Scripted Interactions: On this week’s episode of Track Changes, Paul, Rich, and Gina chat about ways to keep your team focused and on track when working remotely. How do you create urgency to make sure things get done? How can you keep people focused during remote calls? They discuss the need for clear communication and accountability, and share some tools to help structure meetings and interactions in a digital-first work world.
Rich Ziade Let me pose it to a question to you, Gina: Do you ever put two brilliant people in a room?
Gina Trapani Yup.
Paul Ford I mean, every time you come into Bungalow [a meeting room at Postlight] and watch me and Rich talk, you’re gonna see [Rich and Gina laugh. Music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. Hey! Everybody.
PF We’re talking with managing partner Gina Trapani is joining us remote from an undisclosed location in Brooklyn, New York City.
PF Richard is here as well, Richard?
RZ Yeah, I am here as well. How are you guys?
PF Getting used to the new normal.
GT Yeah I’m looking at your little—little squares of video, of your faces talkin’ to me while we do this. Which is not how we usually do this. We usually do this in a little room at the office.
PF I spent some time. I organized my office a little bit. I put some art behind me and I spent a lot of time getting the color right so that my face doesn’t look like a bleached out sort of—
GT Your lighting so good. It’s so good, Paul. You have a nice, soft, natural light on the right side of your face. It’s giving that depth.
RZ Yeah, it’s beautiful.
GT It’s beautiful.
PF Well, you know what? I’m selling services [Gina laughs] and I feel like if I’m gonna be asking people for genuinely hundreds of thousands of dollars in the middle of a pandemic, you can’t do it in a basement. Like, you have to look expensive. Or at least like your corner—you know—you thought about it—
GT Are you saying that cuz I’m in my basement? [Laughs]
GT [Laughing] It’s ok.
PF No but now—yeah. Wow. Woo!
GT I am actually in my basement. But that’s ok.
PF Well you know you’re not in sales anymore, Gina, so everything’s fine.
GT Everything’s good. Yeah, somebody tweeted every Zoom call feels like an episode of MTV Cribs. You’re sorta lookin’ in on people’s spaces and what they’ve got goin’ on in there. What kinda bookshelf is that? What kinda art you got goin’ on? It’s kinda just the new—You’re in people’s homes. You’re beaming into people’s homes during the business day.
PF Like it was kinda—you know, it felt like the balloon went up and we all had to get home . . . and make our offices as quickly as possible. Richard, on day zero, like, was like, “You can’t sell if people can see your bed like that.” So that was like—first thing I had to do was turn my desk 90 degrees so it looked out the window. Then you got upset because it was too bright and it showed my old curtains. So finally I rotated it, we’re now at 270 degrees and I’m—
RZ Oh no, this is gonna make the difference for Postlight. I have no doubt in my mind.
PF Frankly, this is like 30 percent more sales completion.
RZ Oh yeah. We could—we could sell an extra chunk of strategic—like a strategy phase can be added on just by you turning your computer around.
PF I have to say I can feel it. You know what else I’m noticing is that the need—I’ve been spending a lot of time researching live streaming environments because the need for more complicated presentation and to have visuals has gone up like tenfold. There’s this assumption that we’re all gonna talk on Zoom or use Google Meet or whatever, but what I’m finding is I need tools to quickly make diagrams, sketch them, share words. Like, it’s not just the deck. It needs to be kind of interactive as if you were going to a whiteboard.
RZ I think the thing that is hardest to reconcile—I’m trying to compare this to . . . imagine you had an in-person meeting and the person—every single person you met didn’t just show up themselves, so you could look into their own eyes but they held a monitor next to their heads.
And you had total control over that monitor so you can go to any website you wanted so that as soon as that person became uninteresting to you, you could just surf the web and look at the monitor immediately to the right of their heads. This is every video video conference call, right? Unless you are absolutely captivating, they have moved on and they are looking at breakfast nooks to buy from West Elm. [Gina and Paul laughing] They are reading a longform piece out The Atlantic about what this is gonna mean for us in ten years. They’re done with you!
PF We’re competing for attention in a way that we never had.
RZ You know what, dude? Maybe this is how it should be. Maybe every person I meet has a little entertaining monkey on their shoulder so that as soon as they become unappealing or uninteresting to me, I could just play with the monkey.
