How I Used Email Updates For Team Transparency

Justin Reidy

Group Product Lead at Loom



"I recently expanded my team from eight direct reports to sixteen. However, due to my team's new size, my direct reports were concerned that they didn't know exactly what was going on across the breadth of the team. There were small groups of people who were all very focused on the work of their pod, but they didn't have a lot of insight into what was going on across the team. This had led to increasing distance between the work they performed day-to-day, their understanding of the mission of the larger team, and its connection to the mission of the company."

Actions taken

"After hearing that feedback, I decided to start writing a weekly email. I wanted to ensure that the emails I was writing weren't just going to be auto-archived or ignored, so I decided to take a very deliberate approach. First, I was extraordinarily honest and blunt. I made it clear that while I was the team's leader, I didn't have much more insight into our overall organization than they did. What I could give them was an insight into what was going on in the team. To do this, the first part of the email includes project updates and what people are doing. I am always careful to show appreciation for work people have done and to celebrate wins. I am also honest about mistakes I have made, and try to address specific learnings so I can demonstrate how I will improve for the future. The second part of the email consists of more general musings related to their work. Topics I have written about include the importance of trusting one another in the team or how to provide meaningful code reviews. For the most part, feedback about the email has been very positive. My own manager is on the distribution list and he initially flagged it out of some concern that perhaps I was being too colorful. I asked him to give it some time - I explained I was being honest in order to get people to read the email and trust that it was giving useful information. I was cognizant of the fact that I was the team's manager, not just another member, but transparency is important."

Lessons learned

"Most of my team regularly reads my email, and have said they had been thinking about something I mentioned in my emails or have thanked me for writing the email. Regularly updating my team via email has done a good job in terms of providing cross-project context and team meaning. More surprisingly (and excitingly), this has led to a conversation around our team culture in general and how we can get to the point where we can define our team's values and practices, as well as what makes our team's culture special and unique."

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Justin Reidy

Group Product Lead at Loom

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