#57: How We Do Internal Communication At Drift

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This is a podcast episode titled, #57: How We Do Internal Communication At Drift. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- After our podcast episode on meetings, we got a lot of questions about how we handle internal communication at Drift (from the tools we use to the guardrails we set as part of our culture). Some of the tools we mention on this episode: Email Slack Wiki (we use Confluence from Atlassian) 15Five 1:1 meetings Monday Metrics Meeting Friday Show & Tell PS. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.

Dave: Yeah, we're in the mix.

Speaker 2: Right? We're recording?

Dave: Yeah, we're on.

Speaker 2: Don't pull a mic on me.

Speaker 3: crosstalk.

Dave: inaudible, you're recording. Sorry, you might hear a little bit of background, a little background. This is the first scene where isn't... You heard I got a F last week is because we didn't set up video like we should have. So this week when I came back strong, we have audio, we have video, and we're right now on Facebook Live.

Speaker 2: What? Facebook Live?

Dave: Yeah. This has got be at the whole phone raked up just in case you can't get enough. All right. I got a bunch of notes. There's one question that we've gotten from listeners more than any other question, and they want to know, do you have any guesses?

Speaker 2: Absolutely not. As you'll note now that you can see off on video and Facebook Live, Dave has a laptop full of questions and my desk is empty. There's nothing here.

Dave: That's what the people come for. They don't want to see you prepared.

Speaker 2: All right.

Dave: That's not the point. The number one question that people ask us... I think the most popular topics are where when we talk about work and how we do things at Drifts, just tactically. The number one question that we get is how do we handle internal communication?

Speaker 2: Really?

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: Wow. I would've never guessed.

Dave: At least five people have written in to specifically ask about that.

Speaker 2: Let's talk about that.

Dave: All right. I have a whole outline of things I want to go through. We'll talk about how we do it here, but I want to ask you this question. Why do you think so many people ask that? Does that say something about internal communication that so many people want to hear that topic?

Speaker 2: I don't know when you said that I was thinking, is it because I'm always railing against process and consensus?

Dave: Maybe that might be it, yeah.

Speaker 2: It's like that?

Dave: You're like no meetings, no dates, no roadmaps. How the hell did I get in crosstalk?

Speaker 2: Just like, how the hell does this work? What is this guy talking about?

Dave: I just feel like it's because so many people have... We'd talk about this in the interview process too. I said to somebody recently, all the questions they were pushing back on us during the interview process. I said," Somebody has obviously scarred you before."

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: It was all just like," How do you manage this?" and it's all internal politics type stuff.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Don't have that, that's how.

Dave: All right, let's do this. Before we go on the tactics, if somebody asks you how do we handle internal communication at drift, what would you talk about our guard rails, what's our process, or what's the process you want us to have as a company?

Speaker 2: Sure. I'd say the guard rails are push as much communication to be one- on- one as possible. So ideally, face- to- face if you can. That's the best. You can always do that. Yes, you can do that if I'm having meetings, but we do that by sitting closely to each other in terms of functional areas. Have as much of that as possible. We can get into tactics of when do we use email and when do we use chat and when do we use whatever tool there is out there, but we try to have as much communication happen on one- on- one. The reason for that is we want to reduce the chance of misinterpretation. When you use chat, use something like Slack, we use email or you use something else, it's hard to figure out someone's tone. It's hard to figure out what they actually mean. We have the advantage of actually being in an office together, so let's move as much of that to be in person.

Dave: Yeah, something you've mentioned a bunch, a couple of times on this podcast and to me personally, just a lot of the problems that you've seen at companies in the past have simply come because somebody needs to go talk to Amy. What's up, Amy? And they didn't actually roll their chair over to go talk to Amy, right?

Speaker 2: Correct.

Dave: They said," Oh, I wrote a Wiki post," or" I just wrote this thing and I mentioned Amy in it." It always seems to come down to, did you actually go over there and cut through all the BS and have this conversation?

Speaker 2: Yeah, people are scared to have one- on- one conversations. I'm not sure why, but they're scared and they think either they use the excuse of that it doesn't scale, so it's not a scalable process, or they just err towards writing something, sending an email, never following up. So there's no follow up. We would like send these things out there and hope that someone else is on the other end picking them up.

Dave: Mm- hmm( affirmative). Okay, so given that and before we get into the tactics, how would you give us a grade, honestly?

Speaker 2: Internally in communication?

Dave: Internally in communication.

Speaker 2: C.

Dave: C?

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: Have you seen other, have you worked, have you ran a company before this or done other things where it's been higher than C or is it always-

Speaker 2: No, I think we're average down to C because there's always room for improvement and so we're constantly at its peaks and valleys. We'll hit As at some point and then we go back to Cs and we need to get to the next phase. So I'd say we are a C. Have I seen communication better? In certain times and places but not overall. I'd say-

Dave: People will always be people.

