Use this one weird trick to manage your team more effectively
Perhaps the single greatest challenge for managers is maintaining alignment. How do you make sure your team is working on the right things without micromanaging them? How do you even know what they’re working on in the first place?
The general answer here is communication. I find that what feels like enough communication is actually radical undercommunication, and that what feels like overcommunication is actually just barely adequate. Communicating constantly and effectively with your team takes incredible time and energy. Add in the fact that the number of connections between team members scales with the square of the team size, and communication becomes unwieldy fast.
The solution for most managers is to let communication slip and focus on “real work” instead. It’s easy to understand why. Sending emails, having meetings, completing projects - they have tangible presences in our inboxes, on our calendars, and in our task management tools. Communication doesn’t have the same presence. Low communication looks like nothing. It is a non-event. Remembering to communicate early and often takes willpower and forethought that busy managers have often depleted with “real work.”
We came up with a solution at Castle that I have since brought with me to other jobs. It builds communication into every workday, enforces accountability, increases transparency, surfaces roadblocks, and maintains alignment. We called it Daily Recaps.
A Daily Recap is a daily email containing a bulleted list of what you accomplished that day. You send it to your manager, your peers, your direct reports, and anyone else who wishes to receive it.
It is a simple but powerful technique. It combines the benefits of journals, newsletters, and task management tools, without introducing significant overhead. It is a habit, meaning it does not require the same precious willpower and forethought other communication demands. It allows managers to show, not tell, their priorities. It provides an archive of past accomplishments, handy for bringing new team members up to speed or evaluating veteran team members up for review. All it requires is writing a short list every day.
If you’re interested in adopting Daily Recaps, here are a few protips:
- Use an email group. Email groups allow team members to join and leave fluidly, which is helpful when teams change or when employees from another team are temporarily collaborating with you. Using an email group also gives a central place for the archive of past accomplishments mentioned above that isn’t your Sent folder. Ideally the company uses a standard format like [emailslug]-recap@[domain], ex. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Link to relevant resources. Documents, repos, and the like provide context for readers now and in the future. Occasionally I have even used my old Recaps to find links to Google Docs I had forgotten the title of.
- Group lines by project. Readers can then visually understand where you’re spending your time - great for readers in a hurry who are only skimming.
- Don’t go too far into the weeds. This goes double if adding more detail makes writing a Recap feel more daunting. A short Recap sent is worth infinitely more than a long Recap unsent.
- Use the space to reflect. I like adding a line or two at the bottom saying what I’m excited about, what I’m finding challenging, or what I think the team needs to hear. Remember, the main point of Recaps is to improve alignment.
Have you implemented Daily Recaps at your company? Have questions about getting started? Let me know!