During my 17 years of being self-employed, I’ve had a fair amount of communication wins and mishaps. And in the last 6 years, my wonderful husband Brad, has been working beside me at home, so we’ve learned even more about communication during this time. Would you consider a few questions that have helped us in our business communications?
In today’s Episode 113, we’re sharing three effective ways to use technology to improve communication with your team and boost productivity.
- What if you chatted with your bookkeeper or your VA every once and awhile instead of just email? There’s so many opportunities for people to perform the wrong task–like not even get the task right, perform the task poorly because they didn’t have a process that was effective, or it just wasn’t clear enough.
- What if you communicate your business’ vivid vision to the people who support you? If you can communicate a vivid vision of what’s coming up, whether that’s your three-year plan, or simply a process to work on a blog post, then you’re communicating effectively at its most basic level. And that’s your key to improving your productivity.
- How can you simplify communication and save time with technology? (We’ll share our tech time savers in the full episode!) When it comes to the internal operations of your company, you’re going to need support as you grow and build. It’s not always going to be just you. You’re going to have other contractors, or people that you reach out to for support. And you have to learn how to effectively communicate with them.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ― George Bernard Shaw
When you first start working with a team, communication can be a little tricky if you’ve never done that before. I remember when I had my publishing company – I started hiring salespeople and learning on-the-spot how to communicate effectively to do a great job. It was a lot trickier than I thought it would be! As a former schoolteacher, I thought I was pretty good at communication. But I learned I had room to grow when it came to effectively communicating with a team; and like Brad said, to clearly articulate the vision that was in my head allowing other people to succeed.
Communication is an art and takes practice. It’s not always easy. Especially if you’re a more on the shy side, it can be hard to stand up and ask for what you want and ask for what you need. But truly, the way to grow your business is going to be to ask for support, whether that’s family support, support from your friends, or support from a team of contractors.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN:
- How to get all that stuff out of your head & into a format where your team can see it
- Our best tips for getting really good at communication
- Fave chat & file sharing apps that allow for productive online collaboration
You can also subscribe to this podcast on our Youtube channel.
Brad Dobson: “I am so overwhelmed.”
Minette Riordan: “I need more clarity.”
Brad Dobson: “I don’t know how to do this.”
Minette Riordan: “My to-do list is miles long.”
Brad Dobson: “I’m exhausted.”
Minette Riordan: “There’s got to be a better way.”
Brad Dobson: Hi there, I’m Brad.
Minette Riordan: And I’m Minette. Not only have we said all these things ourselves, but we’ve heard our community of creative entrepreneurs say them over and over again.
Brad Dobson: That’s why we created the Structure and Flow podcast. I’m Structure.
Minette Riordan: And I’m Flow, and this is the Productivity Podcast for Creative Entrepreneurs.
Brad Dobson: We believe that doing more and working harder are not the solution to your productivity challenges.
Minette Riordan: We believe in more play, more fun, and more profit. Join us as we explore the interplay between structure and flow, so that we can bring more grace and ease to your creative business.
Brad Dobson: Hi, and welcome to the Structure and Flow podcast. Today is episode 113, with four effective ways to use technology to improve communication with your team and boost productivity. That’s a mouthful. I think we could shorten that title a little bit.
Minette Riordan: Could we? How could we shorten it?
Brad Dobson: Nah. Well, I don’t know. We could make it more productive.
Minette Riordan: You mean like, make it shorter so it’s easier to read, and then it doesn’t take as long to read it?
Brad Dobson: That’s right.
Minette Riordan: It would save mere seconds.
Brad Dobson: Today, we’re going to talk about communication. And yes, we’re going to talk about tools, but we’re going to also talk about the need for communication, and how much it can improve your productivity.
Minette Riordan: Yeah. And we have a great quote for you today, from George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, right, amazing author and playwright. Is that the one he wrote? No, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? I’m forgetting.
Brad Dobson: Pygmalion.
Minette Riordan: Pygmalion, I had it right the first time. Anyway, George Bernard Shaw writes, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Brad Dobson: Yeah. It’s amazing, even when you do try, how little you can communicate unless you, I don’t know, ask people what they heard.
