Does your team keep getting distracted by noisy comms? Do you keep answering the same questions time and time again? Julia knows the two most important commodities we have as humans are our time and attention, and she’s here to make sure you don’t waste them. 

Julia is committed to spreading the value of a well-organized knowledge base and vows to get rid of unproductive meetings. Tune in (or read below) to get all of Julia’s productivity tips, including how to build a positive relationship with technology, ensure equity in a hybrid work model, and give your team the mental space they need to do their best work. 

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Listen to episode 15

 


In the episode “Creating a Culture of Trust through Internal Communication,” we discuss

  • How internal communication can help your employees better do the jobs they were hired to do
  • Why Julia quit digital marketing and what technology has to do with it
  • How a knowledge base and documenting information helps teams save time
  • How and why Guru introduced a no-meeting day
  • The 4 Ps of running a productive meeting: the people, the process, the purpose, and the product
  • What Julia means when she says clarity is kindness
  • Why mindful engagement with technology and digital wellness is vital to avoiding burnout
  • Julia’s tips for creating a knowledge base: start with leadership and build a structure
  • The most important time-savers that Julia introduced at Guru: documentation, visual signals, and pausing before you post
  • Why equity is key to a successful hybrid work model
  • Julia’s top productivity hacks: brain dump, Eisenhower Matrix and Morning Pages 
  • What’s next for Julia and Guru: lots of hiring, building their tool to lessen stress, and planning an in-person/virtual company event

Favorite quotes

  • Think of all the time that could be saved if you had documented, ‘Hey, when is our company event?’ And that would mean that I can be in deep flow and work. And my sales can just look in the knowledge base to understand when the event is happening. And think of all of the kind of baseline repeat questions that shouldn't really require a conversation, but people don't know where to go.” - Julia Soffa
  • “What I was personally feeling and what other folks were feeling is that they are distracted, right? They can't focus on the work. And so we decided to test a no meeting Wednesday to allow for that and time block. Hey, there's gonna be one day every week where there are no internal meetings. So some folks will have external meetings. And we really wanna have a culture of both writing and reading. And if people have meetings all day, how are they going to read, digest, take action so that they can do their best deep thinking work?” - Julia Soffa
  • “There's science to the fact that taking breaks and taking pause away from technology, some might call it like a digital Sabbath. That kind of thing can actually impact performance because we're not gonna be a hundred percent all the time, even though that's what our society and the cult of business or hustle culture, whatever you wanna call it, demands of us.” - Julia Soffa
  • We built branded custom fun emojis that say things like, "need response in three days" and "need response now," add this information to Google so that instead of people feeling like they always have to be on in the synchronous world that we live in, being really deliberate about how, and when and why we need answers. And I do believe it sort of reduces the mental load.” - Julia Soffa
  • And so how do we create a level playing field for all employees when there's a certain group of people who can afford to live in a city to come into one of the offices versus some that don't? We have a very open feedback loop here at Guru. But I think we're gonna see this as an industry trend and something that will be brought up a lot. Part of that, I would also call out, exposure to leadership. So if, you know, say all of one's company leaders are in an office and you're not there, are you gonna have FOMO for not being there? And how do you advance a career without sort of the water cooler or what I call the meeting after the meeting? How do we address that?” - Julia Soffa

Meet today’s guest, Julia Soffa

Julia Soffa Using Internal Communications to build trust

Julia Soffa is the Senior Manager of Internal Communications at Guru, where she empowers teams to do their jobs. As Julia puts it:

The abundance of digital information and inputs means humans experience both "scarcity of attention" and time famine. With intentionality around processes, product and company culture, and digital wellness, I believe we can improve the employee (and human) experience.

In my education and in my career: I am inspired by the passionate. I am affected by diversity in perspective and believe that nuance and gray area can make all the difference. An effective communicator since birth, I am tenacious and thoughtful, a leader, a team member, a listener.

Outside of work: I am music and culture-obsessed, a skier, a stick shift driver, a biophiliac, and a dinner party host.

Productivity resources to explore

“Creating a Culture of Trust through Internal Communication” full transcript

This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and readability.

Ben (00:00):

You're listening to Get More Done, a YouCanBook.me podcast and I'm Ben. Each month, YouCanBook.me saves tens of thousands of customers, thousands of teams, and millions of bookers time by automating scheduling. This podcast will explore other aspects of productivity. On each episode, I have the privilege of talking with entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, consultants, and coaches to learn how they are doing more with less and helping their teams level up. We hope that these conversations help you to get more done. On today's episode, I met up with Julia Soffa, the Senior Manager of Internal Communications at Guru, a software tool that helps companies organize and access information. Julia shares the reason that internal communication is so important, she also talks about a no meeting Wednesday initiative started at Guru to help their team do deeper work without interruptions. Enjoy.

