This rhythm is the LAST of our 8-part Rhythm Series. You can learn more about what rhythms in business are here and why I believe they are the foundation of any successful, sustainable, scalable creative business. Be sure to click here to subscribe to my email list so you’ll be the first to know when the next blog drops each week.
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Can you relate?
Sometimes, it can feel like the people around you are talking A LOT…
But saying NOTHING!
We talk, chat, write, text, and email all the TIME. Sometimes we may even think we’re “good” at it, because of the sheer volume of communication we engage with on the daily.
You might be thinking:
Move along, Erin! I’ve got communications rhythms down pat.
But quantity is not quality (ever), especially when it comes to communication in your business.
You communicate all the time…
But do you know how to do it RIGHT in your business?
Come to think of it, you might notice:
If any of these ring a bell, it’s time to listen up!
Words, volume, and noise do not equal effective communication.
Communicating WELL is the key to any successful business.
It’s quite literally the core of any and every relationship, both in life and in work.
For any relationship to function, you need to have clear, effective, open lines of communication.
Today, I’m here to help you refine your communication skills as a business owner by introducing communication rhythms at every touchpoint of your work.
You’ll learn how these intentional rhythms can help you not only communicate regularly but communicate in a way that leaves every single person you interact with feeling understood, supported, and heard each step of the way.
Communication Rhythms are like living, breathing things.
They grow, evolve, and change. But most importantly, they need stability.
It’s a lot like babysitting.
Some parents leave detailed instructions (it me!!!) outlining every possible detail about who, what, where, why, and when you could imagine.
But, sometimes this just doesn’t happen.
I remember babysitting for a family in my neighborhood when I was in high school. The parents had to rush out unexpectedly and I swooped in to save the day at the last minute.
There was no time for detailed lists, timelines, or explanations.
They left an emergency phone number, some pizza money and dashed.
Bedtime? NO idea!
Approved snacks? Whatever’s in the pantry is fair game, right?
Mom-approved TV shows? Stumped.
And this kid KNEW I was flying blind.
He milked it for ALL it was worth!
So bedtime boundaries were pushed (unbeknownst to me), “no-no list” treats were enjoyed, and late-night TV shows were a go.
I used my own common sense but had to make assumptions every step along the way. The non-existent rules were up to my interpretation and discretion.
Now, since this was an emergency situation, I’m sure it was fine, but this lack of communication CAN happen even without the urgency.
Sometimes communication in business can feel like this for your team members and clients!
Because you probably don’t have the right communication rhythms in place.
Just because you’re spewing WORDS doesn’t mean communication is actually happening.
But if you put the right systems and rhythms in place, every word matters because it is clear, intentional, and easy to access.
Can you use it in a sentence?
Let’s define communication rhythms, spelling bee style.
Communication rhythms include all the ways you interact with people internally and externally. This might be with your team members, colleagues, vendors, outsourced professionals, and most importantly your clients.
The goal is to ensure all people involved are clear about expectations, timelines, responsibilities, and more so that they can feel confident, prepared, and informed.
We communicate constantly in business (even what you DON’T say sends a message). However, some communication rhythms require extra attention, structure, and consistency.
In business, you may choose to create consistent rhythms around things like:
Some of these communications will happen at regular time-based intervals (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly) while others will be cadence driven (at the start, midpoint, or end of a project for example).
Finally, some may pop up by surprise and require a standard rhythm to help you navigate the unexpected. The rhythms and frequency you choose will depend on your unique business and what makes sense for you.
Keep in mind, communication rhythms layer to make sure you communicate clearly. The most important communications should always rise to the top helping you and your people decide and respond to what’s important NOW.
While these communication rhythms might happen naturally, putting an intentional rhythm around when exactly they happen will help you make sure every meeting, call, and touchpoint is done deliberately and effectively. Don’t leave it up to chance!
Rhythms around these kinds of communication will help you approach your work proactively instead of reactively every time you engage with a team member, vendor, or client.
It all comes down to trust.
When communication is weak, trust is lost between all parties involved.
If your team doesn’t know what you expect, they won’t trust you as a leader and in turn, you won’t trust them to meet your expectations.
If your vendors don’t trust you, they may not want to work with you anymore. And even if they do, they most likely won’t be able to deliver their best work.
And worst of all, if your CLIENTS don’t trust you, well, you can say goodbye to a sustainable, successful business. Because worried clients are not happy clients. If your clients don’t know what to expect or when to expect it, quite simply, they will NOT be happy!