PF Well, you know, this is what I’m talking about with live streaming. Like, I think that that’s—there are all these tools that the Twitch people use where it’s like . . . you don’t just put your face in or just the game, right? You can also stream a browser, add texts, put images over it, move audio from different places, so your whole computer is like a mixing board where you’re trying to get as much signal and stimulus over to the viewer.
RZ Well it’s—it’s bizarre, right? Cuz you’re competing with the rest of the desktop, the rest of the world. The rest of the internet is—Like, it’s just me in a little box and then all around me is anything you want. Like imagine you could take me and say, “Hey, I need to talk to you, let’s go to the mall.” So in case I become unappealing or uninteresting at any point you can just run into any store you like. So just—let’s do that.
PF Honestly, doesn’t that characterize our entire [Gina chuckling] relationship, though?
RZ It kinda does. It kinda does and—
PF Yeah, I mean it’s like I love you very much but when we spend time together it’s like we’ve heard all the stories before. We usually need a little something else goin’ on.
RZ I feel like people are not hiding as much too. I feel like—we have someone at Postlight who clearly isn’t looking at the damn camera, he’s got like two monitors, or three, and he’s got one ear. He’s giving you about 30, 40 percent of your bandwidth—his bandwidth—the information’s goin’ on but he’s clearly doing something else and he’s not even hiding it. Like he’s fine with that. And maybe that is the new thing. We don’t look at each other anymore because we’re all gonna compete with the rest of the screen. I mean that’s just reality.
GT It is any different though than sitting in a conference room with people on their laptops, or looking at their phones? Like—
RZ That’s a great point.
GT It’s actually not that different. I mean there’s some social, you know, morays around trying to at least make eye contact a little bit in the conference room but it’s not too different. It’s funny, you know, there are times where we’ve said like, you know, no laptop meetings or one of our partners, Jeremy, he’s remote all the time and one of his great tips was like if you’re on a long call and you feel yourself drifting off, start taking notes cuz that engages you. And, you know it’s funny, there have been times when like I’ve said to somebody, “Hey, could you, you know, put the laptop down?” Or someone said to me, “Hey Gina, can you stop typing?” And I’m like, “Oh! I’m taking notes.” You know? So you actually don’t know what the person is doing but I have to say I agree with you that—and this is a great piece of feedback that you gave us, client team that we’re working on right now, Rich, which was like, we’re doing this presentation to a client next week or this week actually and you were like, “You are competing with kids in the background and other tabs and three other screens and you know it’s hard to be dialed in. You gotta make it super punchy and really entertaining and just embrace the fact that you are responsible for holding these folks attention in a way that you just weren’t before when people were in the conference room and you were on the giant screen and everybody’s only job was to be looking at the screen.”
PF I mean I think everybody’s being very forgiving right now but that is not—in client services, that’s a very dangerous thing to lean back into. Right?
RZ Oh yeah.
PF Like you don’t want a meeting where they’re like, “Oh, well, you know, everybody’s goin’ through it.” Like we’re all dealing with this reality but if you can make the diagram, put up the stuff, increase the sort of like vibrancy, everybody is gonna really appreciate that cuz they’re all sitting there looking at people just talk on their screen.
RZ Also, I don’t know if we can be in anymore of a maximum distraction state than we are in at the moment. It’s hard to compete with it. I think the only other thing I can think of is there is a moment twice a year—or maybe more like once a year—when the Apple keynote descends upon the offices of Postlight.
PF Full stop. Full stop.
RZ Full stop. And we are—
PF It’s like a mental pandemic.
RZ [Laughing] It’s like a men—it’s [Gina laughing] not that different, right? Except it’s only for three hours. It’s just—I feel like what—
PF Nooo. It’s for, like, seven hours.
RZ It is sometimes like seven—
PF Cuz I don’t know how the hell Apple can put people on stage for that long. It’s like it’s in violation of OSHA guidelines. Like—
RZ [Laughs] I mean we are in the middle of a six week to 12 week Apple keynote right now. Everyone is—So you’re competing with that and if you think you can show up with like 20 bullets and a lot of details and all sorts of nuance. Good luck. It’s just hard to do. It’s not a matter of being—and this is not just purely in a sales context, this is just communication. I mean, this is just—I’m having a hard time right now asserting myself, like really creating a sense of, “Ok, we should have something ready next week.”