Ben (01:02):

Excellent. Welcome back to the Get More Done podcast where we talk about all things productivity and helping teams level up and do more with less. On this episode, I'm sitting down with Julia Soffa, the Senior Manager for Internal Communications with Guru. So Julia, welcome to the podcast.

Julia (01:17):

Thank you so much for having me, Ben. I'm so excited to be here as a fellow productivity nerd.

Ben (01:22):

Yes. I can't wait to geek out on all things productivity with you. When we start these conversations, we usually start with an icebreaker question just to break the nerves up a little bit. So in this episode, the question for you is when did you get your first cell phone, and what kind was it?

Julia (01:39):

I think it's gotta be, what? 1999, 1998. And it was that Nokia big kind of block phone. I had that candy apple red cover, and I don't think I used it other than to play Snake. You know, it just sat turned off in my L.L.Bean backpack unless I needed to ask my mom where she was picking me up from school. But how things have changed.

Ben (02:09):

Yes, I too was addicted to that Snake game, but I had to borrow my mom's phone to play it and drain the battery all the time. She was not happy, but that was a classic. Awesome. Yeah, things have changed quite a bit. You have the whole world in your pocket nowadays instead of just being able to call four people.

Julia (02:26):

For better or for worse. Yes.

Ben (02:28):

Exactly. Awesome. So tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Guru.

Julia (02:34):

Yeah. So as you mentioned, I'm on our internal communications team. Previously before Guru, I worked in tech in digital advertising and I actually had sworn off tech completely. Took almost two years off. I'm a marketer. I'm a writer. I kind of call myself a seeker. I'm a yoga teacher. And so when I came to Guru, when I aligned with Guru as a company, I had moved out of the Bay Area. I moved to Philadelphia. I really came on as a kind of enablement person. Kind of a Jack of all trades, Jane of all trades, enablement person. And then since I've been there for three years, saw an opportunity that we really needed to be able to scale our communications, to help our employees better do the jobs that they were hired to do. So kind of moving organically from this enablement role to a comms role and what I like to call, I'm a bouncer for people's time. Because if time is one of the finite resources that we have, how do I help employees, whether they're selling or coding or building new processes, or people ops team, how do I help them do the job that they were hired to do? And time is a big factor in that.

Ben (03:52):

Yeah. That's amazing, that operations side of just making things streamline and starting with the internal. I think that's really awesome. Now I'm curious about what was the breaking point of the tech side? You know, when you were out on the west coast.

Julia (04:06):

Well, for lack of a better way to describe it, I think I just wasn't spiritually aligned to the digital advertising technology. And the fact, and this has all since come out in the woodwork and very popularly on Netflix with The Social Dilemma. If folks have seen that documentary just about how our technology is designed to keep our attention and is advertising-driven. So I think a lot about: okay, what are our commodities that we have as humans? I mentioned time, but also our attention. And I was really sort of fed up with the persuasive design driven by advertising that fuels so much of our behavior and is designed to be addictive, right? Willpower is not a great way to combat how we use technology. And so that was really sort of disheartening and honestly exhausting. I was burnt out like so many other folks are today.

Ben (05:11):

Yeah. I can totally align with that. Because it's all around us everywhere and if you are not paying for it, you are the product, right? That's what it sort of comes down to. So it's cool that you took the courage to step away from that because a lot of people maybe wouldn't and would just go with it. And it's awesome that you found Guru to kind of further your evangelism, I guess, of saving time. On that note, can you tell us a little bit about how Guru helps teams save time?

Julia Soffa Quote 1

Julia (05:41):

Yeah, totally. I mean I joined Guru because I open mouth saw the promise of the product not to mention our values. I was a product marketer in a previous life and I used to joke that sales used to call me on my desk phone asking me the same repeat question. So think of the amount of time. And you know, we've quantified this for our own teams. We quantify it for our customers, but think of all the time that could be saved if you had documented, "Hey, when is our company event?" And that would mean that I can be in deep flow and work. And my sales can just look in the knowledge base to understand when the event is happening. And think of all of the kind of baseline repeat questions that shouldn't really require a conversation, but people don't know where to go. And so some of our customers, I think on average are saving 71 hours a month per support rep. Just, what's the new policy on returns? That sort of thing. And that was really why I joined Guru, and part of the reason that our customers are so happy is our team, is we're using our own product to do the same. And that's really wonderful to see.