I like to think of it this way:
Back in school, it drove me CRAZY when I didn’t know what to expect next during class. Some of my teachers would just fly by the seat of their pants. It made it hard to focus when a lecture could last anywhere between 5 minutes and a whole hour! These were the teachers that threw pop quizzes at you off the cuff– talk about ANXIETY!
I preferred when teachers gave a general overview of our time. I had one teacher who would post our agenda for the class like this:
Knowing these details helped me feel confident and prepared.
Adults are the same!
We all want to know what’s coming next and what will be expected of us within reason.
Life is unpredictable enough.
In your business, your communication rhythms can help reduce anxiety and stress in the work you and your team members do. Plus, they will help everyone involved rise to the occasion and successfully meet expectations, rather than winging it on the fly!
When your people can trust you through strong communication rhythms, you demonstrate that you value their time and energy. You’ll be able to build a strong community where everyone feels heard, seen, and empowered.
While there are never any hard and fast rules when it comes to your creative business, there are some principles to solid, successful communication that I teach as a business coach. I have seen these foundational “rules” work time and time again in my own business and my clients’ businesses.
Communication rhythms will help you set and maintain boundaries so you can manage your work time and enforce what you need from your clients, team members, and vendors.
When communicating in your work, make sure your message is clear and doesn’t leave room for interpretation. Take time to set expectations for everyone involved. Once boundaries are set, enforce them and hold everyone, including yourself, accountable.
COO Tip: OOO (Out of Office) Boundaries are extra important to consider when maintaining your communication rhythms. Protect your time while keeping up with your responsibilities during vacations, CEO Time, or emergencies! Have a plan in place so that you can protect your time in these scenarios without dropping the ball. Communicate how you will hand rhythms off to a team member or pause a rhythm until you return. Your clients will be taken care of every step of the way. Ideally, they’ll barely realize anything is going on behind the scenes.
While Twilight fans will be forever divided between #teamjacob and #teamedward…
I’m all about #teamNOSURPRISES!
There’s a time and a place for surprises:
Your husband’s birthday, Mom’s retirement party, a lighthearted April Fool’s Day prank…
Communication in your business is NOT one of those places and it is never the time.
Communication rhythms allow you to avoid surprises at all costs. They will make sure you’re ahead of things, proactive, and help you raise flags as needed.
When You assume, you make…
a you know what out of “u” and “me”
I think this quote sums it up even better:
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” ― Henry Winkler
Relationships are built on clear communication, but they deteriorate when people need to fill in the blanks, guess, or jump to conclusions because communication failed.
When communication isn’t clear, consistent, and reliable, things in your business are up for interpretation. And typically, people will interpret things WAY differently than you would, leading to inconsistency, misguided expectations, and dropped balls.
In email marketing, we often hear the strategy, “one email, one purpose.” The idea behind this is we want each of our emails to focus on one topic and guide our readers to take one very specific action like “click here” or “buy now”.
Because the online space is super cluttered.
Your audience is constantly being bombarded with ads, content, and decisions.
When we market clearly and concisely, it is easier to cut through the noise and make sure your message is heard. We don’t want them to feel distracted, overwhelmed, or confused. We want them to feel motivated, clear, and driven to take aligned action.
You might be surprised to learn:
This email marketing strategy directly applies to any and all communication rhythms.
Our businesses are multi-dimensional, meaning your team members and even your clients are juggling a lot. They (like your marketing audience) ALSO have tons of stuff pulling their attention.
As much as they may want to meet your expectations, they are often sifting through a bunch of noise and it can be hard to decide where to focus their attention without your leadership and guidance.
Don’t overwhelm your people with the next 10 things. They need to know the NEXT thing or the most important thing.
Often we overload information in an attempt to be more efficient. It can feel simpler to send one email with a download of everything you want to share with that person. And while it might help you brain dump your thoughts, it often means your team member or even your client is trying to sift through TMI (too much information).
Your good intentions, backfire.
This approach to communication can feel paralyzing instead of empowering!
Alternatively, try to focus on what’s most important NOW. See what floats to the top and prioritize your communications around what’s most urgent or pressing.
When in doubt, focus on one thing at a time and communicate this simple message:
“Here’s what I need from you, here’s what you need from me.”
The cherry on top?
