6 secrets to mastering Slack

Follow these six tips to use Slack to maximum advantage, and build healthy habits for better team communication.

6 secrets to mastering Slack

Communication is the most important aspect of working on a team -- without it, there is no team. Slack is all about making that invaluable communication more efficient. Slack allows for public channels, private groups, and direct messaging, giving team members the options to communicate in the mode appropriate to the topic. Plus, the ability to join multiple teams makes it easy to switch between work, recreational and topic-specific chats.

Slack is an extremely flexible chat app, but the endless possibilities make it hard to know where to start. The good news: You don’t have to dive all the way down the rabbit hole to get the most out of Slack. Follow these six tips to use Slack to maximum advantage, and build healthy Slack habits for better team communication.

1. Stick with public channels

Slack’s public channels, private groups, and direct messages offer great flexibility, but it’s not always clear when you should use which mode. I’ve seen many teams default to direct messages and private groups, sometimes to the point where 80 percent of all communication is private. Of course privacy has its place, but keep in mind that private communication is a black hole for information. Private groups and direct messages are where data goes to die or where it can only be recovered through a convoluted, high-tech game of telephone. Even worse, making private groups the default can stigmatize openness and discourage free communication of ideas. Avoid all of that by communicating in public channels all the time.

Fostering transparency will help teams grow a keener awareness of what’s going on and increase alignment. You’ll also be surprised by who ends up lending a helping hand. We make all communications public at Spantree (where I work), and when a question is asked or a problem surfaces, the whole team will swarm in and work together. As a group we make short work of most issues, and nothing brings our team together like inviting those experiences time after time throughout the day.

There are some exceptions to this approach, of course. For example, HR-related questions and candidate interview discussions belong in private groups. In general, though, if you value information sharing and want to encourage your teammates to ask for help when they need it, public communication is the way to go.

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