Minette Riordan: Yeah. It’s funny, as a coach, we learn a lot of tools about how to be an effective listener, an effective communicator. And yet, as a mom, I’ve learned that sometimes, I think I’m being really clear, or even with Brad in business, I think I’ve said something, and I think that I’ve been crystal clear, or I think I’ve sent that email; and yet, it’s not been received on the other end for whatever reason. Maybe it was the way I said it, the tone of voice I said it, it got lost in Gmail’s spam account.
Brad Dobson: Right.
Minette Riordan: There’s a lot of things that could happen when we think we’re being effective communicators, and we’re not.
Brad Dobson: Or maybe I just had my filter on when you were talking to me.
Minette Riordan: You just had your filter on? Well, that’s probably true as well.
Brad Dobson: The selective hearing filter.
Minette Riordan: The selective hearing filter, yes. I have three children, yes-
Brad Dobson: [crosstalk 00:02:56] Oh, nice. Very nice.
Minette Riordan: So, what’s the connection between communication and productivity? So, people can’t do a great job with any task or project that they’re given without clear structure, boundaries, and guidelines. In the last episode, we talked about timelines. Timelines are one of the effective tools for making sure that your team is all on the same page.
Minette Riordan: And so, I tend to make a lot of assumptions that someone else knows as much as I do about a given topic, and I can just say, “Here’s your job. Go do it.” And what Brad has helped me see is that there needs to be a lot more details in that conversation, and that the more organized I am in my thought process, and the more I actually get it out of my head and into a simple system that someone else can follow, the more effective, successful, and fulfilled they’ll be in getting their work done in a really great way; but also, the easier it is for me to pass tasks and jobs off, as well.
Brad Dobson: Yeah. I know that from my background in software, obviously working in teams all the time, and this was probably one of the biggest issues in software development, is communicating requirements early on, because, and this relates to any type of communication where you need somebody to complete a task for you. If it’s not clear and unambiguous, the opportunity for wasted time, you know, lack of productivity, like this podcast is about … Well, the podcast is about productivity, not a lack of productivity … Anyways, I’m rambling. But the point is that there’s so many opportunities for people to perform the wrong task, like not even get the task right; perform the task poorly because they didn’t have a process that was effective; perform the task poorly because it was ambiguously stated, or it just wasn’t clear enough.
Brad Dobson: And all of those things exist in small business, big business, as it relates, whether you’re taking to your bookkeeper, you’re talking to your virtual assistant … A great example is a virtual assistant and what it is you want them to do … your business partner, perhaps your significant other, who is just tangentially involved in your business, but you need them as support, and you haven’t been clear about how you needed the support given. Those are all opportunities for reduced productivity or increased productivity, based on how well you communicated what the actual goal was.
Minette Riordan: Yeah. It’s a great example of, you know, someone who’s a solopreneur, working from home. And if their spouse is not an entrepreneur and doesn’t really get it, and they’re assuming that you’re going to go grocery shopping and do the laundry during your workday because you’re at home, there needs to be some clear communication about, “Hey, my work is valuable. These are the boundaries of my time. I’m happy to do the laundry and go grocery shopping, but it’s going to happen outside of work hours.” Like, really setting clear communication boundaries around your time is an effective part of improving your productivity as well.
Brad Dobson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, absolutely.
Minette Riordan: Yeah. And I mean, we’ve been through a lot of that over the years. I’ve been self-employed for 17 years. Brad and I have both been just working from home for the last six years. And so, there’s a lot of management-of-time tasks, and improvement of communication; down to little things like a grocery list, and then up to big things like our editorial calendar. If you’ve been following our podcast, you know that we are huge fans of planning. And planning is a form of communication. When we sit down to do planning, we get on the same page about what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, what’s the content that we want to plan. We sat down this week and planned out all of our podcasts for a month at a time, so that we can see the rhythm and the flow.
