How to Improve Team Communication Using the CARS Framework

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There’s no doubt many people prefer email, texts, and direct messages over phone and video calls for business communications. In many ways, these methods can be faster than negotiating a meeting time with multiple people, especially in a remote team setting. Unfortunately, the downside is that online interactions can lead to some rather exhausting back and forth.

What it can look like:

Team Member: Hi, do you have a minute to look at something?

Team Leader: Sure, what do you need?

Team Member: I have a document I’d like you to review. 

Team Leader: Okay, send it over. 

<Team Leader reviews the 4-page document and sends it back>

Team Leader: Did you get my edits?

Team Member: Yes, but I just needed you to approve the figures in the third paragraph. 

And so on… 

Multiply this conversation by the number of team members. Not exactly a time saver! These ping-pong texts and emails can take minutes, hours, or days. When multiple exchanges are needed to get to the heart of an issue, it’s not only time-consuming but incredibly frustrating! 

In today’s video, ProcessDriven CEO Layla Pomper shares her framework for quickly getting the information she needs by clarifying and setting expectations for her team. If the back and forth with your virtual or IRL teammates are driving you crazy, be sure to watch the full video! 

No time? Here’s what you need to know. 

End Communication Gridlock with CARS

CARS is an acronym for Context, Attempts, Request, and Stakes. Ensuring every request is CARS formatted is a quick way to eliminate needless volleying of information. This ensures that the recipient knows exactly what you need, why, when, and what steps you’ve taken already, eliminating much of the Q&A from the above example. 

Context: The first step is to provide context. This is the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) version of the situation. No one wants to read through long email chains, so briefly summarize the heart of the issue. 

Attempts: Include what solutions you’ve already attempted. What have you ruled out? What actions have you taken to resolve the issue before reaching out for help?

Request: Make a specific request for exactly what you need. This eliminates ambiguity and unnecessary work. 

Stakes: Why is it important? Is it urgent? Is it really necessary to involve the CEO? To interrupt someone’s vacation? Probably not when the risks are low or non-existent.

Pro Tip: Empowering team members to resolve issues independently without leadership buy-in can significantly reduce unnecessary communication. Assign a dollar amount as a threshold to help your team determine what they can handle and what should be elevated. For example, if the stakes are valued under $20, they can resolve it themselves, and if it’s more, then manager approval is needed. 

Food delivery services are an excellent example of this. They automatically offer a credit if you have a problem with your order under a certain monetary threshold, say $25. You don’t need to chat with support or call or send an email, and the situation is immediately resolved. If the credit isn’t satisfactory, then you can escalate the problem. But the simple act of offering a partial credit dramatically cuts down on support tickets. 

Using our example exchange above, the initial communication using CARS might look like this:

Team Member: I am working on the Client X proposal that is due on Wednesday. Do you have a minute to approve the estimates in paragraph three? John is on vacation, and I don’t want to quote them the wrong price and delay our project. 

Much better! It’s clear what this person needs, when, and why. 

What is the risk of not using a framework like CARS? 

Reverse delegation is the plight of many business owners. That’s when delegating a task becomes so problematic that you take it back and do it yourself, ultimately defeating the purpose! At some point, the time and effort you have to put in to ensure something is done correctly outweighs the “help” someone is providing. You may wonder what’s the point of paying someone if you end up doing everything yourself? Establishing a communication framework like CARS gives your employees clear direction on how to meet your expectations. 

Pro Tip: Save the CARS framework in a text expansion tool like our sponsor TextExpander to quickly insert it into email and chat. Just type the shortcut, fill in the prompts, and send! 

This level of clarity isn’t limited to written communication. You can even use this framework for verbal exchanges when leaving a message or having a conversation. 

Do you have questions about CARS? How do you handle communication issues with your virtual teams? Be sure to leave a comment on our YouTube channel, and your question might even make it into a future ProcessDriven video!

Ready to feel fully in control of your business so you can hire, scale, or sell your business with ease? Check out ProcessDriven Foundations™️.

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