EP 031

Communication That Curates Connection

The Bulb Gals are back for episode 31 of the Make Others Successful podcast 😊 Emma, Livvy, and Michaela are discussing the importance of communication in the workplace and how it can bring employees closer together.

Creating structure, promoting participation, and building those spaces for work and play create a safe and fun environment for great communication. And we've learned that great communication builds stronger connections.

Let us know what you think of today's episode and your thoughts on communication within your workplace.

Episode Links
Hosted By
Livvy Feldman
Emma Allport, CSM
Michaela Brown
Produced By
Benjamin Eizenga
Edited By
Eric Veeneman
Music By
Eric Veeneman

Transcript

Livvy (00:06):

Okay. Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Make Others Successful podcast, where we aim to make you successful in your workplace by sharing stories, insights, and strategies that we use in our daily work. And normally Mitch gives this spiel, but he's currently on a cruise, so he won't be here for this podcast because it's the Bald Gals podcast as well.

Emma (00:26):

Yeah, it is.

Livvy (00:28):

Round two.

Michaela (00:29):

Round two. Let's go.

Livvy (00:30):

Let's

Emma (00:30):

Go. We'll, forgive bitch. He deserves a break.

Livvy (00:33):

Yeah, he does. But if you listen to our last episode, which I can't remember what number, it's off the top of my head, but it's titled Bulb Gals. We talked a lot about our previous work experience and the things that we wished that we could have maybe influenced in our previous workplaces now that we've worked at a modern workplace, things we could have changed and so on. And McKayla actually had a great thought after our podcast.

Michaela (00:59):

A very long message. Yeah.

Livvy (01:02):

Yeah. It was long, but it was worth it, and it was talking about how communication is bred in the workplace and how the culture of communication really enables closer coworker relations and how that doesn't just happen because none of us created that here at Bulb Digital. I think we all kind of walked into it. So that's what we're going to talk about a little bit in today's podcast, and I think we should get right into it. Sound good?

Emma (01:34):

Cool. Awesome. I think the only thing I'd say before we dive in is that all of us again have really different roles at the company, and I think it's really interesting that this topic spans all of those. It's not unique to just one type of team or one type of role, or if you're at a certain management level, I'm a project manager and if you guys want to share what you do, but it really does infiltrate every single bit of the business.

Livvy (01:57):

Totally. I am the marketing coordinator, McKayla,

Michaela (02:01):

And I am one of our app developers, so kind of in the nerdy group of the folks.

Emma (02:08):

But communication is seriously important to all of us, and I think it's one of the things that actually bridges the gap between all of our different roles and all of our different teams that we have within our company.

Livvy (02:18):

And we're really big, if you can't tell on nailing internal communication here at Evolve Digital, I feel like we talk about it pretty often and we use topic-based messaging mostly, which I think is the dipping your toe into the puddle of great communication, but that doesn't create the good culture of communication that we're talking about today.

Emma (02:39):

It's a great distinction,

Livvy (02:41):

And we touched on that a little bit in the last Bulb Gals podcast, but we didn't really talk about how that culture has meshed with good communication and good communication etiquette, which I think is what we're going to try to hit on today. So I'm going to start with the structure of good communication and how that has built better relationships in the workplace. And I'm going to let Emma, I feel like Emma is the queen of great slack and structure, but also really great slack messaging etiquette and kind of how we use Slack, especially as that tool to foster that sense of belonging and connection and what your experiences with it.

Emma (03:27):

So like you said, we use Slack. I think you could do this with a lot of tools. Teams would be another one, but I think everyone can agree who's ever been involved in an initiative that you can't just launch something and think that, oh, I think people will organically figure out how to use this or that. So structure is important anytime you launch a new tool or a setting up some type of system that you hope people actually use. So the importance of structure ultimately comes down to, I think getting together with your leadership team or whoever you're working with, the early adopter team to talk through what in an ideal world would we like people to use X, Y, Z channel for? And one of the things we wanted to drive home here is it's important to have spaces for work and then designated spaces for what we're kind of calling play.

(04:15):

So actually calling out, and I don't know how explicit you necessarily need to be your team, how people kind of pick up on things, but creating a structure where you actually have spaces where we have one called random, like the random channel, and I don't know about you guys, but when you first joined, I was kind of like, what's in random? Is it seriously anything random? And you quickly realized, I remember my first week, one of our bosses had posted about a treehouse he built in the backyard for his kids. So it was truly random. It really wasn't work related, but it was also obviously at the discretion of what you want to share, understanding what's appropriate and what's not. But there's a piece of it that, okay, you have to learn as you go through it, but there's also a piece of it of these random messages.

