Fostering positivity and communication through a team manifesto

Culture · Jul 5, 2018

As a Senior Product Manager at TELUS Digital, I spent the last year leading a single team focused on the marketing and digital experience for TELUS’ Business website. 

But in February of 2018, my team split into two: one squad continued working on marketing, while another focused on building out the commerce experience. The goal of the commerce experience is to allow our business customers to choose and purchase their products and plans through the website.

To maintain the same level of productivity and rapport we had developed before splitting up, I set out to create a set of rules that both groups would feel a part of – something they would have a vested interest in building and encouraging. 

Bilal and white board

I also wanted the squad to verbalize their expectations of one another and set a common standard of communication. I’ve found that, in a dynamic tech environment, ensuring a human approach is critical in fostering empathy and ensuring a non-toxic environment. 

As a group, we created a set of 12 rules designed to push best practices and foster a positive environment:

  1. Start meetings on time, end them on time and include a brief agenda

  2. Invite the required people in meetings and being present in person more often than not

  3. Keep good vibes by respecting one another, being direct, and avoiding backbiting

  4. Be as clear as possible with communications with diagrams, expected outputs, and timelines

  5. Consider people in different time zones by including a hangout and using the Jabra

  6. Keep the majority of communications via Slack, unless requested otherwise

  7. Explain the context of any request or task, don’t assume everyone knows

  8. Document your findings or process in the team confluence page

  9. Ensure requirements are clarified and review with the team

  10. Perform desk checks often. Have a business analyst assigned to the initiatives

  11. Try to find a balance between deadlines and high-quality products

  12. Avoid meetings on Fridays

The process of organizing these rules was heavily influenced by Glenn D. Rolfson, a psychotherapist working in corporate health service in Oslo, Norway. Rolfson’s process for eliminating workplace toxicity centres on backbiting – otherwise known as gossip. To cure backbiting, Rolfson begins by asking a team whether backbiting takes place at their workplace (everybody invariably agrees that it does), and then gets them to define it. Finally, participants are asked if they want to work in an environment without backbiting (everybody wants this) and are then asked to sign an agreement to work in a no-backbiting environment for six months. 

In 2016, Rolfson’s method had been tested in over 250 workplaces. As a result, the number of sick days was greatly reduced and there was a dramatic increase in productivity. To learn more about Rolfson’s process, I highly recommend this Ted Talk:

With Rolfson’s approach in mind, we conducted an hour-long session to determine the rules by which we would work. The team was asked to focus on the themes of communication, tools, and daily activities to kick-start the session. Participants were asked to write “we should” statements, with the goal of helping individuals communicate what they want out of their teammates. Everyone was encouraged to be as open as possible and to respect the ideas of others. 

By listening to each other and allowing people to be heard, we are fostering a culture in which team members examine situations from others’ perspectives. This isn’t just critical for smooth conflict resolution – it also creates an environment in which new ideas are able to flourish.

Donut Vibes

After finalizing our 12 rules, we signed and posted them in our working space. This serves to communicate to the greater team what my squad is about, as well as to remind the squad what they stand for.

Establishing our 12 rules has helped us create an environment where team members know what to expect from themselves and one another. Now, when conflict arises the individuals involved can resolve the issue in a straightforward and respectful manner, often without the help of leadership. Best of all, teammates are able to communicate in a more thoughtful, engaging manner, which has led to an increase in collaboration and productivity.

Follow us on twitter@telusdigital and check out our careers page to work with our awesome team!

Authored by:
Bilal Khan
Senior Program Manager
Bilal is excited about enabling his teammates for success, solving problems, and delivering value to our customers.