Ben (07:04):

That's an amazing time savings and that's per employee there, like on a sports team, and compounding to everybody else in the organization. One thing that really stopped me in my tracks recently is your team released a blog post about setting up a no meeting day. So, you know, continuing on the saving time track, and being a gatekeeper for people's time. So how did this initiative get started and how has it been going?

Julia (07:28):

Yeah, we call it NMW. So people are like, "Happy NMW!" when they log on to Slack or they're sharing information. So this got started coming from a partnership with our people ops team. So I'm on the marketing team actually. And so we partner with our people ops team and I'm a really big fan of prolific productivity academics, use that alliteration, like Cal Newport or Catherine Price, who wrote How to Break Up with Your Phone in 30 days, if you're familiar with her. And there are a lot of other productivity hackers. And so in thinking philosophically about this, people are interrupted, right? Every time they get that Slack message. Every time they get out of a meeting. And so we asked our employees, "Hey, what can we do to improve?" via employee net promoter score surveys that we send to our team every week.

Julia (08:24):

What can we improve? And some of the qualitative feedback was that comms are noisy and okay, I get that. But you know, a hypothesis that I had is that, well actually, is that the root of the problem that comms are noisy? What I was personally feeling and what other folks were feeling is that they are distracted, right? They can't focus on the work. And so we decided to test a no meeting Wednesday to allow for that and time block. Hey, there's gonna be one day every week where there are no internal meetings. So some folks will have external meetings. And we really wanna have a culture of both writing and reading. And if people have meetings all day, how are they going to read, digest, take action so that they can do their best deep thinking work?

Julia Soffa Quote 2

Julia (09:19):

So it's going really well, I'd say, because we do check in with our employees, "Hey, what would you change about this?" et cetera. And so it's probably something we'll keep, you know, definitely into the next calendar year. I also wanna call out that having a no-meeting Wednesday is going to be different for a leadership team versus individual contributors. Since you think about the calendars of VPs, C-level folks, those calendars are gonna be very different. And so what is actually prompted at Guru to do is be both ruthless and kind about taking other meetings off the calendar and auditing all of the meetings that you have in one week. So that Wednesday space is truly yours. Whether or not you're doing deep work or taking your kid to a ballet class or grocery shopping or exercising, right? Taking a really specific look of the why, the participants, the purpose of all of your meetings has reduced meetings in general at Guru. So I'm really happy and proud of that, especially for my own personal calendar.

Ben (10:33):

Yeah. And that's awesome that it's led to more calendars being off the books of saying is this meeting really necessary? Cause that's what we hear a lot of, you know, all the people in this meeting don't even want to be here and why are we even doing this?

Julia (10:48):

That should never be the case that you pull up, you log in to a meeting and you don't know what value you can bring. That also doesn't feel good. If I'm like, "Why am I on this meeting?" And then the meeting, instead of being a use of decision time and collaboration, it's an update on what the meeting is about. And I could talk about this forever. We have something called the four Ps of running a good meeting. So it's, who are the people and what does each person contribute to the meeting? The process, so how is the meeting going to be run? Are we going through, we use Asana here at Guru, but are we going through, a Google document today? What is the purpose?

Julia (11:34):

So that's really the objective of the meeting and what is the last P? The product. So what are we gonna leave this meeting taking away? What is the output of that? And if you can't answer all those questions and if that's not in the calendar invite, I give my employees permission to politely decline and ask for clarification because the meeting shouldn't be a catchall for unanswered questions. We also do a lot of pre-reads at Guru. So before you attend this meeting, please review this five-minute video where we talk about what we're gonna discuss. And if you haven't done that, we're not gonna spend meeting time giving context because it's already been prepped with the team. And that's been really powerful from our leaders to individual smaller working groups.

Ben (12:24):

Wow. Yeah. That is amazing advice to come prepared and ready to go for these meetings, have the structure in place, but then just the background information, so you don't have to spend any precious time. Because I imagine, you know, some of these meetings at companies are quite expensive with a lot of people being on there and it needs to have some productivity around it, some output or product as you mentioned, which is a really great structure.

Julia (12:48):

I use that expensive meeting term a lot. Okay. So this meeting is sixty hours of time. Do you really wanna have it? And that's how I kind of calmly and kindly shame people.