Speaker 2: ...it will always be a C. Yeah. It's always a C, and so we're always fighting inertia. Even if we get to an A, and then something happens, and then we go back to old patterns and we need to fight our way back.

Dave: All right. Let's go through each one. I just made a bunch of different things that we do. As far as meetings, we have a culture of we don't want to have meetings.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: No meetings.

Speaker 2: But there are meetings.

Dave: But there are meetings.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: Don't take this complete opposite way and say, we don't have meetings. We actually bookend. One of the things that we do is we bookend the week with meetings, so they're very short. So Monday 11: 00 AM, the whole team gets gathered around and we do a 10 minute metrics meeting, where Will takes us through like the key metrics of our business. We ask questions and also, each team shares what their big focus is for the week. I think that's been a great meeting for us just to get everybody on the same page.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Will is the guy on our team who runs ops for us and owns all the metrics and makes this place stick together.

Dave: Yeah. Having him run that meeting is great because he can go to each team Monday morning. He'll come to marketing, he'll say," Hey, what's your team's three things for the week? This product team, what's your three things for the week?" and he arranges that. But also, I think it goes back to what we were saying earlier. It also brings everybody together and puts everything on the agenda for the week. It's not meant to be a line by line tactical list of stuff, but like, here's what we're working on this week. Then this is the chance where if that doesn't align with some other team or this isn't right, you have to speak up, versus letting that go. So we do that on Mondays. Then Friday, we do end of the week thing. We bookend it with show and tell.

Speaker 2: We do that at 4: 00 PM on Friday.

Dave: 4: 00 PM on Fridays.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and we bring the team together and it's called show and tell. It's pretty popular. We sit back, people have beer, have whatever. Each person goes around and shows what they actually did that week. Especially impactful for of course, creative people like Amy and other designers and our engineers.

Dave: Yeah. Where did this start? Is this something that you did before?

Speaker 3: We did show and tell, we did it on a monthly basis at HubSpot. We did that as a product team each month, invited the whole company and the product team did that. A very different method. We're running at a much faster cadence and so we do it for everyone in the team and we do it weekly.

Dave: Did you have rules around that?

Speaker 3: Yeah, we have lots of rules.

Dave: Like what?

Speaker 3: Very different.

Dave: Okay, So we don't have a ton of rules?

Speaker 3: We don't have a ton of rules. So we just had-

Dave: crosstalk show what you're working.

Speaker 2: Yes. As we grew and remember, we always talk about stages. So we were at a very different stage and we cared about... Because we were communicating with people that were outside of the product team, we had to be sure to have rules that said," Hey, we're only going to show things that are actually being used by customers even if it's a small subset of customers."

Dave: Because you didn't want a sales rep running off crosstalk person company hiding in the back of the room and be like," I'm going to go sell that."

Speaker 2: I'm going to go sell that. Not that sales ever oversells or overpromises anything.

Dave: Not that they wouldn't going to find the engineer who built it after the meeting and be like," Yo, tell me more about that."

Speaker 2: Exactly. Hook me up, drug deal. So we had rules like that. We had rules for how long someone could be up there. We did it by team. We did rotations. We had lots and lots and lots of different rules on it to make it a well- produced event and very different than our Friday show and tell, which is more laid back and everyone just goes around round- robin.

Dave: Yeah, but I think they serve different purposes, different companies.

Speaker 2: Totally.

Dave: The HubSpot example, that's more like an event.

Speaker 2: It was an event.

Dave: It was an event. Yeah, when you said it then, that is the right word.

Speaker 2: crosstalk ice cream and tacos and all that kind of stuff. It was a big event.

Dave: Yeah. Here, I think it's just a way to keep the team close. Even though we've grown to almost 30 people now,-

Speaker 2: Were we all 30 people?

Dave: Yeah, we're all 30 people, we just keep it tight. Six months ago, we could each go around and we can just talk for 10 minutes and talk about the week. Now it's like, you got to pick your one or two things. But I think it's cool because you don't see everybody. You don't always know what everybody's working on. You sit next to it, like Tiron, one of our engineers. I used to sit next to him all the time, talk to him all the time. I don't talk to him as much as we've continued to grow. But it's cool because then on Friday, I see, " Oh, he built this new thing. Here's how it works." So it keeps everybody on the same page, which is awesome.

Speaker 2: Exactly. So we bookend with those two meetings, then what other meetings do we have?

Dave: Okay. In between, you're only having formal meetings?

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: But you recently, I've been noticing you've been on this little charge-

Speaker 2: What charge?

Dave: ...to kill meetings.