PF Well, we should give listeners some context here. Like, Rich creates urgency as the president of the company and as the leader and sort of driver of our most complicated engagements. He is that kind of boss where you know you’re gonna go in there and it might not be good news. That’s ok because this sort of high stakes stuff—we make a joke about it because our office, you know, the sort of leader’s office is called Bungalow. And it’s, “Do you have a minute? Can you come into Bungalow?” And you don’t know what’s gonna happen on the other side.
GT It’s true. It’s very true. [Rich laughs]
PF And that—that is—But that—and also like—
RZ [Laughing] I’m gonna stop [Gina laughing] this right—
PF I’m mocking you gently. No, but that is every serious—every serious executive engagement I have ever worked with does this. It’s universal. And if you think that it’s bad, you should not be in an agency world because it is frickin’ universal, it’s somebody going like, “Did you think about this?” And your job is to think about the ten things that somebody didn’t think about, they thought about five.
RZ Well you’re getting people ready, right? Most of what [right] we do is getting them ready for the rest of the world. And I’m gonna pose this question to each of you. You know, I have immense respect for both of you. In fact, I think your ability to corral people and get them excited and motivated and aligned is very impressive. I have more of a blunt force approach to it, than you guys do, but isn’t that how companies work? How else do we work other than creating urgency? Don’t you create urgency? Isn’t that what it is?
PF You need both, right? You need—there’s that famous quote about, you know, culture eats strategy for breakfast, right? Like you need a culture where people are able to do things on their own but as the most experienced person and as the business owner and leader, you’re gonna see more risk than anyone else in New York. And your job is to translate that into actual urgent action points and then people learn as they go along.
RZ Yeah, that’s true. So let me ask you guys this: in this environment, in this climate, and let’s put aside the news right now and the pandemic, but just the way we’re working together. How do you line people up? Is it deadlines? I gotta say the thing that helps me the most right now is a commitment we made to someone outside of Postlight. Because if that [yup]—there’s gonna be a demo on Thursday—
RZ There’s gonna be a demo on Thursday! And I don’t have to with kid gloves walk up to someone and say, “Would you mind having something ready for me by Wednesday cuz I really would like to see something,” right? Instead we have made a commitment but other than that, how do you get people to—I keep using the word align, but align—like, just—
GT Have you guys watched Cheer on Netflix?
RZ I saw the first hour of it but then I moved onto Tiger King.
GT So Cheer is a documentary series about this cheerleading team in Texas and there’s this amazing coach, her name is Monica Aldama, right? And they’ve got this performance that they’re gonna do, it’s like the cheerleading nationals in Miami beach, at like some date. Right? So she’s got these, you know, 20—she’s actually got 40 college age students and so 20 of them are actually gonna make the team and do this performance. And they’ve gotta do this, like, incredibly complicated, complex move: the pyramid, right? Where like all 20 of them—
PF This is the kind of cheerleading where they like throw them 20 feet in the air—
GT Throw them 20 feet in the air, everything has to hit perfectly or someone gets hurt and you lose.
RZ This is an insanely competitive world. Like, people think it’s like, “Oh they’re just cheering on the side.” No, it’s hardcore.
GT Incredibly athletic and competitive. But this woman, I had a lot of different feelings about her but the one thing that was amazing to see was that she sort of was able to lead this team—she’s like the winningest cheerleading coach, you know, in the world. She led this team with both sort of like fear and love. So, she would make the team hit the pyramid. They have to do what’s called a full out, which is like the whole routine start to finish, she made them do it 41 times. So, her whole thing was, “You’re gonna do this until you get it right and then you’re gonna do it until you can’t get it wrong.” And so I bring her up only just because her managing style—Like the students, I should call them kids, I mean they’re college students. They love her. They would take a bullet for her. They say those words. They just want so desperately to please her. She is like—she is the ultimate of like who they wanna be and who they wanna make happy but at the same time this woman will cut you. She will pull you off that mat. So, it’s so funny because I mean, very different thing than the cheerleading routine but, you know, we were prepping this presentation for a client, and like you said, we’re competing against, you know, other people’s attention, and we didn’t have it together! And I was like, “Listen, we gotta do it again. We gotta do it til we get it right.” And I think that that’s—it creates urgency but it also—
RZ To clarify, Gina, we presented internally.