Ben (13:02):

Yes and you gotta lead with kindness, right? Cause you can't be the jerk of saying, "Oh, I'm not going to any meetings, but..."

Julia (13:09):

Well clarity is kindness, right? Clarity is kindness in the internal comms realm.

Ben (13:15):

Exactly, exactly. So another subject that you talk quite a lot about is digital wellness and I'm not a hundred percent familiar with this concept. So I'd love to just learn a little bit more about that and how folks are leveraging that to become top performers.

 

Julia (13:30):

Yeah. So digital wellness might be something that I made up. Upon Googling it, it isn't, right? I tried to get the URL for digital wellness, but to me, and if you were to Google this term, it's really about the mindful engagement that you as an individual actor have with technology. And with or without technology. So personally I have had my team develop what we would call a digital wellness statement of purpose. And so you can do this at the individual level, as I said, but also what can organizations do to try to enable their employees to live this kind of digital balance, digital wellness lifestyle? So my statement and purpose might be something like I'm intentional about the ways in which I spend time with technology in order to be more deliberate about creating inspiring offscreen time. I utilize the digital tools rather than them using me to your point.

Julia (14:35):

And I truly believe, you know, in 20 years, in 10 years, we're gonna see more of these sort of behaviors at the individual level and at the organizational level because tech is so pervasive and without intention about how we use it, it's a battle for the soul. Not to get too, especially with the metaverse coming fast and loose towards us. We have to think about this and hopefully, it rolls up to some sort of policies around how we make products and how our government thinks about it. But that's my soapbox. But to answer your question about our top performers, if we think about time and we think about folks feeling time-poor, this is a really good way for top performers to take stock of what gives them energy, what drains them. Because it's gonna be different for every person.

Julia Soffa Quote 3

Julia (15:32):

And I don't know if we, as knowledge workers, have taken the time to ask ourselves these questions, because when am I supposed to do it? I don't have any time to do this sort of taking stock. And so I've been really inspired by Daniel Pink, if you're familiar with him, a book called When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and that has had a huge influence on how I chat with top performers at Guru because there's science to the fact that taking breaks and taking pause away from technology, some might call it like a digital Sabbath. That kind of thing can actually impact performance because we're not gonna be a hundred percent all the time, even though that's what our society and the cult of business or hustle culture, whatever you wanna call it, demands of us.

Ben (16:24):

Yeah. And that's something that we talk about a little bit on this podcast of just productivity is not always being on, but it's taking the time to recharge and re-coop so you don't get burnt out. Because if you are burnt out, you're gonna be at 0% productivity. But if you scale back right, take the time. I'm interested in how folks, you know, would navigate. When you talk about what gives them energy, is there some sort of framework to run through or to look at on how I can gauge what apps I should be using versus which apps I should be shutting down?

Julia (16:55):

Yeah. So I don't have it in the digital sense. Actually, my recommendation is all analog and I can follow up. I have a template of questions that I've shared with different communities as well as the internal Guru community, but really it's on a piece of paper to me. It kind of starts there and so happy to share a template around that because I don't think that answer is online, right? It is the tools that we use that can help us, right? I use Asana for work and for personal task management, but it will be another tool if it wasn't Asana. No offense to Asana. It's just that it's my personal strategy that I've developed around this. Does that answer the question?

Ben (17:43):

Yeah. I mean, I'd love to get that and we can put it up on the blog post that people can get access to because any more resources to help people just step away and get more grounded I think is imperative nowadays. So how have you built and scaled communication internally at Guru? I know, you know, with Guru being a communication platform and just an information platform, but can you explain maybe the best process that you have in place that saves your team the most time?

Julia (18:11):

Oh yes, I don't know about the best, but I'll share some of the experiments and the work that we've done in the past nine months. So I think one key piece is thinking about internal communications, no matter how big or small a team you have, if you have a function or not, as sort of a service center. So instead of people coming to me and saying, "Hey Julia, can you help me write this X, Y, Z way of communicating?" I have a ton of templates and a ton of knowledge. That's all documented in Guru, which is what we use for internal knowledge that people can self-serve. I think that's the number one thing because we wanna build a culture of trust and a culture of autonomy because that is what is going to help keep employees satisfied, engaging with their job, not being interrupted or distracted by an update.

