Context is Queen

Want to improve your workplace communication skills, especially when working with other teams?

Give context.

Why give context?

Context helps your colleagues:

  1. Understand where you’re coming from / viewing things from.
  2. Understand who you are, and what you’re trying to achieve (your overall project, not this specific request)
  3. Helps remove assumptions. Teams often have their own dialects, and your request may mean something entirely different to them. Giving context helps them understand if there might be other dialects in play.
  4. Saves them time in “back and forth” clarifying questions, which, if the teams are remote, can take days.

Context helps you too:

  1. It saves you time in the long run – you’ll reduce the amount of “back and forth” while the receiving party tries to figure out exactly what you need.
  2. You might not actually need the thing, or need to do the thing. The team you’re asking may already have done something that can help you. But if you just ask for “$thing” you’ll never know, because they don’t know your project/goal!

A worked example

Here’s an example I used on Twitter recently:

Bad: “I need $thing”

Good: “I’m from $group. I’m trying to help $team with $companyGoal, to do $workItem, and need help with $thing”

This difference this makes can be stark, and it usually only takes a few minutes more:


I need a new SSL certificate


I’m from the web applications team. Our SSL certificate will run out soon (we’re trying to automate renewals but we’re not there yet), and I need the new cert to prevent our web app from going offline next week. Can you help please?

If I received the first request. I give them the cert.

If I receive the second request, I can tell them all about the solution our team developed to help developers with certificate management and auto renewals!


So please, do yourself, and your colleagues a favour – give context! 🙂

Ways to make your team better by making them feel safe

I’ll get right to the point: Teams work better when they feel safe. And this one-page PDF from the Re:work team at Google gives clear and actionable things you can do and think about that will help to make your team feel safe. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or a team-member; check them out.

Now, on to the waffle.

I’m fascinated by team dynamics – what makes them work (or not work), what makes a team excel, and ways in which I can improve, or actions I can take, to get the most out of myself and my colleagues. People are social animals – and I feel that’s often forgotten about in a business setting.

Recently, I stumbled upon Re:work, from Google. The site itself is a veritible trove of information for anyone wanting to improve themselves and their teams, but one of the most important things for me when it comes to fostering teamwork is to ensure that your team feels safe. that might sound “cute”, but if your team don’t feel safe, bad things happen, because thanks to biology, they don’t cooperate as well.

So I was super-chuffed when I found the Re:work site – and more so when I discovered this Actions for Psychological Safety PDF which gives clear and actionable things you can do (as a leader or as a team member) to help your team feel psychologically safe. I think it’s well worth checking out. I can already spot a number of things I could do more of.

I’d love to know what you do to help make your teams feel safe. Let me know in the comments 🙂

Read the source page: Fostering Psychological Safety

Understanding the human animal: The importance of packs, feeling safe, and good leadership

I love understanding human nature, and why I feel the way I do in certain situations.

One of my favourite videos on this, which touches on human teams, the important of feeling safe, and leadership responsibility, is Simon Sinek’s “Why leaders eat last” talk. At 45 minutes, it’s a good lunchtime video.

For those who prefer to read, I’ll try to summarise the themes and my main takeaways, including what we can all do to make each other feel safe and valued.

The “why” is important

I like why. It helps me understand context. But in an increasingly email-laden world where everyone is “too busy” and emails are becoming more and more concise, the why is often the first thing to be omitted.

And this is a freaking travesty.

The “why” helps people understand why something is happening and the impact that it has. It gives context and, if it’s a request, it enables the recipients to use their own judgement and experience to assist above and beyond what’s originally being asked for (aka adding value). Not only that, but understanding the why makes people care more.

The hidden secret of video conferencing is the human connection

VideoConferencing isn’t about ensuring people are engaged; it’s about the hidden, intangible things that as social, visual mammals, we can only pick up through seeing each other. And that’s critical when building trust and rapport with remote teams that might never meet: