What are the tiny things that you do every day — small enough that even a Truman Show-style observer wouldn’t notice — that make you more effective in your work?

Small Moments of Excellence are moments of intention. They are moments where you could choose to do something casually (dash off a quick email or Slack, ask a general question) and instead choose to be deliberate (include all resources required in the email, add detailed meeting agendas).

On the ActiveCampaign content team, we share one of our own Small Moments of Excellence at the beginning of every team meeting. We do this to make sure we’re thinking (throughout the week) of ways to improve our communication.

We also do it because these Small Moments are things that any of us can control 100% — nothing can stop us from making the best of small moments to try and make everyone’s life a little easier.

Here’s what a few team member have to say about it:

“Taking an extra minute or two to think about the details I can include in meeting descriptions, asks, or explanations has resulted in less “to clarify:” messages, faster responses, and made for much more productive meetings.” – Ernie Santeralli, Content Marketing Specialist

“Actively thinking about these communication best practices has helped me be more deliberate and collaborative both in and outside of our team.

Things like: Saying “my understanding” instead of “I assume,” threading replies on Slack, learning how to ask for specific feedback, knowing how to voice disagreement and ask the right questions — these have all helped me be a better communicator and have more productive conversations.” – Rachel Burns, Content Marketing Specialist

“Small Moments of Excellence have made me a proactive coworker instead of a reactive one. I think about what next steps will be, when my expertise can be used, and the best way to disseminate information.” – Cody Lindley, Marketplace Manager

We use a checklist of specific guidelines (which you can see below this) to come up with ideas. But the ideas don’t have to be on the checklist either — anything you do to bring that tiny extra bit of thoughtfulness to your work qualifies.

Especially as we and many other organizations switch over to remote work, these Small Moments of Excellence are something we’re thinking about — and something we plan to continue as we learn and adapt as a team.

Meetings

  • Default meeting time = 30 minutes (not one hour)
  • When to schedule meetings:
    • When goal of the work (or scope of work) is unclear
    • When there’s disagreement about the goals of our work
    • When we need to review work or discuss results
      • Note: Everyone should arrive having reviewed work/results in advance
  • Include agendas in all your meeting invites
    • Doesn’t need to be minute-by-minute, but should include:
      • Key points to discuss
      • The thing that needs to be decided by the end
  • Every meeting should end with clear next steps
    • Each task should be given to one person or explicitly put on hold
    • Deadlines and follow-up dates should be set in advance
  • Small ways to schedule meetings more efficiently:
    • Instead of asking “can we meet,” look at all relevant calendars and propose two specific times to meet
    • Ask before putting meetings on people’s calendars
      • When you ask, lead with the objectives of the meeting
    • If a meeting time doesn’t work for you, propose a new time (rather than canceling without notice)
  • Add a Google Hangout to all meetings

Asking for feedback on work

  • Make it clear what type of feedback you want (details, direction, etc.)
  • Give context for the work before receiving feedback
    • Help reviewers understand the scope of work, timelines, and priorities
  • State the goal and next steps while asking for feedback

Asking other people to do things

  • Before asking for anything, be clear about your own priorities and what information/work you need to move forward
  • Start by outlining the goal of the work, what progress has happened so far, and the areas that are blocking you from going forward
    • In this step, avoid directing comments at the person you’re talking to. For example:
      • Instead of “we need X from you,” say “X is really a blocker for us right now”
  • Work to understand the askee’s context
    • Lead with curiosity – ask “what” and “how” questions to see where your ask fits into their work
  • Often, the askee will suggest a course of action
    • If not, make the ask – but also ask for help defining scope and timelines (since they know their workload best)

Presenting new ideas

  • Lead with the problem that the idea is trying to address
    • There are often more ideas than we have resources for. Leading with the problem helps prioritization.
  • Anticipate the next question
    • Think about the first question/concern and come up with an answer in advance
    • Come prepared with an answer to “what’s the next step here?”
  • Address measurement of an idea in advance
    • Have ideas related to tracking performance
    • Your answer here can be “I don’t know,” as long as you’ve demonstrated some thought
  • Present the idea, then pause for questions
    • Present the idea as: problem, idea, measurement, silence
    • Once you have the idea out, pause for responses

General communication

  • Thread your replies in Slack
    • Threaded replies mean fewer notifications and interruptions
    • Also lowers the chance of an unrelated message being missed
  • When referencing a resource in Slack, include a link to it
    • Even if the recipient already has the resource, this makes it easier to jump in (without trudging through Google Drive)
  • Keep emails as short as possible and bold the calls to action
    • Long emails get ignored (and even if not, they increase the chance of missed info)
    • Make questions or next steps bold, and include the responsible person’s name
  • Avoid saying “obviously” or “I assume.” Replace with “my understanding is.”
  • Voice disagreement early and directly
    • Avoiding disagreement snowballs — it creates problems after more work has been done (and time spent)
    • When you disagree, directly and respectfully say “I disagree because of [reasons]”
      • Before you disagree, make sure you’re working with the relevant background information
      • Avoid asking leading questions designed to point out things you disagree with (rarely effective)
      • Avoid “do you think this is too [problem]” questions (instead: “I think this is [problem]”)
      • Be open to having your mind changed