(05:01):

Maybe you were excited about the tree house you built for your kids. You wanted to share that with your coworkers. There was a place for it that wasn't a work related channel. Exactly. So I think if that makes sense. That's how I'm thinking about structure is, I mean it's pretty obvious. I think most people can figure out how to structure within your, well, I shouldn't say obvious structure within your organization. You might have your marketing team, you might have your HR channel, you might have your operations channel, but actually creating space for these sort of play channels as well creates a zone, I guess I would say to have those types of posts. And I know we'll get into more about why that's important, but that would be what I mean by structure.

Michaela (05:39):

Yeah. I almost think of it as you have spaces in your house that have dedicated uses. You cook in the kitchen or you watch TV in the living room, you're not going to go cook in your living room. So we have a space for that activity of random sharing, personal things,

Emma (05:59):

And it is called out clearly. I mean, you can get a little crazy with it. I think a lot of people listening could be like, well, we have a team for everything. Our teams channel for everything within our organization. So you do have to kind of think, okay, how can we group things and make sure there's not 360 channels, but having something that a random is a catchall for this sort of outside of work conversations, it really does clean up the other channels. So that would be, I think my first tip within all of this. And again, we didn't create this, but I found it very helpful coming into have a place you want to tell your coworkers about something cool that happened outside of work, random, have a random channel. Yeah, it'll do wonders and it'll bring people together on and connect on things you would never have thought they'd connect on. Right,

Michaela (06:49):

Exactly.

Emma (06:50):

So we've talked a lot about the random channel, and one distinction I think we should make because we do have these two different channels is random versus general. So oftentimes I think organizations have a general or an all staff channel where that's their catchall or where just everything that doesn't fit in a channel goes. Yeah, they're

Michaela (07:10):

Uncategorized

Emma (07:11):

Basically. Yeah. So let's talk about the difference between our, we obviously all love the random channel and it's clear what to use that for, but what are the differences between that and the general and how do we communicate that to our team?

Michaela (07:25):

Yeah, I almost feel like you can't really define it. It doesn't have a definition by nature. It's uncategorized. It's this miscellaneous other general. Yeah, yeah. Oh, whatever. So I feel like they're kind of the two, they're almost like sisters in a way where it's like they're the two uncategorized channels that we have, but random is all the non-work things. And general is more of the work related non-pro related, I'm going to be out of office like Uncategorized,

Emma (08:05):

This is the event we have coming up or just reminding everyone of vacation schedules or work from home or doctor's appointment or Yeah, general is the more professional.

Michaela (08:16):

It's my LinkedIn and then random is probably my Snapchat. Snapchat,

Emma (08:22):

Yeah. Plus TikTok plus all of 'em. That's a really good comparison. Yeah. Yeah, I agree. So I think there's a place for both. And if you have a catchall, just make sure that you kind McKayla's saying, not necessarily define, but lead by example of this is kind of the catchall for work related general announcements or general reminders. And then our random channel can be for anything outside of work and keeping the distinction. But again, having a place for both of those types of communications to land will help keep one or the other uncluttered. Yeah.

Michaela (08:58):

Yes. I also think the way that we use the general channel with things that could be in other channels such as news posts and SharePoint, they notify the general channel. But I think it's important that we keep it in that channel because it's got a greater audience. If, honestly, to be truthful, if we had a specific news channel, I would not subscribe. I probably would not read it. It's real. But I do read that.

Emma (09:26):

So it's integrated into the general. Yeah, that's a really point. All of our intranet updates come through to that general channel as well as work anniversaries are people's birthdays and all of that's automated, so that's a whole nother topic that we can talk about. But if you've ever forgotten someone's birthday at work or different things like that, it's just automations and that kind of thing can just take care of it. And it just delivers it right to general channel. So everyone's aware,

Michaela (09:51):

And I'm already reading what's going on in there because an important channel,

Livvy (09:56):

I check it daily.

Emma (09:57):

It is important to have a catchall for those types of communications that isn't going to get lost in the fun of something like a random channel. Totally. So there's a place for general and

Livvy (10:07):

Random. And I think with that too is the great thing about Slack is when I remember joining, if someone told you we have this random Slack channel, go post whatever, I would never post because if I didn't have the context of what people are posting, I would just be like, I'm just going to wait for the first person to throw the ball and see what people are sharing. But it was so comforting coming into a workplace where I could scroll back maybe a little too It's history. Yeah, a little too far. I'm not going to lie. I was like 2019. Whoa, whoa.