Minette Riordan: But if I were just to say, “This is what we’re going to talk about,” then all of a sudden, he shows up here to do the recording, and he’s like, “What are we talking about?” And it doesn’t make for a great show. So, there’s communication that has to happen at every level and aspect of your business, even if you’re just communicating with yourself. When you are getting all the stuff out of your head, onto paper in a format that you can see it, or a journal, or an Evernote, or a spreadsheet, or Trello, whatever your tool of choice is, you need to be able to effectively capture your own thoughts, so that you’re not missing pieces either. So, communication isn’t always just a two-way street. It’s definitely internal as well. And I think when it’s out in front of you, and you can see it, and you can then figure out what some of your resistance might be, and do some of the inner work that’s required around communication as well.
Brad Dobson: Yeah, definitely. And that ties back to, we talked recently about setting a vivid vision for yourselves, a three-year type of plan, whether it’s a personal one or a business one. Please go back and listen to that. I think that was episode-
Minette Riordan: 111.
Brad Dobson: 111?
Minette Riordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brad Dobson: And the base message there is about communication. It’s communication with yourself. I think of it as communicating with your brain, because your brain is going to go do other things, and stick in its comfort zone, and go back, and binge-watch Netflix or whatever, unless you’ve communicated to it, “Hey, this is what the vision is.” And the same is true for the people around you. If you can communicate a vivid vision of what’s coming up, whether that’s your three-year plan, or simply a process to work on a blog post, then you’re communicating effectively at its most basic level. And that’s your key to productivity, and improving your productivity.
Minette Riordan: And when you first start working with a team, it can be a little tricky if you’ve never done that before. I remember when I had my publishing company, and I started hiring salespeople, learning how to communicate effectively, and support them, and give them enough information to do a great job, it was a lot trickier than I thought it would be. As a former schoolteacher, I thought I was pretty good at communication. But I learned I had a lot of room to grow when it came to effectively communicating with a team; and like Brad said, to clearly articulate the vision that was in my head, that felt really clear, to be able to put that into words, systems, and processes that allowed other people to succeed.
Minette Riordan: And that has been part of Brad and I’s journey, about completely different work styles. As the spreadsheet-loving guy, versus the, “I’ve got to see everything on a piece of paper,” girl, we had to find a way that we could mesh our systems together, so that it works for both of us. So, our process might take a little bit longer.
Brad Dobson: Yeah, we do both.
Minette Riordan: But it works for us. And at the end of the day, we have the creative brainstorming part of the practice, as well as the, “Hey, here’s what we said, and here’s how we’re going to make it happen.” So, communication is always a two-way street. It requires a lot of practice. And we have found some tech tools that we use to do this more effectively and seamlessly. And on top of that, just the reminder that when you have a team, you have to talk to them.
Brad Dobson: Yeah. I’m not always the person to get out … In fact, I’m rarely the person who will talk to people. So, this has been a key learning for me as well. And I’m still not very good at it, but it’s getting me out of my comfort zone. I think I tend to be, I’m shy until I get to know people. And so typically, that ends up meaning I don’t get to know people a lot. But it’s crucial, and it’s something that I need to continue to develop. And being in small business, you just got to do it, whether you’re … You know, it’s nice. I know that we’ve had clients, and we always will, who are like me, where they’d rather just spend time in their studio and not interact with the public. But that’s not really how business works for you.
Minette Riordan: And everything that we’re seeing in marketing that is trending to day is about communication and connection. And you can find creative ways to do that, that work for you, when it comes to marketing. But when it comes to the internal operations of your company, you’re going to need support as you grow and build. It’s not always just going to be you. You’re going to have other contractors, or people that you reach out to for support. And you have to learn how to effectively communicate with them. So, let’s talk about some of the ways we’ve been doing that.
Brad Dobson: Sure. The first one is actually what we’re using right now to record this podcast, which is Zoom; Zoom.us is a video conferencing system, also a webinar system. It’s excellent. It’s basically Skype, like you used to know, but-
Minette Riordan: Way better.
Brad Dobson: … it’s better than that. But it’s allowed us to have weekly conversations, face to face with our virtual assistant, and weekly or biweekly conversations with our clients as a group. Minette uses it constantly for client calls. So communicating, it’s key. I mean, once again, at its most basic level, it’s a tool for communicating. And there’s nothing better. The only thing that’s better than face to face over video is actually in person.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, absolutely.
Brad Dobson: And of course, we know that for the most part, we work worldwide. And that’s true for some of you. Other people, you need to physically go somewhere, but I don’t know, if you lived in LA, you’d probably be more likely to use Zoom than drive two miles on the 405.