GT We presented internally, right.
RZ It went kinda ok. We sort of muddled—it was a little muddled.
PF There was a lot of work there but it just wasn’t—the presentation—
GT We didn’t hit it. The handoffs weren’t right. You know, the script wasn’t right. It was still really rough, right? It was still a work in progress. And we have plenty of time that we presented internally and realized, “Oh we don’t really have this together.” But you just have to be like, “We’re gonna do it again and we gotta hit our mark.” So I had to—we actually had to start—I felt like I had to channel my inner Monica because it was just like you gotta get this right. And I think there’s like creating fear and urgency of like, “I expect you to have this and it better be good by Friday.” And then there’s just sort of rallying, like, “Hey! We’re showin’ the world; we’re doing a performance; we gotta get this right. This is about pride; and this is about quality; and this is about leading by example and showing our clients that they—you know, are absolutely thrilled that they have us on their side.” And I think that there’s a subtle, like, difference there.
PF Well, I think for two weeks we’ve been saying, “It’s good enough to show.” Literally those words. I have said those words: “However you are doing, it’s ok.” But that won’t sustain. Accountability comes back in and what I think is, look, we have a team . . . that wants to be accountable. People are—people apologize for their kids making noise or their dog jumping in the frame. Like, that’s not what we’re looking for, right? All we’re looking for is that communication and that shared understanding of the accountability. The most important thing, actually, is not that a person hits the deadline, it’s that they’re completely clear about where they are and what they are capable of doing because then we can move things around so that the deadline gets [yeah] hit. It’s not that one specific human. That’s the culture of accountability that we need because no one can get to 110% right now. Nobody can be like, “I’m gonna just double-down.” Because who the hells where they’re at. We don’t know. We just don’t have the clarity. And you can’t read the room. There’s no room to read. And that is really hard. You can’t tell who’s nervous or not or where they’re at or if they have a weird cough right now and they’re startin’ to freak out. Like, it’s not clear where people are at, in a way that I used to feel was kind of like, “Oh God, we have a lot of young employees and it’s really hard to parse all their feelings,” and now that has just spread everywhere. Like we’re all feeling underwater and our family lives are complicated, and stuff is intense. But we can’t—we gotta be accountable.
RZ I think we’ve also lost something here and it’s like, yeah, it’s great there’s tech and we can have a wall of heads, and use Zoom, and all that, but the informality of corralling a handful of people. To gather. To get in a room. To quickly prioritize anything else and say, “Yup, drop that for a minute. We gotta get in a room and get this to be in a better place,” is nearly impossible right now, right? Like, I’m hesi—I’ve done it a couple of times last week. I gave people a Hangout link. I was like, “I need to talk to you,” and I just gave them the link. And they didn’t know—it was my equivalent of, “Do you have a second?” But it wasn’t anything other than me just wanting to talk to someone. And it felt weird to make a phone call. I’ll be [chuckles]—I have their cell number. I wasn’t gonna do that.
PF Yeah. No, no, no.
RZ So I was like, “If you have a minute, here is the link.” And they say, “Give me five minutes and then we’ll talk.” Right now Zoom and any of these other tools are tied to Calendar . . . which is, sort of respect you’re giving to other people’s time. Which is like, “I’m gonna give you a head’s up and I’m gonna find that open slot.” Sometimes I just need to come over to you and talk to you. And that’s all I’m lookin’ for. And that doesn’t exist right now in the work environment. That’s considered pushy or aggressive, I think, but it’s not if I could just walk over to David or Sally and say, “I have a thought about that thing. I have an idea I wanna share with you.” [Chuckles]
PF This is real, right? Like maybe it’s time to make the Google Meet invite that’s your name. Like, you know, meet.com/paulford. That’s kinda always there. That people come in and out and, like, you stay on it for a little while. Like, you’re doin’ some work but the Meet’s there and you’re kind of bringing people in and out through the meeting, just in the way we would do in a conference room.
RZ I mean, yeah! And it’s almost like, I don’t know what they call it. It’s sort of like—when a teacher has like, you know, an open visits period of time. What is that called?
GT Office hours.
PF Office hours.
RZ Office hours! We all have office hours, when we’re at our desks, and our headphones aren’t up. We walk over to each other and we talk to each other. I’m not gonna walk in on a meeting unless it’s an emergency.
