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Let’s be real: nobody likes spending all of their time in the inbox. Sometimes it can feel like you and your team are just barely treading water above where you should be, and that the flow of emails coming in is more than can be stopped. I think a majority of teams would probably respond to this by everybody going noses to the grindstone and powering through all of the various inquiries. Unfortunately, that is not always the best way to do it. If you have so many emails coming in that all of your team’s resources are going into that, rather than doing anything outside of the inbox, you’re probably doing it wrong.

To try to nip this problem in the bud as our team grew larger, I implemented things that would allow us to set individual goals in conjunction with our company’s push towards OKRs. After all, as we all know, just because you’re “busy” doesn’t mean you are actually getting anything done, or making any real changes to the product or culture at your company.

Rather than let my team get steamrolled by the onslaught of support inquiries as the company grew larger, I tried to find them the opportunities to take time for what they wanted to do while still remaining mutually accountable to the rest of the team. This has led to three separate meetings that are integral to our team functioning happily, keeping support emails at a minimum, and avoiding the dreaded burn-out. Here’s how we did it:

Monday Goals Meeting, weekly, Monday afternoons, 30 minutes long maximum.

This is a place where, each week, every Champ goes through what they did the week before and what they are hoping to do in the upcoming week. We set dates for when the Champ will try to complete the task in the upcoming week, and also set which “bucket” it falls under in terms of the OKRs that they have set. The importance of setting the time period when they think they will be working on the project is that we avoid having everyone out of the inbox at once, and coming back to a total mire.

 

Having this kind of transparency about what we are working on helps everybody else on the team assume positive intent.

 

While this seems very procedural, it helps us to identify if the goals that we are setting for each week tend to follow a certain theme or if they are mostly unbucketed. This helps us to know whether we are going in the “right direction” or if we are just spinning our tires and not actually contributing much to the team or the company as a whole. Because we have a very flat structure and no real “boss” in terms of what we are doing, having this kind of transparency about what we are working on helps everybody else on the team assume positive intent.

Not only is setting these goals good for “small wins” for the team and helping champs feel like individual contributors, but often times helps to wipe away issues that might be causing more emails to come in to the inbox. For example, if someone notices something that might be missing from our documentation and emails in about it, we can add it to our Trello board under “Customer Experience Polishing,” and someone that is learning to use Git and HTML can go in and make those changes during the week. It kills two birds with one stone.

 

Email Review Meeting, monthly, first Wednesday of the month, one hour long during lunch. 

During the two monthly meetings that we have, lunch is provided, and we take our normal lunch period to have larger conversations than can be contained in the 30-minutes goals meeting. Having these monthly means that we ensure we are all coming to the conversation with something unique and interesting to talk about, rather than forcing it on a weekly or biweekly basis. It also means our calendars aren’t constantly filled with events.

For the email review meeting, we all look over our conversations and pick one that troubled us or seemed more difficult than most and discuss it as a team. Like some other companies, we do not have a manager constantly going over every one of our emails and we don’t constantly double-check on the work of our peers. While we will offer in-the-moment guidance about specific tone or a method of handling while traversing the inbox, this allows the actual Champ themselves to ask for feedback on something that theyconsider as not going as well as it could have. This helps to keep a sense of humility and, again, accountability within the team, both of which are very important for us as a whole.

 

Extended Goals Meeting, monthly, third Wednesday of the month during lunch. 

This is a meeting created so that larger scale, “bigger picture” issues in the inbox can be brought to light and discussed—usually having to do with how we solve a specific problem, why we do things the way we do, how we can do things better. While these are conversations that we all have regularly, given the busy schedule that so many people in our company have, it can be difficult to give something the amount of thought that it truly deserves. Whether it be something along the lines of talking about why a certain issue has always been handled one way or another, or discussing which product feature we can next prioritize, the extended goals meeting means that everyone is able to get their voices and thoughts heard.

This is also a really important meeting in terms of team alignment. While much that we do revolves around whether we are doing the right thing by our customers, being able to assume autonomy and actually make a difference in the product is heartening for anybody working in support. Aligning team expectations and desires and then being able to leave the meeting with a solid plan of attack on enacting them has been incredibly powerful for our team.

While these meetings may definitely not be the best fit for every team and  implemented a very procedural structure that we weren’t used to in the company, they’ve helped us to make sure that we are all tackling issues outside of the inbox that align with the goals of the company and team as a whole.