Julia (19:08):

So tons of templates on anything from how do I communicate a change? My team's name is changing, et cetera. And then I also use and have built templates on how to use each tool that we work with. So how Guru uses Asana, how Guru uses Slack, and having those be very explicit in our employee onboarding. I think it is very helpful to not have to then, you know, two years later go back and help employees do the change management and build good habits. Really building good habits from the get-go. And I'll share two more if that's okay. So not really my best, but top four. Last year we came out with what I would call visual signals. So we use Slack as our chat and that's where a lot of us are doing our work is on Slack. Visual signals that I believe reduce stress.

Julia Soffa Quote 4

Julia (20:08):

So for example, you write a long question and then you write two sentences of, "I'm so sorry I need this, you know? I don't need this right now or I need this right now." We built branded custom fun emojis that say things like, "need response in three days" and "need response now," add this information to Google so that instead of people feeling like they always have to be on in the synchronous world that we live in, being really deliberate about how, and when and why we need answers. And I do believe it sort of reduces the mental load. And then the last thing I'll say is really philosophical, which is around pausing before you post. So with the sort of digital infrastructure and the always-on way that things are, it can feel really good to just, you know, you see a question, let your answer fly. But really thinking about who your audience is and taking a second, having a cultural beat breath built-in, is something that our leaders model. It's something that we try to help our employees do because we're in software, the emergencies are all relative.

Ben (21:29):

Yeah. That's amazing. Amazing insights. I love the idea of just empowering people to self-serve like you mentioned, because it's not just on your team to do it for everybody. You have to teach people how to fish, right? And say here's some templates you can go forth and do your good deeds. And I love the emoji side of it too, of just that asynchronous communication. Because a lot of times in a remote setting or just a hybrid setting, somebody wants an immediate answer. It's nice to clarify that. We always use on YouCanBook.me as like future so and so saying, "Hey, I don't want you to do this right now because you are on the other side of the earth and you know, you don't need to be answering Slack right now." So we kind of do that, but we may have to, you know, invoke the emoji thing cause that's a really great, great piece. And that final bit of pausing before you post. Just take a beat, take a moment saying, "Hey, who am I reaching out to? What time is it in their time zone?" Or you know, "Do they need to be notified? And how can I, you know, maybe make it less urgent if it is the case?" For sure.

Julia (22:27):

We should take that life. That's a life rule, it's not just on Slack or email.

Ben (22:32):

Social anywhere, right? Yes, no wine and posting or whatever. Just take a beat. Yeah, exactly. So you know, we spoke a little bit about that hybrid work model and a lot of companies are moving toward this in office, some remote, some doing both. So I'm curious how Guru has navigated this transition and how it's been going so far since the start of the pandemic.

Julia (22:57):

Yeah. So Guru in 2020 had two hub offices and several remote employees working in just a few states. And now, you know, end of 2021, we have two hub offices and I think we're an employer in about 30 states now. So we've really leaned into hybrid work for lack of a better term. I'm super proud of how we've actually reopened both of our hub offices in Philadelphia and San Francisco in July and been able to keep everyone safe, which is our highest priority, and keep it and really listen to the team's feedback and keeping them empowered and engaged. So we give employees full flexibility, meaning you could come to work never, which means you're a remote employee. You could come to work one day. You come to work five days, but you basically have to designate, "Hey, if I am coming to work two or more days at one of the hub offices, I'm a hub employee." We've really expanded our different sort of perks and benefits, which were really some exciting announcements.

Julia (24:08):

And I was on the cross-functional team that worked on, with a fine-tooth comb, going over all of the updated benefits and perks. We launched what we're calling our hybrid work plan in October at a company meeting, you know, the entire plan is documented and then every single facet of the plan is in a specific group card. So folks are able to self-serve. Okay, what is the new parental leave policy as I'm transitioning to a remote employee? What perks do I get? Those sort of things. We are a company of 170, so it is gonna look different for us than it is, you know, a Google, a Meta, what have you, but we still have two offices opening even in the midst of Omicron people are there, taking whatever precautions they can have. The cross-functional working group I think is essential to having pulled this off.

Julia (25:11):

So that includes representatives from internal coms, our workplace ops, our people ops. And then also very essential, if you think about it, is our IT team. Because we actually need sums and processes and safeguards to ensure that if an employee is coming to an office and say that person tests positive for COVID, we have a mechanism that isn't difficult every single time that happens because we have to continue. We have to work through this pandemic as it evolves, we are not gonna be working against it in a work way. So kind of controlling what we can control, communicating a ton along the way, and then being pretty transparent that we're trying, right? Please give us feedback. Let us know what is working, how to make it a better experience for you, if you're fully remote or you're fully in the office. We have office hours that people, if they feel comfortable, they can come and ask questions directly. And being very honest about some of those questions we don't know the answer to yet, right? And I think that keeps us humble. Because I like to say we don't take ourselves too seriously, but we take our employees’ safety and their feedback really seriously.

