams, which can add complexity to an idea flow. 
  • Sending every single idea that comes into your head. This is the most common use of live messaging – the dreaded “I had a thought…” message. Sometimes these are helpful, but sometimes they’re simply emotionally self-serving to the sender, and to no one else. Note to self: don’t send orschedule these messages. Save them somewhere so you can do some personal self-editing and let time decide which is most important to share with your team. 

There are plenty of moments when holding off on a send can inhibit innovation and efficiency. If you’re spending all of your time focused on whether or not it’s the right time to send something, you’re wasting valuable time. Frequent, active digital communication can help give some of the feeling of being back around the watering hole, but there’s a time and place for this action. 

It’s going to feel annoying at first - extra clicks, extra decisions, a feeling of THIS IS SLOWING ME DOWN! Great organizational habits take some behavior modification and a shift from “this action makes me feel good” to “this action is what’s best for the team.” Ultimately, if you take these small steps, you’ll be the type of considerate, concise, and communicative leader we all hope to work with.

Have you found scheduling messages helpful? Do you have another method that works for your organization? Let us know in the comments! If you want more tips for startups and generalists in your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter here!

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