PF Oh the difference as a leader you tend to tell everyone else what their office hours will be and that they’re gonna come visit with [right] you, right? Look, these dynamics aren’t gonna change. They’re just not gonna chan—what’s I’m wondering—I’m curious what you guys think. Where does this go? Does this go where you’re kind of online—when you’re sitting at your computer, your camera’s on, and it’s like a little picture of your head, and people are kind of dipping in and out and coming and talking to you virtually through some like Zoom room style interface. Or does this move towards, like, “We’re creating more documents and transcripts and if you can’t get somebody into the Hangout, that’s ok because we have these artifacts and these things to hand over to them.” Like are we building knowledge on the latter case? Or is it just we’re gonna find ways to be ambiently available in the former and kind of simulate office culture?
GT Isn’t being ambiently available basically Slack? I mean, like, wouldn’t you just shoot somebody a Slack? I mean I get that there’s a difference between video and audio—
PF Slack is low bandwidth though. Really low bandwidth compared to, “Here I am to talk to you about things relatively quickly.”
GT I guess so. It’s funny, you know, I ran Lifehacker for four years. We had an editorial staff. I think we were up to eight or ten. We interacted—at that time it was Campfire—but we interacted entirely on Campfire. I could count the number of times that we did voice calls. Like we would go weeks with just text but of course, I mean, it was a magazine and we were all orienting around pieces of text that we were publishing and we were all writers.
PF That’s the thing, you knew what your deliverables were.
PF Our deliverables are people changing their attitudes towards problems.
GT Right [laughs]. Which are very, very different.
PF It’s very hard to type that out. “I need Person X to start seeing the world this way in order to cut the delivery risk of something eight months from now.” [Gina laughs] Is very—Like, I can type that to you in Slack, I can type it to Rich in Slack but then what?
GT Right, but isn’t Slack the like, “Hey, do you have a minute? Can you talk?” Like, isn’t that the equivalent of sort of walking over to someone’s desk? I’m defending—
PF I think it’s really ambiguous. I don’t think we really have great answers here. Like, I don’t think that is Slack. I think Slack is both where the work happens and where coordination happens for other work.
RZ I wanna draw a chart on a podcast right now, visually, in your heads. I’m gonna put the cutoff point aggressively at four people. At four people, there is maximum synchronicity between those people. It’s the small team. You don’t need a project manager when you have four people because those four people—there’s not enough voices in the room such that the noise is highly valuable, all the time. I’m talking about the Product Manager, Designer, Engineer, Frontend Engineer, Backend. Let’s just use that as an example.
PF The one pizza team.
RZ The one pizza team, if you like. That team, that Slack channel, there is so little fat in there, it’s all muscle. It’s all high quality communication because there isn’t that additional actor who is going and asking Person A if they’ve given that artifact to Person B. You don’t need it because A and B and are just talking to each other, right?
PF I’ll give you an example. Our sales channel has three people in it and every morning a bot says, “Where are we today?” Everybody kinda does the same bullet points, and then we create little threads for active phone calls where we can keep notes and link to Google Docs.
PF That’s about it.
RZ So let’s keep going with that chart, and the Y-axis in the chart is noise and up to four people it’s at zero. It’s just zero, one, two, three, four, going to the right. It doesn’t go up at all. When you go from five people to 15, the noise level starts to increase and the coordination starts to decrease, and the orchestration level starts to decrease. So what you end up doing, you end up bringing in these additional actors. Their job is just to make sure communication is happening in the best way possible amongst the key contributors.
PF Well the actors could be people and they could also be software.
RZ It could be people, it could be—exactly. The Project Manager is making sure that actor—those actors, those key contributors are moving things along, right? And prioritizing and making sure it’s running as efficiently as poss—but already you’re paying a tax. The tax is being paid. There’s no way around it. Why? Because there’s another human being! There’s another human being that is in the middle of the picture, that is adding information, that is reinterpreting something someone said to someone else. Now, let’s keep going, right? And you go to over 15 people, around anything. You know, I’m looking at the news nowadays and people are just—they’re pouncing on—you know, obviously there’s a lot of urgency around getting certain medical equipment and masks and all this stuff. The hundreds of people that have to align on this chart for this to come together. Like, if it’s a piece of equipment that has parts from 25 other manufacturers, that all have to line up so that the parts come in at certain times and meet certain quality standards and then the assembly can go and put those things together. That is a process nightmare that is a communication nightmare, right? And what we are finding now is that there is an additional tax which is we cannot be around each other. Right? What we’ve taken for granted: which are—the ability to shortcut all of the traditional tools and go over to people and talk to them. And gather them—
PF That’s right. That’s right.