Ben (26:36):

Yeah. I think that humility coming into it and saying, "Hey, we don't have all the answers," but willing to work with everybody and accommodate everybody as best you can I think is paramount. Especially, there are a lot of unknowns out there. And with the transition, what have been some struggles moving to this new type of work?

Julia (26:54):

Yeah. I think that what comes to mind and something that I have raised my hand about, and will continue to, and I think as an industry and as a society, we're gonna see this. A number one concern for me is equity. Diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging. So if you think about those individuals who do want to come into an office, they are gonna have a different profile than someone who says, "Hey, you know what? I feel safer, more psychologically safe, working at home." You know, childcare is an issue. And so how do we create a level playing field for all employees when there's a certain group of people who can afford to live in a city to come into one of the offices versus some that don't? We have a very open feedback loop here at Guru. But I think we're gonna see this as an industry trend and something that will be brought up a lot. Part of that, I would also call out, exposure to leadership. So if, you know, say all of one's company leaders are in an office and you're not there, are you gonna have FOMO for not being there? And how do you advance a career without sort of the water cooler or what I call the meeting after the meeting? How do we address that? And we happen to have leaders who are fully remote, which is, I think, a good place to start. Not all of them, but that's gonna be a concern. The second thing I think is, and a lot of companies are facing this, how do you create connection to purpose and motivation with teams who are in different work modes?

Julia Soffa Quote 5

Julia (28:53):

So for example, we are working to plan an in-person company kickoff in February, which now sounds crazy this week, but hopefully we'll be able to do it. And so we've given employees a choice. Of course, you don't have to come to this. And so we have about, I'd say about 20% of employees the last time I checked saying they wanna do a virtual experience. So we'll have some people in person and we'll have some people virtual. And how is that experience equal? How is that, you know, full of surprise and delight being in those different modes? Which also speaks to Zoom fatigue and information overload, which sort of all full circle back to communication.

Ben (29:46):

Yeah. And I think communication is key, especially if everybody's dispersed and all over the place. But then, like you mentioned, having an emphasis on that inclusion and getting people into the fold when they're fully remote. So they feel more involved and more present. That's something that a lot of teams are struggling with just navigating this and making it equal across the board. For sure. So let's dive back into internal documentation for a moment. How important is internal documentation to a team's success and how are teams leveraging this type of communication to get more time?

Julia (30:22):

If we think about the hybrid workforce, no matter where you work, being able to access the same information at the same time is a thing of equity, right? It's sort of new, a knowledge democracy. I think it was PWC, a recent PWC survey, was saying that 48% of companies will change processes to become less dependent on this institutional knowledge. So that goes back to this idea of, if I know the answer to this, and if it's not documented, that's gonna waste everybody's time, right? And so how do you make, knowledge is a term that people use, but how do you make subject matter expert knowledge flexible, autonomous, and easily accessed by anyone? So, I mean, I think it's super-duper important. For example, at Guru, we have all of our company financial information, so our objectives, key results, how we're tracking for the quarter, all of that is available for employees to self-serve and view.

Julia (31:30):

And so that would be called like a pull in a metaphor. So employees are able to pull that information, but then we also have a mechanism that we push that information to employees every two weeks. So there's this dance of, "Hey, we've built this culture of trust, which depends on this digital by default documentation culture." And then we're also able to communicate that to you. And when that information changes, you know, where that is, it's not the mental load of, "Okay, how do I look on my desktop or through my email to find the latest report?" It is going to be searchable. And it is going to find you in, in certain cases, depending on the type of information.

Ben (32:19):

Yeah. That trust and transparency. I don't think it can be overstated because it's vital to give folks that information and allow them to seek it out. And I mean, saving time of just the repetitive tasks that we talked about before of, this is where you can go to find it. It's searchable. It's indexable. You don't have to be scouring and wasting valuable time of just finding information you need readily available. It's really, really profound.

Julia (32:42):

Yeah. We also talk a lot about what we call a knowledge-driven culture. And again, this is very philosophical, but it's a culture that, we believe that knowledge just like our real estate, just like IP, is an asset to the organization. So there's research that knowledge-driven cultures perform better because of that trust, but also because people don't have to stop in the workflow to consume a communication that needs an action now, now, now. It can be on their own time if they're in a different time zone in a different country, and happy to share more about that knowledge-driven culture research as well.