Speaker 2: Yes. Because they crop up.

Dave: Yeah. I don't mean kill meetings as like we're never having meetings. This isn't like no roadmap, no date inaudible, but-

Speaker 2: You mean meetings that just pop up?

Dave: Yeah. You've been noticing that as we grow, more people have a tendency to want to meet. Your thing is, can you hash that out without having a meeting? You also have given the company a free pass, basically. Like as you tell us, if you're in a meeting and it's not, just leave, right?

Speaker 2: Just leave. If you're in a meeting and you don't need to be in that meeting, you should feel free to leave that meeting and go back to what you're doing. There's no need to feel guilted into going into a meeting. The reason we're doing this is we're trying to fight inertia. We try to fight the natural thing that happens, which is meeting starts to proliferate just like my waistline proliferates. I need to fight it.

Dave: Come on, man. The 32 goal is happening.

Speaker 2: It's happening.

Dave: You can have that.

Speaker 2: It's happening too like that. Yeah, but I'm fighting it.

Dave: Yeah, you're fighting it. It's inertia.

Speaker 2: It's inertia.

Dave: That's why you eat all those plants?

Speaker 2: That's right, plant- based. Hashtag plant- based.

Dave: Okay. So trying to fight meetings. But the other couple of things I wrote down, one tool that I love just personally for our team, and I think you're a fan of it too is 15Five. Maybe explain 15Five for people that aren't using it.

Speaker 2: Yeah. 15Five is actually heard the story of how it came about. I've known the founder, David for a long time. Now we used it for years now, that tool, but his co- founder was at a dinner with us in San Francisco.

Dave: Yeah, Shane. What's up Shane?

Speaker 2: What's up Shane? He said, the whole story is it's a thing that came from the founder of Patagonia, which we all admire a lot.

Dave: That's a soft spot for you too.

Speaker 2: Exactly. I've read his book a million times, but I don't know if I can pronounce his name, which is Yvon Chouinard. I cannot pronounce it. But anyway, he had this thing where he would disappear. He's known for not actually being at Patagonia and hiking and doing all these crazy things. He would where he would have this thing called 15 five, so five bullet points, 15 minutes a week. It'd be like a summary that they would come up with what every team was working on, every department is working on. That's how he kept in track, in touch with the company. So 15Five as a company took their premise and built software around it.

Dave: Yeah. So everybody on a team, basically, all the 15 fives roll up to a manager. Then everybody on the team that week at Friday, gets a reminder Friday morning say," Hey, fill out your 15 five." Just you go through it and you mark down how you're feeling on a scale of zero to five, you fill out things that just-

Speaker 2: Just five questions.

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: 15 minutes.

Dave: ...things you accomplished that week, feedback for other people. You can give other people high fives and everything.

Speaker 2: Why do you like it?

Dave: I like it because similar to the way that show and tell bookends the week, filling out my 15 five is like a way to end the week just ceremoniously. The problem is I'm super type A and so I don't even get to enjoy the satisfaction of filling it out because the second I fill it out, I'm like," Oh no. Now I'm going to make my list for next week. What are the things I'm going to do next week?" But I like it. It also, for the marketing team, for the people on my team for example, I like it because we have our one- on- ones, we'll talk about in one second, but 15 five is just like, you can express a little bit more feedback or go in depth. As much as you want people to share things with you face to face in person, sometimes there're just going to be things that you're just going to write down and it's going to come in a different form. One of the 15 five questions is any things you're struggling with. That's been a great opportunity for people to share feedback. What happens all the time like Amy sitting right here is Amy might say something," Hey, I have this suggestion," and it always ends up being like," Okay, great. Let's talk about this in our one- on- one on Monday." So it leads to that. It leads to one- on- one. So we don't have a culture of meetings, but you're a big advocate of one- on-ones.

Speaker 2: Of one-on-one meetings, yeah. So that every member of the team has a one- on- one meeting, which ideally they're setting the agenda for. But that those happen either weekly or biweekly for each person so that they make sure that they're in sync.

Dave: Yeah. I think the big thing is that that meeting is for the person, it's not the manager's meeting. I think that this is something that we try to push on, we talked a lot about is it's not the meeting to show up and be like," So what do you want to talk about?"

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's a fail.

Dave: Yeah. If there's nothing to talk about, don't don't have the meeting, cancel meeting. You don't have to have it every week.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: The last two tools before we wrap this one up, Slack, obviously, which we use daily. I don't think we need to go into how we use Slack. It's obvious.

Speaker 2: Yeah. The funny thing-

Dave: Go.

Speaker 2: I was reading an article this morning, which was How to Deal with Slack Overload. It's funny crosstalk.