RZ That’s not in our hands at the moment, right?
PF Can I tell you my cruel, impolite formulation? Every individual you add to a group subtracts about two IQ points. Ok? So let’s [Gina chuckles] say we start nice. We’re about, you know, 120 plus. And then you add a group of four: still very smart. Very smart. Group of ten? We just went down by 20. Group of 20: now we’re in trouble. You take a really, really big group, like American democracy: 300 million people. It’s roughly negative 600 million IQ [Rich laughing].
GT Why? Why?
PF That’s how we end up in this situation.
GT Tell me why that happens. Tell me why it gets subtracted.
PF Here’s the real reason why: every—disciplines are wonderful. We’re an interdisciplinary company but when you are in a discipline—That’s one of the reasons, I think, the transition to management—I think you felt this too but for me, like, getting out of engineering and out of journalism and out of all the different things that I was in, even as an interdisciplinary person, and being like this sort of general purpose manager marketer type of human has been really hard cuz I don’t have a common body of knowledge, and I have to translate all of my thoughts to people operating in those different disciplines. And it’s a little isolating and it’s a lot to work through. I think you add these groups together and the cost of communication is extremely high. It’s lower when there’s people looking each other in the face which is why we’re actually doing this on a video call right now instead of just as a kind of weird pseudo conference call. I feel that, like, when you put people together there’s so much work spent communicating. And I’ll tell you where I know this: when I write for a general audience, I’m sure you’ve had this experience too—or when we market Postlight. It has to be so simple that if you’re not a person who does this for a living and you don’t have this job, it seems really stupid. Like, it seems like, “Wow. You’ve missed all the subtlety and wonder of design or engineering or product management. The thing you’re saying is just, like, primitive and commercial and kind of disgusting and I hate it.”
PF And I look—I have to look people in the eye and kind of be like, “That’s as much of the story as we can tell. We can be truthful and we can market ourselves with a big smile but if I actually tell them about the thing that you think is the most important thing in the world, I will lose their attention like that. Just snap.” That’s the IQ points quotient.
GT I see. The communication has to become more blunt and more dumbed down a little bit or like, “These are the three bullet points. Go to the appendix to dive deeper.”
RZ This is about alignment. Aligning is getting harder right now in a remote environment. There’s no way around it. The other thing that helps with alignment is agreed upon protocols, right? The truth is APIs do this. APIs effectively eliminate collaboration. They minimize the need to coordinate and collaborate. Essentially what they say is, “Here is my contract. If you adhere to these rules, you can go do something wonderful on top of what I have done without ever talking.”
PF You know what the API is? I mean this goes back to what Gina was saying earlier, there was something really important when we were talking about that demo talk that didn’t go so well. The script, the agenda, the outline like who’s doing what at what time is the API for the conversation that we’re all having [mm hmm]. Like, unscripted is really bad right now if you’re trying to get something done.
RZ Yes. I’m gonna pitch a tool. I’m hating all the tools but I love all the tools. So I’m gonna pitch a tool even though I’ve reluctantly been using it. It actually tries to do what you just described. It’s called Navigator.
PF Everybody loves it.
RZ It’s available on navigator.com. What it is it’s an agenda for the meeting. Like you have to go down the punch list in the agenda. It’s not Notes. Usually there’s that box you get when you do a Calendar invite, and you sort of dump what’s in your mind and why that meeting’s happening. This thing actually formalizes the steps and creates more structure around what you were trying to get done.
PF Could I use it to pitch a client? Could I use it to organize like—like I’m going to pitch the client using this method?
RZ I would—You could use it for yourself. I wouldn’t put it in front of a prospect mainly because—
PF No, I get that.
PF But like as a scripting tool.
RZ Yeah, I think you could. I think you could. Absolutely. Because it’s putting guard rails on the conversation. It’s saying, “You better make sure you cover these five points in this meeting, otherwise the meeting’s gonna fall short.” Right?