Ben (33:27):

Yeah. And on that note, what are some tips for teams looking to document their travel knowledge to get started with it? Cause I imagine, you know, there's a lot of groups that have people that just do certain jobs and that's the job that that person does. But if that person's no longer here, then there's a huge gap, right? Then there are a lot of problems. So what are some tips to get started with documenting internally?

Julia (33:51):

Yeah. So from the top of the sort of knowledge-driven culture, I think it has to come from leadership. Not the knowledge itself. And some of it will come from leadership, but the idea that this is important. That this is an asset to our organization. In my experience, that should be modeled by leaders. So for example, our CFO will share his knowledge after our monthly business review with the team. That is a really great signal that there's trust in employees and that taking the time, it's not busywork to get your subject matter expertise into a place where all your employees can see it. So that's kind of number one, tip, I'd say. Don't just start shoving stuff into a knowledge management tool or documentation tool. You know, you need kind of a structural methodology before you do it, because then it's just going to turn into a dumpster fire of everyone's ideas without some methodology.

Julia (34:57):

So instead of starting with what you want to put in there, sort of the contents, my key recommendation is to start with the structure, right? If you are an employee, how would you go about accessing this and kind of work back from that versus like, "I need to put the wifi password into this knowledge base." I think asking how would somebody benefit from the knowledge before you put it in there. I have a couple key questions. Is someone else able to take action on this knowledge? If so, then maybe it's a good fit. And then lastly, it is kind of a team sport. Knowledge is a team sport. That sounds cheesy, but it definitely is. And I recommend forming some sort of knowledge council. So if I am the steward of, "Hey, we're gonna buy this tool." Whatever it is, we're gonna have this new process, whatever it is, to get knowledge out of our brain and into a place where it can be shared.

Julia (35:59):

I'm never gonna be the subject matter expert on all the things that are happening in the company. So having a council of people who maybe are getting all those repeat questions and they know that they could save time, if they could only just get this out of their head into a place that it can be self-served. So finding kind of influencers, key players, key SMEs who would be on this council just to kind of get it going for the most part is also, I think what we've seen work really well for our customers in standing this stuff up.

Ben (36:37):

And I imagine it's, you know, a continuous living, breathing thing too because you don't want stale information. You need to have it updated. You need to have it maintained and managed, right?

Julia (36:45):

Exactly. And so with Guru in particular, we have a verification interval, so things will go stale. You can have it go stale after a week. If we're thinking about sort of our, the example of the monthly business review, you can set that it will go stale after a month. And then the person, the CFO, who is the SME on that, will get a notification, "Okay. Time to update it." Right? And so it is verified by this subject matter expert and employees could know, "Okay, this is correct information because the CFO updated it yesterday. You're able to see that timestamp. And so having a way to, really good point, to have it be verified as trusted knowledge so that it doesn't turn into, again, this dumpster fire of everyone's hopes and dreams, which are all valid.

Ben (37:41):

Right. Yeah. But not ones from five years ago that never amounted to anything, right? So we talked a bit earlier about just your love of productivity. So I'd love to just drill into how you manage your week and how you help your team be more productive.

Julia (37:59):

Well, so I say this around our hybrid work plan, but I'm always humble. I'm always learning. I'm always sort of researching ways to do this. So none of it is perfect. But I do really have several rituals that I stick to. I don't know if we talked about getting things done like early, which is David Allen's, early productivity hacks that I had on CD that I used to listen to. So I just have to call that out because it's just hilarious when you think back to it now. At the start of the week and often at the start of the day, if I'm feeling frazzled or I feel like I have a lot to do I do two things. One is it's just a brain dump, a list of everything that is going, all the wheels that are spinning from that.

Julia (38:47):

That I have to call my grandma. That I have to follow up with an email. Get my oil changed. Whatever that may be, work or personal. Dump that out. And then, sounds kind of nerdy, but I also do some version of the Eisenhower Matrix, if you're familiar. So that's basically a “t” and it's four quadrants and you label them. You label the top: important, not important, urgent, not urgent. And then I take the information from my brain dump and I scatter it across that plot. And then it becomes really easy to see: okay, I'm worrying about X, Y, Z for no reason. Let me delegate that, this, or take it off the list. And then I throw it out and I'll move some of the things to the next week, depending on what happens, because then you have sort of a little rubric for yourself of: okay, I did the thing that was in the important/urgent.