Dave: Yeah. I tweeted something this weekend. I was in Vermont and I had bad internet. I was on the computer and I got a ton of writing done because I didn't have Slack.

Speaker 2: Exactly. Email overload, the solution was supposed to be Slack.

Dave: We're back.

Speaker 2: Slack overload.

Dave: It's crazy. I think it's just is discipline. You don't have to respond to everything. Email is interesting to me though. I think email's having a comeback.

Speaker 2: We're winning it back.

Dave: I'm trying to push email back.

Speaker 2: DG has an agenda, bring email back.

Dave: I wrote in a Wiki post, just hashtag bring email back, because I think there's things that because everything is real time today, we want," Hey David, here's this thing. Here are my feedback. Check it out."

Speaker 2: Here's this thing, check it out.

Dave: That works for a lot of things like," Oh, here's a link to this thing you might find interesting. Check it out." But if I need your feedback on something, I know you now where the way to get your feedback on that isn't to send you a Slack message in the middle of the day and be like," Here's this thing, I need your feedback." I might send you a Slack message to say," Hey, FYI, I just emailed you this thing," and I'll put it in a box.

Speaker 2: That's how to tell me to actually read my email-

Dave: Yeah, go read it.

Speaker 2: ...since I don't read my email.

Dave: There's a lot of stuff in there.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: I've seen it. But yeah, I'm just trying to push people to rely on email more for things that aren't real time. Not everything needs to be real time.

Speaker 2: Agree.

Dave: It's harder to give longer, in- depth, thoughtful feedback on something via Slack and you just one- off in the middle of the day.

Speaker 2: Totally, I think if it's an FYI or if it's something that people need to sleep on or ponder on, those things should be outside of lack. Those things should be an email so that we can spend time on it. Let's declutter Slack.

Dave: Declutter Slack, that's where we're at today.

Speaker 2: Yeah, we're overloaded.

Dave: All right, so let's leave people with a couple of takeaways. It's not really the tactics, but it's basically like we are building a culture around three pillars and that's, no meetings,-

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: ...transparency,-

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: ...and showing your work. We didn't talk about showing your work.

Speaker 2: I love that three pillars, the power of threes.

Dave: Yeah. Tell what show your work for a sec before we wrap up, though.

Speaker 2: Sure. Show your work is one of our values where we try to push everyone from day one and continuously to do exactly that, which show your work, which means it's our version of shipping, which is more applicable to everyone else.

Dave: Do you think that having show your work as a value though, doesn't that impact from some top- down internal communications.

Speaker 2: Oh yeah, absolutely. You need to show your work. We try to err towards instead of perfecting something off in a corner, show your work or show the progress as you're going along in that work. Because there, you can have things that happen especially if you communicate with people one- on- one where you might have suggestions. People might have suggestions for what you're doing, have ways to improve it, or might even point out like," Hey, we did something just like that that you may have not seen. Here it is. Check it out." So there's more opportunity to collaborate into we're together as we share our work.

Dave: All right. Before you send us off with the call to action, I got to do fan love. Fan love of the week. This one is from [C. Andre 00:17:31]. He said... He, She, I don't know why I said that. Awesome chemistry, pragmatic topics with a refreshing spin to them, entertaining, and easy listen for management wisdom. Gerhardt is a great interviewer and conversationalist. Cancel's a time- tested founder and CEO. Together, they crush it. That's fan love for this week. Thank you.

Speaker 2: How many stars?

Dave: One, two, three, four, five stars.

Speaker 2: Five stars? Wow.

Dave: 210 five- star reviews now.

Speaker 2: We only have 90 left. Come on, people.

Dave: 90 left? I thought the goal was 600, 700.

Speaker 2: Oh, I'm just talking about short term goal.

Dave: All right.

Speaker 2: Trying to be a show progression.

Dave: Appreciate that. That means a lot.

Speaker 2: Let's get 90 more five- star reviews only, not four, not three, not two, not one. We only 210, five- star reviews. Leave your review. Show your love. DG does not get any love during the week. He needs some.

Dave: Please. This is the highlight.

Speaker 2: I definitely need some. I get zero.

Dave: Subscribe.

Speaker 2: I'm on negative love right now so help me up with some five stars.

Dave: You get hate these days.

Speaker 2: I get hate, which is okay. If I can't get love, I'll get hate. But let's get five- star reviews out there. Help us blow up and please hit that subscribe button. Subscribe to Seeking Wisdom. See you.

Dave: All right.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- After our podcast episode on meetings, we got a lot of questions about how we handle internal communication at Drift (from the tools we use to the guardrails we set as part of our culture). Some of the tools we mention on this episode: Email Slack Wiki (we use Confluence from Atlassian) 15Five 1:1 meetings Monday Metrics Meeting Friday Show & Tell PS. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.