Emma (10:39):

What is the team doing? Yeah,

Livvy (10:40):

What's happening? But seeing what's okay. So I could see how some workplaces might be like, I don't want a random channel. That's way too much. What if someone posts something that's over the line a little too far? That is a risk for sure. But also having the ability to look back at what others have been. Okay. Posting I think does kind of set that precedence or connection in a healthy way.

Emma (11:05):

Yeah, I think you have to trust your employees to have the discretion to know what to post and whatnot to, we went to that talk back at the Global Leadership Summit whenever that was a year and a half ago about Netflix's model of treating your employees with a lot of freedom and allowing them to make those decisions themselves as well. So not tamping down too much on what can actually be talked about, and then obviously having those conversations as they need to be had. But the other thing that I think that sparked a lot of this conversation was Marcus Collins book about for the culture and understanding how cultures are created. And one of the things that you and I talked about, Michaela, that he kind of got into was culture is created by the people, by the actual employees. Even if rules are laid down from the, even if you have governance set in your tools ultimately, and even gossip is one of those things at the workplace that creates that.

(12:00):

Where if someone says, did you see what so-and-so posted, I couldn't believe that they said X, Y, Z. You then understand, okay, that wasn't okay, or this is okay. So that's going to happen regardless. So creating some structure and creating some guardrails around what is okay and not okay. And then as the leadership setting the example of what is to be posted and not, like I said, Mike posted about his kids Treehouse, and it was one of those neat moments as a new employee, I got to know his kids a little bit and what he enjoys spending his time doing on the weekends. And it immediately started to create a deeper relationship there than just trying to connect on work.

Livvy (12:38):

And this kind of brings us into the second part of the conversation, I think, which is encouraging the use of these communication tools to bring people together in a healthy work environment way, which is the people set the tone, the culture, but I think when it comes to encouraging usage, I love that Mitch, Mike and Matt are always throwing stuff in Matt Dressel and his robotics or Mike and something to do with outside in kids and then Mitch and his kids and his wife. I think that is one of the most vital parts of encouraging your people to use communication in that way as well. And organically, it's going to change over time for sure. And I don't think we can avoid that, but how would you either McKayla or Emma noticed that your usage of these communication tools has increased since working at Bulb Digital versus other workplaces? Because I would've never done this at another workplace. Just wasn't a part of it. Yeah.

Michaela (13:40):

I'm going to compare it to a ball pit where you throw everything in one spot and then you have access to everyone's interests rather than DMing one-on-one. And so you get that chance to connect of like, oh, let's see what I catch today. Josh shared that he had a bearded dragon. I used to have one too. And so that was really cool to learn about him. I wouldn't have known, we probably would've shared that

Livvy (14:08):

You would've never dmd that naturally unless it would've come up. It would if you were having a group conversation.

Michaela (14:14):

And so I think it can be a little intimidating and feel like a very public thing to put yourself out there on a personal level with your coworkers, but I think it does provide others the chance to know you if you're open to that, which I think is a really important thing to bring to work. I think it creates better work environment and relationships with your coworkers.

Livvy (14:40):

Totally.

Emma (14:41):

And it's even created ways for us to connect with clients on projects. One example that comes to mind is we built an intranet for a company that was completely remote, and they're all located all across their country in Canada, and none of them had ever met each other. And they were like, we're trying to find ways to encourage our users and our team members to connect with each other and to learn more about each other. Do you have any ideas? And one of the things that we had talked about was, I don't think we have a separate recipes channel, but a lot of people post recipes in our random channel and things that they've made over the weekend, or This is my favorite pie, or this is my favorite muffins, whatever it is. And they ended up creating an entire space on their internet to share recipes across That's cute.

(15:23):

Across their company. I didn't know that. Which I think it's just another way, and I don't know if people listening to this are like, wow, these people have a lot of time on their hands just talking about all this. It's like, no, we're actually really busy at work too. But ultimately things happen in your regular life as well, and the lines are going to bleed over. And I think the more you can share and actually be connected with people, especially in that case where none of the team members were ever talking or meeting or knew each other really at all outside of work, it was just a way to connect. So yeah, that gave us kind of a good idea, and they ended up taking it and running with it and have really loved the connections that have come. I think they met actually make a cookbook out of some of the rest of you. My gosh,

Livvy (16:06):

That's

Emma (16:06):

Adorable. Cute. That's really fun. I love that.