Julia (39:46):

And I can pat myself on the back for this today instead of working on all of those sort of low-grade tasks that are distracting, et cetera. Another thing I would call out is that I practice something called Morning Pages, which every morning, right? Stream of consciousness. Just writing. And I've been doing that for years. And that is very, very helpful in lots of ways from getting over whatever dream I was having to thinking about the day. It could kind of take shape in any way. Also wanna call out meditation, exercise, and the digital wellness piece. Working on that every day, even if it's aspirational and completely imperfect. And I don't push all of that too much on my teams, right? That is my personal way. What I do ask individuals to do is if we are working on things that roll up to company goals, get really crystal clear about how their work and what projects are in service of said company goals, and have that sort of logic paradigm help them. Because I can't say like, "Hey, you should be meditating in the morning." I struggle with that myself. That's my best answer. Just, you know, for focus, don't have too many open loops of projects that you're working on.

Ben (41:23):

Yeah. And you're very humble, but I'm waiting for your masterclass on productivity because that sounds like you have it all figured out. Because the importance of getting things out of your head and then that matrix of prioritizing, I think is great because it shines a light on what is the urgent thing and what am I needlessly worrying about in the stream of consciousness and that meditation just to unload it all. And just to kind of get centered before you tackle something before you go into the day. Great advice.

Julia (41:54):

I mean, and what you might need to do that day is take a nap. You might be ill, you might be feeling sick or you might need to go for a walk. That is okay.

Ben (42:07):

Exactly. Because I think that rest and recharging and not being burnt out, you gotta take signals and be listening to your body. And because without that, you're practically nothing, right? Yeah. So with all that said, what's next for you and the Guru team? What is on the horizon for you?

Julia (42:21):

Well, we're hiring a lot, which is very exciting. Almost trying to double the team in FY 2023. So with that comms needs to be pressure tested for scale. So that's what I'm gonna be focused on. And I think the now more commonplace discussion of stress and burnout at work. How can we help build our tool to facilitate the reduction of stress, reductions of mental load of all of the coms, and information overload? And some of the stuff I talked about also, I did mention we're having our company event. And so how do we foster virtual connection and collaboration for different experiences? That's, you know, what keeps me up at night, kind of in a good way. How do we make this good? And a lot of it's just having discussions with our employees and with folks in the industry and seeing what others are doing. I'm very excited coming into the next calendar year. Next fiscal year, I have my vacation planned. So I try to model what I tell other people to do.

Ben (43:36):

Yep. Take your time off everybody listening. Go right now. Schedule some PTO for sure. That's exciting to hear the growth of Guru and just getting your team back together, I think is gonna be an amazing time. Hopefully, everything is good as far as pandemic-wise and all that's good to go. So where can folks go to learn a little bit more about Guru?

Julia (44:00):

Yeah. So always at our website, getguru.com. And then we're on socials in the same way on LinkedIn. But if you're interested in anything about Guru from working here, just learning more about the product, learning more about some of these hacks, definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn or Julia Soffa on Twitter. I'm not, I don't really go on the socials, but I go on Twitter maybe like once every three days. So that's my big social experiment, but I do respond to stuff there.

Ben (44:38):

Awesome. Yeah, we'll be sure to put links on our blog post and on the post that we'll put out so everybody can get in touch with you if they have any questions and learn more about all the good stuff that you're doing at Guru. So Julia, thank you so much for being on Get More Done. It was great advice you provided for our audience and really happy to have you on. I hope you have a good rest of your day, have a good rest of your year, and good luck with the in-person event and your kickoff next year.

Julia (45:04):

Yeah. Likewise, Ben. Be well, stay safe. Happy solstice. That's tomorrow, the darkest day. And then it'll start to get lighter.

Ben (45:11):

There's always light at the end of the tunnel, for sure everyone. All right. Have a good one. Take care.

Julia (45:17):

Be well.

Ben (45:19):

Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Get More Done. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform to get updates of future episodes. Wanna be a guest? Reach out to community at YouCanBook.me or visit getmoredone.youcanbook.me. If you or your team want to automate your scheduling, sign up for a free two-week trial at youcanbook.me. What will you do with all the time that you save?

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We care... so we share. The YCBM team has a lot to say about online scheduling and improving productivity. We pay it forward with interesting articles, top tips, updates, and insights about how to be a scheduling ninja and a productivity pro!

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