Let me try to replace all the dozens of best practices for effective leadership with only one: predictable decision-making and communications cadence—the drumbeat of the company.
To do great work, good people don’t need much more than clarity, structure, and autonomy; make it clear where you’re heading and why, and people will figure out how to get there.
There’s no better way to bring clarity than with a well-thought internal drumbeat. The drumbeat outlines what decisions are made, by whom, when, and how those decisions are communicated. In addition, it also sets a baseline expectation for other recurring communications within the company (e.g. updates).
Obviously, for leaders who live in the moment (cynics would call their style “drive-by management”), drumbeat is anything but compelling.
But for those who prize clarity and structure, drumbeat delivers at least on two fronts:
- By making it clear to everyone what happens and when, people spend less energy focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time
- A predictable and constant stream of openly communicated decisions and work-in-progress items (updates) normalises top-down communication; not every message from the CEO is breaking news—as they shouldn’t be
As a bonus for leaders, establishing a drumbeat forces them to be deliberate on how they run their company—a self-enforced accountability mechanism.
Here’s an example of a drumbeat we had at Toggl Plan:
Every 6 months:
- Revision of company strategy (product, go-to-market, team)
- Goals, focus areas, and budget for the next 6 months
- Revision of compensation and role guidelines -> Role&compensation talks
Every 6 weeks:
- Picking up projects for a new 6-week cycle (Basecamp-style)
Every 2 weeks:
- Company update (progress against goals, decisions, work-in-progress items)
- Team updates (progress, issues, requests for help)
In practice, people responsible for each item have their own process for arriving on a decision/update (e.g. management team working on company strategy). Once done, the decision is documented (Notion) and openly communicated company-wide (public Slack channel).
As you can see, there’s nothing magical about a drumbeat. But it works: “The level of clarity here is unprecedented” as one of my colleagues put it.
With a drumbeat, your colleagues could say the same thing.