We communicate primarily through writing. We write emails and we send messages in Slack. We document projects in Notion. We send meeting invites with a written description of the purpose. Each email and each Slack message can be a vehicle for us to improve, only if we knew how (Lucky for you – we do!).But what we all know, is that we’re writing all the time.Here’s why:
Writing saves time.
Take this contrived example: You have a distributed team. Both the London and Manila teammate couldn’t make a Very Important Meeting because of time zone conflicts. No one wrote up a summary of decisions made in the Very Important Meeting, so the London teammate reaches out to the Organizer to schedule a Meeting After the Meeting to catch up them and the Manila teammate up on the Very Important Meeting.
Writing makes meetings a last resort.
In a remote context, you can’t pull your team aside to solve a problem. Yet most teams are used to doing this. Sending a message to update a team member or make a request doesn’t need a meeting. If you frame the problem as a Slack post or a document, your teammates can chime in on their own time. This makes it non-disruptive to everyone, while moves the discussion forward. “But what if the problem is juicy and we can’t solve it through an asynchronous discussion?” The point: default to asynchronous communication when discussing an issue and to use meetings as a last resort. Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time.
Writing removes extrovert bias.
Modern work gives extroverts a free power-up that introverts have to earn through practice. Meetings favor folks who think out loud and don’t need time to think things through. It’s unfair, yet rarely noticed. The good news is that remote work creates the space for introverts to contribute. Written discussion gives folks time to chew on a topic and think through what they want to say. If you identify as an introvert, take advantage. Let writing be your platform.
Writing invites other perspectives.
Writing forces people to think clearly. I’m sure this question has confronted you at least once when drafting a presentation: “What is it that I actually want to say?” While writing forces people to think clearly, writing also forces teams to think clearly. In my experience, having a clearly written thing makes it easy for folks to collaborate with me. This is because people naturally enjoy poking holes in arguments, adding points that were missed, or mentioning any risks that weren’t taken into account. I’ve found it helpful to use this human tendency to my advantage. Extra opinions and poked holes are hard to surface if you didn’t write something in the first place. From Steven Sinofsky’s Writing is Thinking:“Writing something for an audience is a way of making you consult representatives of that audience before publishing. What will marketing think? Will sales people be able to sell? Whether you consider those perspectives before or not does not change that they will react. This isn’t “buy-in” or “heads-up” but actually consulting the real stakeholders of a decision.”If one person puts their thoughts together and shares it with a team, this helps the rest of the team put their thoughts together. Give others a thing to react to. Or else your team may not examine the full breadth of a problem.