425: The Value of Overcommunicating
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the value of overcommunicating.
Communicating effectively in a startup is super important to the success of not just your startup, but also the businesses of those you serve. And it’s up to the leadership of a startup to communicate effectively.
In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why you need to be incredibly disciplined about how you communicate, why overcommunication is usually the reason projects succeed, the most powerful thing about “beating the drum” and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic.
00:33 Why this topic was chosen.
01:10 Why you need to be incredibly disciplined about how you communicate.
01:59 Why overcommunication is usually the reason projects succeed.
03:13 Why you need to learn how to overcommunicate.
04:56 How Hiten writes more of his ideas down than share it with people.
06:37 How Hiten continues to beat the drum.
06:59 The most powerful thing about beating the drum.
07:40 An example of beating the drum.
08:33 Why you want to guide people to beat the right drum.
3 Key Points:
- You need to be incredibly disciplined about how you communicate.
- Whenever I see someone managing a team or project properly, it usually means they are doing one thing very well – overcommunicating
- When people overcommunicate in projects, those projects always do well.
Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli: And today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about the value of over communicating or how to over communicate and why you want to do it all or maybe why you want to avoid it. So here’s the setup for this topic, Hiten. So there’s two sides to this, two reasons why I wanted to talk about this with you and why I felt this could be really valuable to our listeners. Number one, a lot of times when people ask me I get this question asked a lot, and I know you do too. Which is, how do you run a remote company? How do you run a fully distributed team? Isn’t it really challenging? Is it possible to do it well? And one of the core things I hear myself talking about again and again and again and again, is that I’ll say a lot of things that are important about running a distributed team or remote company with a great culture. But one of the things that I keep repeating when it comes to that is. You just need to be incredibly disciplined about how you communicate, you actually have to constantly over communicate, right? And I think that that’s just a muscle that’s good in any company, in any team. I don’t think this is just for remote companies. But then remote company, you can’t be lazy with it at all. You can’t get away with anything. If there’s any kind of lack of communication, things break down instantly. So I’m just keep repeating this theme a lot. And then the other thing that I notice is that there are people, whenever I see somebody do really well in managing a team or managing a project or championing something. It always goes back to them doing one thing particularly well, and that is that they over communicate. They state what needs to happen in a very clear way. They communicated in different channels and they keep repeating the message to keep everybody aligned and keep everybody on the same page as well as everybody remembering this thing that we’re trying to accomplish, the deadline that we have, the date, the reason why we’re doing things. And when people over communicate in projects, those projects always do well. They always do well. And whenever I see somebody managing a project, or a team, and I wonder well, I don’t hear much, there’s not much communication going on. They said big goals last quarter, but nobody ever repeated them. I don’t even remember what they are anymore. And I don’t know if they’re accomplishing them or not. There’s just not a lot of communication going on. Those projects always go bad. They never go well. So I am of the belief that when you deal with humans, you have to be great at communication in one part of communication, especially in team situations where many humans are involved,in that you need to learn to over communicate. Let me throw that out there. We’ve never talked about this before, because I’m dying to hear you’re probably going to say something that I didn’t expect. What’s your reaction to the topic of over communication? Is it good? Is it bad? What’s your take on it?
Steli: I knew you would react this, like I knew it would be aargh. It meant something brilliant will follow.
Hiten: I used to and it’s publicly out there because I wrote about it. I used to over communicate in all the wrong ways.
Steli: Oh you mean “Hiten bombs”
Hiten: Yeah, that’s an over communication. It’s a form of over communication. And so that’s why I sighed. I’m like, all right dude, let’s do this. So I used to take every reaction and thought that I had in my head, not every but most of them and go shoot it off to my team or the team or people on the team have multiple businesses so it’d happen across many different areas. And it was out of excitement, more than anything else. I was just excited. I learned this thing, I should communicate it, I should let everyone know, I got to tell them so that they have the information I have, right? Of course. That made the message that I was sending everybody unclear. That made their work less disciplined, that made them distracted, that made them confused. I have changed and it was all the hard way or hard ways. And I’m still changing on some of the stuff. But now I write a lot more down. I used to have the need to go talk to someone about it. Now I write a lot more down. Like a lot. And sometimes I don’t share it with anyone. And they’re just notes about what’s in my head about the businesses or what’s going on with a certain thing, or what’s going on in the world out there, or what this competitor did, or what this friend told me or this advisor told me or this mentor, or this, whatever or you even, right? If I ask you something, anybody. And I write a lot more down, and that helps me keep my thoughts clear but my notes messy, if that makes sense. That’s cool because no one’s seen them. They’re out of my head, they’re not in my head, no one’s seen them. And then they naturally bubble up again. And they bubble up so that I’m just timely with communicating those things that are in my head that I took notes on, or were in my head that I took notes on. So, I know this is a little bit of a like, off the beaten path of the topic, because I’m going to get back to it before I hear your reaction to what I say. So that’s what I do now. And that helps me a lot to be clear, and how that relates to communicating or over communicating, or what I would probably more call repeating, beating the drum.
Steli: Beating the drum, yeah.
Hiten: I was told recently that, “Hey, Hiten continue beating that drum.” Just continue beating that drum. And this was very related to over communicate and things like that. I’m like, Okay, cool. I’m going to continue. This is from the general manager, Suneet. He’s our general manager at Crazy Egg and runs the business. And in the past, I would talk to him about stuff, and probably wasn’t as productive. But now I just got a drum to beat. I got the same thing, same tone, same tune, and I’m just beating it and he’s like, “Yeah, just keep beating that drum” I’m like, Okay, cool, right. That’s all I needed to hear. And I don’t think anything could be said more clearly to me if I say something, right. If someone says, “Hey, keep saying that.” Great, I could do that, that’s easy. Just tell me that I need to do it though, right? And he’s like, “Yeah, keep beating the drum.” So I got a couple drums I beat. And so the most powerful thing about this beating the drum concept, which some would call over communicating, others would call repetition is one thing. And it’s really powerful. It’s this idea that we need people in organizations, they don’t have to be the founder, CEO, leader necessarily, or even some manager that are going to beat the drum and keep repeating the thing, not in an annoying way, not always in the same way. But they’re just going to keep beating that drum because then it spreads throughout the organization and people start hearing it, they start believing whatever it is, and they start becoming it. And so a good example of this is if your business is basically not, like let’s say this is a problem that’s very common, let’s say that you have a lot of tech debt. So you have a lot of technical debt in your business, there’s a bunch of engineering, and a bunch of code that’s written that makes it so something that seemingly should be easy and take a couple hours ends up taking like a week to build or change. Well if someone were beating the drum about technical debt, and the importance of being able to move fast. Then eventually that technical debt will start getting fixed. But it’s one of those things where a lot of folks, engineers, and the team, they just want to build new stuff. So if no one’s beating that drum, you’re going to start getting a messier and messier situation, a bigger and bigger mess on your hands. And so someone beating that drum for weeks, even months sometimes is what’s going to lead to change. And you want to thank those people. You want to guide those people to beat the right drum. And you want to just let them loose the second that they’ve figured out what that drum is to beat and do it in the right way without them being annoying or anything like that. And if you are that person that can do that for your company, figure out what that drum is, what that thing that needs to be repeated right now is and do it, repeat it. So, that’s the way I look at it I used to look at this differently, where it was about communicating everything. Now, I’m all about just communicating the most important things and repeating the message to anyone that’ll listen.
Steli: See, this is why I love you Hiten because you actually sorted this out in a way that I wasn’t even aware of. Because when I say over communicate, I actually mean beat the drum. I mean, like champion a message but people could easily understand it for talk all the time, or say everything you do think. So when you started talking about it for like a second I was like, huh, I didn’t see why we’re taking this side road and then like a few seconds into it. I was like, oh I’m so glad we took this, Hiten you were clarifying this. Because the way I talked about it was not clear enough for everybody to be on the same page of what I mean, right?
Steli: So that, was so beautiful. Eventually I actually just had to lean back and listen to you beautifully lay it out. Just do all the heavy work.
Hiten: I told you I’d get somewhere. You’re bringing up a really important point. And it’s about communication, which is, imagine if you went and told someone, “Hey, we need to over communicate, you should be over communicating that.” What are they going to do, right? They’re probably going to do something you didn’t intend. I don’t know what they’re going to do but what if you say “Hey, keep beating that drum.” They’re like, “Okay cool.” I’m in a parade, I gotta drum to beat, I’m going to keep beating that drum, right? Like, “Okay, cool got it.” It’s a very positive difference, right? And so I think the point that I reflect on, on this one is when you’re communicating, make sure that your message is heard in the way you intended it. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you’re going to over communicate, or you’re going to beat the drum, and there’s a big difference. Over communicate means your message is not necessarily being heard, right?
Hiten: It’s getting lost in a lot of noise like I used to do, or it’s the wrong message because if the words are not resonating with people, and whatever they think it’s not what you think, but beating the drum is like, this is a drum. If I’m beating a drum, you better like the music, right? Better make sense to you, better like what’s coming out of there, or there’s no drum to beat, I’m doing the wrong thing again, right?