Livvy (16:08):

I didn't realize want to do that now realize.

Emma (16:11):

And then on the encouraged participation side, I think as a whole with a culture, so obviously we all came into this from other businesses, I'd come from organization where we only emailed. So yikes, I send an email to the team members, I remember the first couple weeks, you guys are never email me. Where is all the conversation happening? So it took a couple days if not weeks, to kind of understand, okay, this channel's for this is, and they did a good job training me at the very beginning, but it takes a while for it to all sink in. But I would say with encouraging participation is make sure you are having your conversations with the right people in the right channels and that you are maintaining. So are you archiving channels when projects are finished or are you creating a new channel when you truly need a new place to have the conversation? So back to the structure, and you guys know me, miss compliance, we

Livvy (17:02):

Love it.

Emma (17:03):

You do have to kind of keep up on it because if you don't, I think people start to, oh, anything goes and then it's chaos.

Livvy (17:12):

Yes. That is the perfect way to talk about iteration and adjusting things as it changes over time because people are going to leave and people are going to join. And I don't know how to describe it, but the culture does shift when certain people leave and certain people join because

Emma (17:31):

The culture is made up of the team of what each person has deemed what they bring to work or what they're looking for there. So whatever that unique balance is of the team is going to be what the culture is.

Livvy (17:44):

Okay. So we've had a pretty meta conversation. I think we could admit that, which doesn't mean anything bad nor good, but I think if you have the internal communication tools at your workplace and you are looking to better the connections with your coworkers also, you don't need to be best friends with your coworkers. It's just providing more unity. I think in the workplace, the three things we recommend you focus on are structure. You do need to create some template for success with this. It's not like let's just have a group message and see what happens. Yeah, don't do that. Absolutely. We do not recommend. And then having leadership especially, or the people who are, I would say very important in your company, really promote usage and have them use it themselves and kind of set the bar at what's the norm, what's not the norm, and then keeping it adaptable. You need to be able to delete a channel, maybe add a channel because people are going to come, they're going to go and the culture's going to change.

Michaela (18:43):

Culture is like a living organism almost, so you got to take care of it, I guess, right?

Livvy (18:49):

Yeah. And that's a special note. I think there are people who are like, well, 10 years ago I used to do this and this provided great connection. That might be your sign to be like, I maybe need to adapt a little bit more to what the workers I have now want to do, which isn't easy and a totally separate conversation. But I want to end the podcast with a question for Emma and McKayla. I feel like work from home and hybrid workers, this is going to resonate with most. If people are looking to create more connections within their workplace and maybe even just get to know their coworkers better, where would you recommend for them to start?

Michaela (19:28):

I really think of that article that I think you posted in random earlier this week that was about the younger folks just entering the workforce who are fully remote and how they feel lonely, which we tend to all do according to this article around that age. But those who are fully remote tend to see less of a benefit in establishing friendships at work. And so I think that honestly, maybe you guys don't like my answer for this topic, but I think that some amount of organic in-person interaction is so incredibly helpful for boosting it really because when I started, it was recommended that we were in office three days a week here, we're hybrid, but I think being in the office is so helpful to get to know folks, but at the same time, I think of one of my best friends, we worked together at my last job, didn't know each other that well, and then 2020, we all go remote.

(20:35):

He and I became really good friends while we worked remote. To me that leans more toward the make it as authentic and organic as possible. We had our videos on, we're using our voices to chat. It's not the same as topic-based communication, but it's that allowing folks to see the more authentic side of you use it in a way, if we're going to extrapolate that answer to text-based conversations, use it in a way that's authentic for you. I don't write a slack message that begins with, good morning. Thank you for reading this message today. I start it with like, yo, here's it. I say it like I speak and I think that's fine. It feels most comfortable for me. So you get to see me through this other medium. Don't change or hide who you are. Let people see it.

Emma (21:30):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I am just going to piggyback off of that. I think that's such a good train of thought that connects back with what we were really talking at the beginning of having more of a structured spot for people to sort of brain dump things that are going on in their life. Because on an actual work call, how many people hate the first five minutes of calls where it's just like, oh, the weather and how's your life? There's never enough time to really get into building a relationship with the people you're talking to on the call. But there's also, even if you're like, let's take the first 10 minutes, it's, it's hard in that moment. It feels so forced when you're on an actual call where you're trying to get real work done, but you are trying to connect with someone, that's not really the time for the connection to happen.

