Has Staying Silent Ever Helped Anyone?

Making over-communication a priority is probably one of the most critical aspects of our culture.

It’s certainly something I’d recommend to anyone building a remote team. Since for us, it makes things easier. Kept us all on the same page. And meant we’ve grown closer and stronger as a team.

It isn’t just a case of “talking more” though.

I mean it kinda is. But really that’s just scratching the surface. 😄

To us, over-communicating means sharing everything. What we’re working on. What we’re struggling with. Our plans, pain points and bottlenecks. And probably most importantly, our progress.

As I said, it’s resulted in us being a super close team. It means we can empathise with each other a whole lot better. We struggle together. Laugh together. We celebrate the wins and lament over the pains.

But over-communication comes at a price. And that price is consistency.

What I’ve come to realise over the past few weeks is that when consistency drops and over-communication fails, it’s a compound issue. Like a carefully laid out set of dominoes. As soon as one dropped, the rest inevitably followed.

It might seem obvious to say it, but when you don’t say much in a team that usually over-communicates, it’s far more noticeable than a team that doesn’t.

And by noticeable, I mean Slack can become a void.

A vast chasm of silence.

A one time utopia where team-building chatter flourished now a desolate wasteland where culture goes to die.

Of course, the solution is just to keep consistent. Or at the very least be self-aware when that first domino falls.

But I was neither. 😬

Silence Might not be so Golden

As with everything I blog about, my realisation wasn’t sudden or spontaneous. 😔 My spectacular failure to communicate my progress with my team was very much eked out over a few long, slow weeks.

You see, I’ve been working on creating educational resources. And it’s been a slog.

In one way or another, we’ve been trying to get some kinda longer, produced video out the door for a year. The first iterations were just shit. Not very well thought out. And not something I’d wanna put my name to.

The latest iteration of it—the courses—are the complete opposite.

One course took a bunch of planning. Scripting. Asset creation. Recording and re-recording videos.

It’s taken time. A shit load of it. A lot more than I first anticipated. And as I’ve mentioned in other posts, it’s a lot more time than I’m comfortable with 😬

This lack of comfort must’ve flipped a switch somewhere in my head. My pride in my work and my confidence in what I was creating tanked.

What's more, somewhere in the midst of all the struggling to cope with my self-inflicted workload and shipping guilt, I’d stopped communicating with the rest of the team.

Not on purpose. And not entirely. We still spoke. But conversations around work became short and standoffish.

And I hadn’t even realised I was doing it until last week. We were in the midst of a frank discussion about workload, and Jake asked how the courses were coming on. So I told them!

And they were shocked!

Not about the stage that I was at, but at the amount of work that I’d been doing. Without saying anything or sharing anything substantial with them, they’d become slightly concerned my work ethic was slipping.

And the reality was the opposite! 🙈

It was a wake-up call. ⏰ A reminder that I need to be conscious of how I communicate as part of the team.

Repositioning the Dominoes

Not sharing my progress from the start was the first domino to fall. Or perhaps it was my confidence in my work. 🤔 In flies the oh-so-familiar imposter syndrome beast!

In either case, everything else just tumbled away.

Bit by bit.

As my confidence in my own work slowly dropped, so too did my desire to communicate any kinda progress. As my desire to communicate any kinda progress dropped, my confidence in the work I was doing fell away.

I was feeling anxious because I hadn’t shared anything with my team. But the reality is, had I been open and honest about what I was doing from the start there would’ve been no issue.

No need to be anxious.

The dominoes would’ve remained steadfast and upright.

As learnings go, I guess it’s kind of an obvious one. Tell people what you’re doing so people know what you’re doing.

But maybe there’s something more I can learn from this.

On Not Being Afraid to Speak Up

Maybe it’s not a surprise that I’ve been thinking about how we communicate as a team. And how I can use this experience to inform how I lead my team—if we ever hire someone!

It all feeds into our culture of openness. Which extends all the way from frank discussions to direct feedback.

It’s a part of the culture I both love and struggle with, in equal measure.

Perhaps the most jarring part for me—and likely anyone new that joins the team—is that everything is done out in the open. Praise. Critique. The inevitable shit sandwich. Everything is public to the rest of the team.

It’s also the bit I am most proud of.

I’m proud because it reinforces that we’re humble, flawed and incredibly fallible.

Fuck ups are inevitable. And by over-communicating, we can refuse to vilify said fuck-ups. Instead, we foster a culture where we can help each other. Guide one another. Offer a different perspective so we can each grow and learn from ours and each other's mistakes.

Going it alone is, well, lonely. 🤷‍♂️ Struggling and suffering in silence—whether it’s with a workload or something more personal—only leads to more struggling. To more suffering. To more silence.

And to what end?

There is no more self-destructive an action as silence. And the only way to stop the cycle is to communicate. 🙃