“Here’s when we will get these things to each other.”
Make sure everyone knows where to look for information.
This might sound straightforward, but in today’s world, we communicate in so many different places it can feel like a scavenger hunt just to track down a piece of information, an email, or a PDF.
Less is more when it comes to the software you use to communicate with your team, vendors, and clients.
When there are too many open lines of communication, things get fuzzy.
It becomes the wild west of communications.
Free-for-all comments, ideas, reminders can be popped into channels every which way and it becomes DIZZYING!
This is a problem at the moment, but it is also a problem when you need to retrace your steps on a project.
Over time, it becomes harder and harder to backtrack and see how things went wrong, identify which tasks got overlooked, or pinpoint where your wires got crossed.
It can also make it hard to replicate successes, understand why decisions were made, or do the good thing even BETTER.
That’s why I am a huge advocate of creating a “single point of truth” in your business.
What this means is you establish one place anyone can access to get the information they need. It is truly the key to how successful you are as a team or as a solopreneur working with clients and contractors.
Some primary software options you may consider as your “single point of truth” include places like:
Dedicated spaces like these make it easy to organize, search, and share many different types of communication from documents to due dates, from project timelines, to meetings.
Other secondary software platforms may serve you well for real-time communication or general team building (like a virtual water cooler). While they can be good resources, they may not be the best place to choose as your main communications hub.
Don’t let your communication float away into the abyss never to be seen again!
Decide where your single point of truth will live, and then consider if and how other software can support your communication as a supplement, not the main communication platform.
When you communicate is also super important!
My policy: communicate early and often.
As soon as you know something out of the ordinary is coming up, make it known and put plans in place.
Then, communicate it often. One time is simply not enough.
It may seem like overkill, but 7 is the magic number.
It has been shown that typically people need to see or hear something at least 7 times for it to stick! Keep this in mind when sharing news with clients, vendors, and team members.
This notion of communicating early and often applies to anything and everything that comes up outside of your usual workflow.
The best example I can give is vacation time. Once you’ve carved out your time off, let your clients know. Weeks in advance you can mention it on calls, document it in an email (or wherever your single point of truth is), and send a reminder right before.
While you’re out of pocket, let them know what to expect.
This will help you ensure your message was received loud and clear so people know what will be different and how communication or responsibilities may temporarily shift in your absence.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the leader to establish communication rhythms and norms. Every work environment has different expectations, make sure that yours are clear.
You can and should train effective communication. This applies to your team members but also to your clients. You teach your people how to communicate within your brand.
Set clear, relevant boundaries for your team that help communication become a tool to solve problems rather than handing off accountability or procrastinating. Make sure people know where to turn when they hit a roadblock to keep things flowing.
Maybe you realize you’re the person everyone comes to with their problems. This might work if you have a small team, but as you grow and your responsibilities change and scale, it will become unsustainable for you to be the one and only point person.
Train your team to shift their perspectives. As a COO, I regularly teach my teams: don’t come with problems, come with solutions.
This simple but powerful shift can make a huge difference. It encourages people to be resourceful problem-solvers rather than looking to you to fix their issues.
You can also teach your clients to communicate within your boundaries. This helps to manage their expectations while maintaining sustainable communications rhythms on your end.
You can set and reinforce communication rhythms around how you manage your inbox. How often do you realistically check and respond to email? When should your client expect to hear back from you? When you set clear timelines, it eases their concerns and helps you avoid spending an entire day in your inbox! You ultimately train them to not allow you to be the bottleneck slowing things down.
Stick to these communication “rules” and not only will your team members, vendors, and clients be thanking you, but you’ll be thanking yourself!
As a business owner, communication skills are essential. Luckily, there are lots of ways to ensure that your people are in the know without driving yourself crazy or shouldering the burden.
These are the rhythms practically every business needs in one way or another. Whether you’re a solopreneur, a small team, or a large operation, building communication rhythms around these key events will help everything run smoothly in your work.
Onboarding is the first touchpoint your new client will have with your brand and your team. Your communication rhythms must be in place to help introduce your client to the experience of working with you!
Your onboarding processes set the tone for your entire project– make sure you’re off to a good start!
Offboarding is just as important since it is your figurative signature on the entire project. Leave them singing your praises and feeling cared for from start to finish. Communicate any next steps they need to complete to optimize your deliverable, share resources, and tie all of your hard work off with a bow!