(22:12):

It's like the time for the connection to happen is somewhere outside of that. So maybe it is this random channel, or we have other channels where you can put things for events or different things that we have going on and maybe you've added in a little tidbit about something you're doing that weekend, whatever it is, then it gives people a door handle to grab onto to open the door into that conversation. So creating digital spaces. Back to your question, Libby, of where to start. So if you're completely remote in your work from home, honestly, my recommendation is to create a spot, a space, a channel, whatever it is. Maybe it's somewhere on your internet, this client of ours did with recipes somewhere to connect, to get to know people outside on topics, maybe outside of the work realm so that in maybe you have those one-on-one meetings, or you do have a meeting where you can hang out and catch up. You have something to talk about. Frankly, you kind of know something about those people and it doesn't feel so forced. It's organic because it's, oh, they got this kind of dog and I happen to have this kind of dog. I had no idea. And now you can connect in that when you are fully remote, it's really hard to find out that information. So again, invitation, not expectation, but having a space that invites people to do that and then having your leaders do that helps.

Livvy (23:31):

I agree. I think what we can apply this to is dating apps principles. If you're going to message someone on a dating app for days, it's like, whoa. There's got to be that point where you're like, I'm going to go on a date with you. I'm going to bring that point of connection. And then when you finally meet in person, you bring these things that you've kind of learned about someone, it's like you're not going into it blindly. You do need to talk a little bit, but you also can't never go on a date. Then what genuine connection would you probably have or not have?

Emma (24:06):

It just gives you these footholds to have conversations with people. Thinking back to just now, I'm reflecting on people I've met throughout all of my career where I'm like, oh yeah, what did create those really organic, awesome connections? Unfortunately, I agree with you too, Mikayla. So I'm sorry if you're listening, you are fully remote because I think you do miss out on something that just cannot be created only digitally. But when I was working for a big company that had multiple locations, there was a reality of, well, some people live in that location and work from that office, and I live in this location, but we would have some business trips. And those business trips are so key. So if you can go in person, or even if you just do literally one day with people, that can have lasting effects for years later. So if you're remote and maybe you do have a home office somewhere that you do live far away from, I would say convince whoever your manager is to allow you to come on site for one day or travel there, meet the people in person.

(25:04):

It's incredible the amount of so impactful, just the in-person meeting for one day or a week there. I just remember that, and I'm still friends with people I worked with in Arizona when I was in New York, and I only went there for one business trip. But some of those conversations and experiences just created a lasting friendship outside of work, and it all does happen in person, but we can try to create as much virtual as we can. But I think being in person combined with the, what did I call it? Door handles that open conversation digitally. I think that can be a really powerful combination. And as much as a lot of this may sound like fluff or this or that, all I can say is I feel like I work way better with people that I have good relationships with. I'm not sure the data on that, I don't know all the statistics, but I have to imagine that better work comes out of more connected teams. And if we've found with all of our different years of experience elsewhere at other businesses that didn't have as connected of workplaces. I mean, I enjoy work. I enjoy all the people I work with. I feel like I know them, feel like I can get work. I'm more motivated to get work done then with people I have good relationships with. I mean, there's got to be something in all of that. Yeah,

Michaela (26:19):

And I think even it makes it easier to work in the sense that it's more efficient when, say, Mike and I are communicating this complex idea. We understand each other in the way that we communicate and how we communicate, so we don't have to fully express the entire idea to get our point across because we get each other on

Livvy (26:40):

That level. You're on the level,

Michaela (26:41):

And so it just makes it more efficient and it's easier to navigate things in the workplace.

Livvy (26:47):

Right. Well, I think this is a really good spot to end our podcast today, and hopefully this encourages someone in our audience who's listening to think, wow, I actually can develop some better relationships with my coworkers and I can get the ball rolling. So thank you all so much for listening. Follow us wherever you listen to podcasts and we'll see you on the next episode. Bye guys. Thanks. See

Michaela (27:10):

You next time. Bye y'all.

Mitch (27:14):

Hey, thanks for joining us today. If you haven't already subscribed to our show on your favorite podcasting app, so you'll always be up to date on the most recent episodes. This podcast is hosted by the team members of Bulb Digital, and special thanks to Eric Veneman for our music tracks and producing this episode. If you have any questions for us, head to make others successful.com and you can get in touch with us there. You'll also find a lot of blogs and videos and content that will help you modernize your workplace and get the most out of Office 365. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time.

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