Hiten: So, I think about that a lot. And I would say that, like one strategy that I use to make sure that message is received is I ask people, “Hey, what do you think I meant?” And I do it in a non aggressive way. I might have sounded aggressive when I said right now but it’s, I would just like to make sure that we’re on the same page. And whatever way I said it, and then communicated, it makes sense to you, and is aligned with what I was thinking. Because if it’s not, then let’s hash it out, right? I have people on the team that, I literally said this to someone yesterday. It was actually my co-founder, Marie and I told her basically, if there’s anything that’s unclear, or confusing about what I’m saying to you, please just tell me, just tell me, I need that. Because I don’t always know how what I’m saying is interpreted by you. And we’re working on things together. And so if anything’s confusing, just tell me because I think people need to be reminded of that because one thing I’ve noticed too around this whole topic is that you tell people things, and they forget or not forget the thing, but they forget to ask you for clarification. Or they feel like they can’t, or they feel like they shouldn’t or they feel like worse yet, they feel like they should understand it. And so I’m looking for any piece of confusion in my communication in order to make sure that the party or parties that I’m talking to completely understand what I’m saying.
Steli: Beautiful, I love it. I think that the important thing is to kind of just make a distinction between the two things is that, if you just say everything you think you’re creating noise versus if you have a message that you’re repeating, you’re strengthening a signal potentially and there’s a lot of value in beating the drum, which means championing a certain message, singing a certain tune. The main value of it is that eventually it penetrates the minds and becomes such a part of the natural thought process, the natural rhythm of everybody on the team and in the company, that now they’re singing that tune in their mind all day long. They’re repeating that message, it always stays top of mind. They using it to make decisions. A good example of this is values, right? Some companies have values, they’re written on a website. And nobody on the team could ever cite or repeat what our values, right? Because nobody’s using them. Then there’s companies that create this unique internal language almost like a cult where they keep using the values to describe how they make decisions. They keep using them. Usually they make them a little bit quirky, right? It’s a little weird in a way that really stands out and eventually becomes part of the zeitgeist of that team part of the psyche of the team because they keep hearing it and then all of a sudden, people start repeating it and then, creates this unique language in this alignment tool of thinking and decision making because everybody’s always like, well. Let’s take the famous Facebook example they are like move fast and break things. If you keep hearing that then it becomes a tool to make decisions, you start seeing employees keep using the language all the time, and it becomes part of the company culture versus something that is only being said once. It’s very, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’re going to say something so profound to a group of people that they will not just understand and like it, but they will start using and repeating it in their mind and constantly thinking about it on their own immediately afterwards, it’s just not the way we work. So I think beating the drum is an important tool to make something really stick. Become in a way of beating the drum is beautiful because it’s about rhythm and this is as well about creating a certain type of rhythm that aligns the team and lets people walk and talk and think in a kind of, in the same direction some way. So it can be incredibly powerful. I’ve seen this works so well in many different situations. I think what prevents people often times before we wrap this episode, one last thing I’ll say on this on my end. That one of the main reasons that I’ve seen people struggle with this, even if they see the value, and they want to do it. Is they feel a little self conscious, a little weird, especially the more intelligent they are about saying the same thing twice, right? Or repeating themselves. They feel a little self conscious like, this is dumb. Why do I have to say this again? This makes me feel dumb or makes me feel like I don’t I treat other people in a weird way. So I don’t want to keep repeating myself. But I feel that’s such a limit. I completely understand why you would feel that way. And I do. I feel that way many times where I’m like, ideally I would just say this once, right? And I wouldn’t have to keep saying it. But it’s not about what I want. It’s not about looking smart. It’s not about my ego. I just ask myself, is this going to help my team, right? Is this my job? Do I have to beat this drum to use this lingo or this framework? And if I don’t, who will? And if nobody is there I should just do it and it shouldn’t be about this just feels dumb or not. And I don’t think that it’s smart as a human to think that repeating yourself is a bad thing. If you think about some of the best comedians, advertising in a way is about creating these catchphrases or these slogans or these whatever it is that these words and sentences that if repeated enough become part of the way people think and then the way people make decisions and feel. So repeating yourself is not a dumb thing. It’s actually, can be a very powerful thing if you do to the right way.
Hiten: Yeah, couldn’t agree more. I think it is a powerful thing. It’s not a dumb thing. It’s actually the opposite.
Steli: All right, this is it from us for today’s episode. We will see you very very soon and make sure don’t forget to beat that drum.
Hiten: See you.