Onboarding and offboarding are things you will do over and over again in your business. Instead of starting from scratch each time, it is helpful to put SOPs in place (standard operating procedures). SOPs outline exactly how things should be done, when they should be done, and who is responsible for each task. These operations rhythms will support your communication rhythms because the tasks, responsibilities, timelines, and other details are clear and reproducible. Both client-facing and internal communications will be clear because everyone involved will know what to expect of others and what is expected of them.
All businesses have meetings. They may look a bit different from one project to the next, but ultimately meetings help to keep your team, clients, and vendors connected as you work towards a common goal.
Meetings help you stay on the pulse of projects and carve out meaningful time to come together as a team.
Some businesses have full-team standing meetings each week and then additional team or project meetings for specific groups of people at select touchpoints.
Consider which recurring meetings make the most sense for your team’s needs and the needs of your clients.
Once you’ve established the different types of meetings your business needs, you also want to consider the rhythms within each meeting. The quality of your meetings is far more important than just having meetings for the sake of meeting.
I bet you can relate:
We’ve all sat through at least one miserable, long-winded, pointless meeting.
Lots of things get said, but somehow nothing gets done.
You walk away from the meeting with more questions than answers. Things that everyone seems so gung-ho about, quickly fizz out, and action is never taken.
Because communication rhythms weren’t set within the meeting.
Most likely there was no agenda for the meeting, or if there was, no one held the boundary to keep everyone on track.
When “decisions” were made, tasks probably weren’t delegated, and deadlines were never established.
You may even have walked away FEELING like your team was making progress toward your goals, only to find that ZERO headway has been made 4 weeks later.
The meeting cure-all?
Elvis said it best:
“A little less talk, a little more action.”
Strong foundations are the key to establishing productive, meaningful meetings that prioritize true communication and therefore REAL outcomes.
Whether you set meetings with your team like morning stand-ups, project meetings, client services team meetings, or client-facing meetings like project check-ins, status reports, or calls, you need to establish norms to optimize your time together.
You can do this by:
Determining how you’re working through what is being covered in the meeting (and what’s not) leads to really effective rhythms. You’ll leverage agendas in a meaningful way when you cut the fluff and hone in on what matters most to optimize your precious time together.
Your communication rhythm isn’t just about the what and the when.
You also need to consider the how.
Each type of communication will be best supported by a different tool. It’s up to you to decide what makes the most sense for you, your team, and your clients. It’s about finding the right tool for the job at the right point.
As you explore your options, I encourage you to think holistically about the entire communication experience. Know the preference for communication with your team and for the project you’re working on but also consider your clients’ needs and what will make the most sense for them.
At the end of the day, less is more when it comes to your software, platforms, and tools.
Here are some communication tools to consider. We’ll explore the pros and cons of each so that you can weigh which resources make sense for your work.
Pretty much everyone has an email! It is a tried and true way to get in touch with your team and clients. As you use email, however, I urge you to be mindful. Too many emails back and forth can become confusing and convoluted especially on chains with multiple contributors. Plus, it can be easy to overlook an email and find out weeks later that a highly time-sensitive piece of communication was buried in your email inbox!
Sometimes it’s smart to keep it old school and pick up the phone. Phone calls can be a bit more time-consuming and intrusive, so I don’t recommend you use them for quick questions out of respect for people’s time. However, a phone call is an excellent choice when the tone of voice matters. Some things simply get lost in translation via computer, so if you want to really hear how someone is feeling about your project or need to deliver something urgent or sensitive in nature go ahead and dial those digits!
If you can’t be in person, Zoom makes any virtual meeting more personal. Seeing facial expressions, sharing your screen, and coming together in a community can make all the difference. I recommend Zoom meetings for important client-facing milestones like Kickoff Calls and deliverable presentations. It is also a great way to build community among your team members, even if the distance is a factor.
Instead of just relying on email, you may explore communication channels and apps that your team can use to stay in touch in between more formal meetings and touchpoints.
Slack is an extremely popular platform. You can create topic-specific channels to help organize conversations, share documents, and update your team. I don’t typically recommend that this space become your “single point of truth” but it is a great supplement that will help you avoid an overwhelming email inbox (one step close to inbox zero!).
Honeybook or Dubsado are the go-to’s I recommend in the CRM space! In one streamlined place, you’ll be able to organize client emails, contracts, payments, forms, and a wide variety of other templates. Your clients even receive a portal so that they can easily look back and review materials too!
