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How Slack improved our company culture

E27.CO: It’s difficult to find that happy medium between work and personal as well as group and one-on-one, which is why our mini-family relies on Slack. My company, a commercial real estate brokerage with 15 people, uses Slack and we have found it to be an integral part of not only our community culture but also our day-to-day functioning and productivity.

At TheSquareFoot, we opted for an open floor plan. We love how this layout fosters a strong sense of community and openness for our team. It encourages daily check-ins, collaboration, and creativity. Still, there are plenty of drawbacks in the form of endless possibilities for potential distraction – from casual conversation to eating noisy snacks to our personal favorite, Nintendo 64 breaks.

This is why we rely on Slack. Thanks to this tool, we’ve been able to overcome many of the challenges of having an undivided workspace without having to sacrifice our fun. Slack chat rooms are our private offices, and direct messages our check-ins and one-on-one meetings.

Our development team doesn’t need separate conference rooms to go over last week’s models; they can simply meet in their designated chat. Rather than everyone talking across the room and creating excess noise and a mash of conversation, we keep it online and organised.

Staying organised

Like anything, using Slack does not come without its share of challenges. One that we faced was things getting lost in the noise of the room and notifications being missed, which would not happen in face-to-face meetings. Product ideas and important announcements were lost amidst our stream of conversation in the general chat. Additionally, it became difficult to reference specific conversations and notes from the past.

A way we’ve overcome this — and become more organised — is by being more granular with our channels. We’ve gone so far as to even have a “snacks” channel where people can list the snacks they want ordered for the office, as well as a marketing-specific chat, a general chat and even a general product chat for brainstorming sessions. The more specific our rooms are, the easier it is to make conversations productive and reference previous discussions.

Fostering community

With Slack, we’re able to create a private sphere without threatening the sense of community that is so important to us. For our team, it’s personal relationships that form the web of a team-wide sense of connection. Nobody has to feel excluded because everyone is equally accessible on Slack. Read the full article

THE NEW-YORK TIMES: Stewart Butterfield of Slack: Is Empathy on Your Résumé?

Q. What were some early influences for you?

A. I was born in a little town called Lund, in British Columbia. It’s like a fishing village. My parents were hippies. They tried to live off the land, so I grew up in a log cabin, and we didn’t get running water until I was 4. The next year, we got electricity. Then we moved to the city, Victoria, British Columbia, so I could go to school.

I was pretty entrepreneurial as a kid. I had a lemonade stand. When I was 12, I arbitraged the price of 7-Eleven hot dogs; I’d buy the ones that are pre-wrapped with the bun and then sell them on the beach. When I was 14, my dad and two of his friends bought an art-house cinema. I worked the concession and figured out that it was better to take people’s orders while they were standing in line before the movie. Plus I got tips.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. My dad became a real estate developer, and that work is usually project-based. You attract investors for a project with a certain life cycle, and then you move on to the next thing. It’s almost like being a serial entrepreneur, so I had that as an example.

What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned?

I can tell people a story that they believe in and get behind. So I’m good at the leadership part. But I’ve always said that I’m a terrible manager. I’m not good at giving feedback. People are like horses — they can smell fear. If you have a lot of apprehension going into a difficult conversation, they’ll pick up on that. And that’s going to make them nervous, and then the whole conversation is more difficult.

If you go into those conversations with no apprehension of any kind, that just makes people feel at ease. I’ve tried to absorb that lesson. I’m not able to practice it 100 percent of the time, but it’s definitely something I’ve learned.

You’ve had a couple of big successes, starting Flickr and now Slack. What are your thoughts about culture?

I really admire good restaurants. I don’t necessarily mean expensive ones. I mean restaurants that are well run with a seamless kind of flow. I notice things like whether the servers keep an eye on each other’s tables. If someone needs the check, they’ll tell each other. I think everyone likes working in an environment like that.

I played in jazz bands when I was younger, and I like playing improvisational music generally. You really have to keep your eye on everyone at the same time. Read the full article

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