Minette Riordan: Yeah, isn’t that the truth? So, Zoom is one way that we create a more intimate connection by being face to face with people. We also use Google Docs constantly for easy sharing of documents and feedback. And I wanted to share a specific example of how I used that this week with my friend, Shannon Hernandez. I mentioned, I think in the last episode, that we’re leading a retreat. She’s leading a retreat. I’m going to go teach art. It’s going to be really fun.
Brad Dobson: Very nice.
Minette Riordan: And we’ve been working on copy for the sales page and sales videos. And we use Google Docs to work with the copywriter to communicate among the three of us effortlessly. So, Google Docs allows you to put comments in, to tag people in the comments. And it just made it so there was no long phone conversations, or no 500 emails going back and forth. It was one document, all inside of one tool. It minimized the amount of back-and-forth time, and was a very effective way to have multiple people working on one document at the same time. Brad and I do this often. We use it for our podcast planning template. We use it for email copy, for marketing copy. We’ve used the Google Slides for presentations. And it’s so easy to share documentation. I use it for all of my Monday Motivation blog posts, go to our VA, and it all is done in Google Docs; so easy access, easy communication, effortless. Everything we do is in an effort to increase communication and reduce the number of emails.
Brad Dobson: Yeah, exactly. And you can have it trigger notifications in your communication thing, and stuff like that, so that you don’t have to get emails.
Minette Riordan: Yep. So, one was Zoom; two is Google Docs. And three is? [Singing 00:15:03]
Brad Dobson: We use a chat system called Slack. Many of you will have heard of it. It’s very, very popular. There’s a million different chat systems you could use. You could use Facebook Messenger. You could use your texts on your phone if you wanted to. You can use things like Google Hangouts. Slack is free, and pretty effective, and easy to share documents. You’re going to want to use it if you’re three people or more, I would say; perhaps two people, if you’re remote-
Minette Riordan: Although you and I use it to chat back and forth across the house all the time.
Brad Dobson: This is true. This is true. It took, I would say it took Minette maybe two months to get off the email train, as it related to sending me emails about things, and start using chat. I tried to get a similar thing launched at my last, the software company that I worked at last. And they were a little bit old school, and I could never really get it launched. And there’s always-
Minette Riordan: So, why is it better than email? Why is Slack, or other … Like, and I don’t think text or messenger work as nicely as Slack.
Brad Dobson: No, not as well as a good chat system.
Minette Riordan: So, but why is Slack better than email?
Brad Dobson: It’s built for short, back-and-forth conversations, where it’s a low-bandwidth conversation. And you can, you just need a quick update from somebody; you know, a yes/no type of answer, or something that they can type in 10 seconds. And unless they’ve turned off their notifications, or they’ve said, “I’m away from my desk,” you can expect an answer fairly quickly. Whereas email, especially these days, there’s a lot of people that are wandering around with 17,000 emails in their inbox. And-
Minette Riordan: We literally had that from someone this week, say they had 17,000 emails.
Brad Dobson: And so your, whatever your business, critical, “I need this,” or, “I’m hoping to get this now,” type of communication question was, is just another one of those 17,000 emails. And people have a tendency to only check their emails, you know, some people, once a day.
Minette Riordan: If they’re smart.
Brad Dobson: Yeah.
Minette Riordan: I’m not that smart.
Brad Dobson: So, chat is more effective. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s people that abuse chat. You could be in a company with a bunch of people, and where the chat is just off the chain, and you can’t even keep up, and then it breaks down. But you can always set up private conversations, and different types of chats that avoid that. So, I think most people understand the value of chat over email, in terms of short-term communication.
Minette Riordan: So, it’s quick. That’s the main thing. Like for us, if we need to tell our VA that a podcast is ready for her to finalize the production, and get it all uploaded, and social media created, one Slack notification makes it really easy to say, “Hey, this is done and waiting for you.” You can attach documents. You can share links to Google Docs or other Google files. You can upload images.
Brad Dobson: It’s also searchable, which is nice.
Minette Riordan: It’s searchable. Yes, and so you can go back and find conversations. So for us, we find it to also be distraction free, in the sense that I’m not getting ready to go send an email to our VA, and then I find that I have 10 emails that all need a reply. And I get distracted by those emails because I try to batch my time in email, only a couple times a day. I’m not always super successful at that. But to me, Slack minimizes the amount of time you need to spend in email, which is always a really good thing. It’s a quicker response, and there’s no need for this long, back-and-forth, “Hey, Brad. How’s it going? Doing okay. I need an answer about this,” which tends to get lost and buried in the bazillion email newsletters, like ours, that hopefully are showing up in your inbox.
Brad Dobson: Right. And then I think, finally, for communications, just the file sharing utilities that are out there, whether it’s Google Drive, Amazon S3, which is a little bit more complex, things like Dropbox, which are really popular, there are people that run their companies using those types of tools. You can have someone on the other end set themselves up to get a notification, whether it’s in Slack, or email, or on their phone, that, “Hey, a document has been uploaded,” or, “A document has been downloaded,” or, “It’s been modified.”
Brad Dobson: And so, it’s a way to communicate larger items around, between people. I think Google Docs is fantastic, just because it takes … Or, not Docs, but all of their suite of tools is fantastic, because it takes it that much further. You can then not only store them, you can have team-level editing of the files themselves, which you can’t get in Dropbox. But that file sharing is crucial. You don’t want a situation where, “Oh, that file’s over on this computer,” or, “That file’s over on this computer.” The cloud is just wonderful for that type of thing, to avoid that type of problem, unless you’re super worried about security or something like that.
Minette Riordan: So to recap what George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” So, we would invite you to consider, after listening to this podcast, how effectively are you communicating with yourself, with your team, and with your family. Where could you put a little more time into creating better and more productive forms of communication, maybe putting better boundaries in place-
Brad Dobson: Maybe asking them what they heard.
Minette Riordan: Yes, asking what they heard. That’s a classic coaching tool, is where you reframe back to somebody what you heard them say. And so there’s practice, just actually talking to other humans, that can happen, and is important, and needs to happen. But then, there’s also technology that improves productivity and communication by keeping everybody on the same page, making sure everybody has access to the same timelines, the same documents, the same files; and that those quick responses are happening without wasting a lot of time in email. So, I think that’s a little bit of a summary.
Minette Riordan: And communication is an art. It’s a practice. It’s not always easy. Like Brad said, especially if you’re a little bit more on the shy side, it can be hard to stand up and ask for what you want, and ask for what you need. But truly, the way to grow your business is going to be to ask for support, whether that’s family support, support from your friends, or support from a team of contractors.
Brad Dobson: Yeah. And once again, this is a productivity issue. Your ability to communicate with quality, or your inability, is going to track directly with your productivity. Cool stuff.
Minette Riordan: Yeah.
Brad Dobson: So next week, what have we got next week?
Minette Riordan: So in episode 114 … Man, these episodes are just flying by.
Brad Dobson: Cool stuff.
Minette Riordan: It’s pretty exciting. So in episode 114, we’re going to talk about what I’m calling the well-structured life, and how you can intentionally manage your days to improve productivity, as well as increase your creativity.
Brad Dobson: I might learn something.
Minette Riordan: The topic occurred to me when I was thinking about, and we’ve talked a little bit about this on the show, but I want to go a lot deeper, we’ve been really working hard at this, personally, to structure our days in a way that not just make us productive, but make us happy; that make sure that we’re getting the most out of our own creative times of day, that we’re not overdoing it as well. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful process. And so, when I went and actually Googled the term “well-structured life,” there’s some really cool research out there. So, I’m excited to share some of that with you guys on the next episode.
Brad Dobson: Neat stuff, cool. All righty, guys.
Minette Riordan: And as always, remember to go and discover your unique productivity style. Take the Unique Productivity Style quiz at Pathtoprofitacademy.com/upsquiz; because once you know your productivity style, then you can start to create a blueprint that will work perfectly for your creative style.
Brad Dobson: Thanks for listening to Structure and Flow: The Productivity Podcast for Creative Entrepreneurs. To find out more about this episode and others, go to Pathtoprofitacademy.com, and click on the podcast link.