If you don’t already have a project management tool in place, I cannot stress how game-changing these apps can be to your systems, organization, and communication. I use ClickUp but know several other entrepreneurs who love Asana and Basecamp.
Consider bringing your team onto a tool like this to help assign tasks and deadlines. You can even track work time, progress on project pieces, and more!
You can also integrate these tools into your client-facing work, but be mindful of not only what works for you but what works for your client.
Let me frame this with two examples:
I have a client who loves ClickUp as much as I do. That’s where most of our communication happens because she loves this platform. Outside of our check-in calls, most of our work happens here. I meet her where she’s at and it just so happens to be a space I love to use in my own business
I have another client who is a totally different story. She HATES all project management software. She solely uses Slack or text. I haven’t abandoned ClickUp on my end, but I’m not going to force her to use a platform that doesn’t gel with her! I encourage you to work together to find the right tool for your client’s needs.
When finding an appropriate communication channel for your client work, balance flexibility with your own non-negotiables. Are there certain platforms that you need to use to do your work well? Find a middle ground without sacrificing your needs. It’s all about learning to be accommodating and open to trying new things within reason.
If your client prefers phone calls, but you are hesitant to share your phone number, look for creative solutions. Slack actually has a phone call feature so you don’t have to worry about getting work calls or texts on your personal line but can still meet your client’s needs and preferences.
Set a rhythm and use the tools that will allow you to communicate with your people best for the specific task at hand.
As with any rhythm you set, I encourage you to focus on one at a time. Whether you are putting rhythms in place to support your weekly team meetings or client project management, ask yourself these questions to ensure your communication rhythms are as clear and actionable as possible.
This is the difference between what COULD be communicated and what NEEDS to be communicated.
Let that sink in for a moment.
This is where you get really clear about what needs to be said to move forward in your work.
Take the time to outline the essential details. Try to be as clear and specific as possible and leave little room for interpretation by giving examples and stating any boundaries. Try to focus on what’s most important at each phase of your project so that you can avoid overloading information.
Communicate information like:
COO Tip: Communication rhythms are most effective when supported by a follow-up. Here’s what I remind my clients to do at every touchpoint: summarize the next steps, assign due dates/timelines, and delegate responsibilities. Sign off by clearly communicating what’s next in your work together (not the next 10 steps).
Explore your options and choose the platform that makes the most sense for this specific type of communication rhythm. Remember to select a “single point of truth” and consider introducing supplementary resources only if they will truly enhance the ease of communication.
When in doubt, keep it simple because less is more when it comes to communication tools.
Consider your options such as:
Every business will select a different mix of tools for different aspects of their work. Try to be as strategic as possible without overwhelming your people with too many platforms that will leave them wondering where to look for what they need.
How often does this communication rhythm recur? Is it time-based? Or is it cadence-driven? Can it be built into your operations rhythms through clear SOPs? Can it be added to a team calendar?
Think of ways to ensure everyone is on the same timeline and knows what is expected of them at each touchpoint.
Also, consider when NOT to communicate.
Establish boundaries around when you’ll be reachable. You might want to protect your weekends and extend this courtesy to your team members as well! Maybe you don’t respond to communications after 5pm. These are all totally healthy boundaries, but be sure to set them and reinforce them early and often. You teach your people how and when to communicate.
There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for your communication rhythms, but there are some tried and true rhythms that just make sense! Here’s some advice to help you choose, implement, and re-evaluate the right rhythms.
I hope you walk away from this blog with the realization that not all communications are created equal.
Intentional communication rhythms will help you make an impact with your words so that you can lead with confidence, count on your team to rise to meet your expectations, and support your clients so they can feel cared for every step of the way!
This blog is the last part of an 8-part series on creating Rhythms to support your short-term and long-term business goals. Over the last 8 blogs we’ve explored CEO Time, Financial Rhythms, Sales Rhythms, Operations Rhythms, Creative Rhythms, Marketing Rhythms, Engagement Rhythms, and Communications Rhythms. Stay tuned for one last blog that will pull them all together and help you take action moving forward.
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I am so excited to help you put rhythms in place for your business this year. I encourage you to…
With the right rhythms in place, your business will be humming along in the new year creating space, systems, and strategy that will help you to actively work towards, meet, and even exceed all the goals, resolutions, and dreams you have in mind for the year ahead!
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