GT The magical thing with Navigator that happened to me: so if you share this agenda, it’s a shared agenda. So let’s say I have a one-on-one with someone, and I’m like, “I need to talk to you about these four things.” And if that person sees that agenda ahead of time they can respond—I’ve had meeting agenda items resolved before the meeting even happened which makes the meeting shorter. So like it actually—it’s a really nice thing to do. I mean, a clear meeting agenda is Meetings 101. Nobody ever does it.
GT Or shares it. Rarely do people share it beforehand. I often show up at meetings with my own bullets but I haven’t shared them yet. But sharing them ahead of time just means that everyone’s more prepared and ready to discuss the item.
PF Alright so the goal, it’s the goal and the structure. So it’s not the little head that’s always on where you can kind of go in and it’s like a pretend virtual office. It’s not Second Life with video. And it’s not, “We’re gonna build some new knowledge base and we’re gonna, you know, create the ultimate wiki of Postlight.” But rather it’s, “We’re going to script our interactions but continue to interact in sort of—we’re gonna add a little formality here. And have a little structure.”
RZ I think that’s what it is. It’s structure, right? Right now, here’s how every one of my calls is starting: “How are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you dead? . . . Ok. Let’s talk about the project.” [Gina laughs]
GT It’s so true. We need a better way to say, “How are you?”
PF Sales is so surreal right now [Rich laughs]. Selling services—
RZ Just read them a poem to start the meeting [laughs].
PF I’m just sort of like—I mean, cuz you’re just like, “Hey, well—” What I’ve started doing is just saying, like, “I think we can skip the eight minutes where we all talk about the fact that we’re living through the worst and most bizarre time of our lives.” And everyone laughs.
GT That’s a good—that’s actually a good way—A close friend of mine and I developed a new “how are you?” which is, “Rate your existential dread from one to five. Like, where is your existential dread.” You can’t do that obviously with a prospect and you can’t really even do it with a coworker but there’s a better—it’s good to just acknowledge it and then move on.
PF Look, I mean, we sat down saying, “Should we talk about the pandemic?” And we mostly talked about ways and patterns of remote work but it’s hovering in the background of this entire podcast. Look, I mean, it’s a muddled time and we’re trying to add some order here. Like, what are we telling people to do as they’re making their digital way through this new reality?
RZ I think we’re saying, look, the small talk’s gonna happen. People have their houses. That’s their background right now. It’s like the kitchen and the dining room table and whatever. But we are trying to work. I think giving these conversations structure—sure, ask everyone how they’re doing but give them structure, give them purpose, and if they run short, God! That’s a gift for everyone, if you got through the list of things you wanted to cover, and know what to do next, and you can end that meeting 11 minutes early. That’s a wonderful thing. I think everybody appreciates that. And I think that’s it. I think that’s a good baby step here because it’s just harder than real life right now [music fades in].
PF So, Gina, Navigator gets rankings from you—
GT I like Navigator a lot. I mean, I think, for me the big takeaway is I think you have to know the things that you can talk about asynchronisly or on Slack or on a document and the things that you just gotta . . . hop on a call. And it doesn’t always have to be a video call looking into your house. You know, sometimes it can be. But, you know, accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can. The remote work version is like [chuckles], you know, know the things that I can do asynchronisly and know the things I’ve gotta like hop on a call. And like Rich said, exactly, if you can do stuff before the meeting and end it early, that’s a beautiful thing.
RZ Don’t be embarrassed to ask people to get on a call. And [yeah] if someone asks you to get on a call, don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world. They just wanna talk to you. It’s hard to just talk to someone right now.
PF That is real. That is real. Alright, well, it’s not hard to talk to you guys and it’s also not hard to talk to Po—! Ok, I’m not even gonna try but firstname.lastname@example.org if you need us.
RZ Yes, we’re a digital products studio here in New York. We’re also answering any questions you have about just about anything at email@example.com. Have a wonderful week.
PF Yup! Our mission doesn’t change: we’re here to be helpful.
GT For sure. Get in touch.
RZ Have a great week, stay safe.
GT Thanks, everybody.
PF Bye, everybody.
RZ Buh bye [music ramps up, plays alone for three seconds, fades out to end].