Building a good team is hard work. Really hard work. It’s hard enough for large corporates to do well let alone smaller startups who may not have the same resources to work with. From recruiting the right person for the job to maintaining a cohesive team culture, keeping your team happy and productive can be really difficult.
Keeping your team well-oiled is crucial because when your team breaks down, so does everything else. According to Salesforce, 96% of executives cite a lack of effective team collaboration as a major source of workplace failures. Companies are made up of people and when those people don’t have open channels of communication, things start to fall apart.
So how do you create a culture of openness in your team? Tripaneer may have the answer.
Tripaneer is an online travel marketplace that curates unique travel experiences based around particular themes. The platform connects 35,000+ vacation goers with 4,000+ trip providers around the world on a daily basis. This is where you would go if you wanted to find a yoga course in Bali, a surfing camp in Maui or a motorcycle tour in Australia. They create highly personalised experiences for experience-seekers around the world yet they found that personalising the feedback they gave each other was a bit more of a challenge.
“In terms of giving feedback, talking about your personal or team development is much more sensitive and fragile than talking about business”, remarked Joyce Lim, Tripaneer’s HR Manager.
The firm was struggling with a very common problem: their team found it much easier to give feedback about work-related issues than they did giving personal feedback to each other. As companies grow, facilitating a work culture where team members are encouraged to be honest about each other’s strengths and weaknesses is absolutely essential. Tripaneer know this all too well and their leadership is keen to foster their company values - Transparency, Innovation, Empathy, Ownership, and Curiosity - into the fabric of their team. To achieve this, promoting safe feedback channels between team members is a high priority.
One of the key benefits of creating these feedback channels is tapping into hidden strengths, weaknesses and capabilities within a team. For instance, you might think you’re a great communicator. Your teammates may completely disagree but have never felt comfortable enough to tell you. According to the Johari Window model, people are limited in what they can perceive about themselves. We need the perspectives of people around us to give us an accurate view of who we really are. Honest feedback is the only way we can expand this horizon of awareness.
Tripaneer understood this and in one afternoon, they were able to begin the journey towards creating a culture of open and honest feedback within their leadership team. Using the WeQ game, they took the following 3 steps to completely turn their team around.
The WeQ game is based entirely around giving feedback and borrows from the Johari model to do this. Team members choose game cards which reflect the strengths and areas of improvement for their team members. A discussion is then facilitated which allows team members to discuss these game card choices in a safe, fun and judgement-free environment. Creating a fun and energising environment helps to create this feeling of safety. When the Tripaneer team began their WeQ session, the WeQ facilitators immediately worked to create this atmosphere.
In the first round of the gameplay, they began creating connections between individual team members and his/her past behaviors using cards and dice to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the conversation. Revealing an honest view of each other’s assumptions is exciting and fun, while being immersed in a positive conversation recognizing each other’s strengths boosts energy within the team.
At every turn, the team reflects on each teammate’s two specific character skills based on two cards drawn in the first round. There are many character traits to choose from; some examples are listening, empathy, mentoring or storytelling. Players actively recall instances of their teammate’s behaviours around these traits which then spark interesting conversations. Below are two examples of such conversations:
On Generous: One executive received feedback that he became less generous to his teammates:
Executive: “I didn’t mean to not offer help. But I am trying to control myself to become more effective.”
Teammate: “Exactly. I don’t mean that you should solve a problem FOR other people. But, if you spare five minutes to give tips and point out what to look at with your teammates, you can still help others in a highly effective manner”
On Motivating: The other executive is shown that he needs to work on his ability to motivate his team.
Teammate: “You can motivate your team very well when it comes to delivering a specific task. However, as far as I see, when the challenge is less defined, you seem less motivated to encourage your team to tackle the problem.”
Executive: “That’s because when I don’t fully understand what the issue is, I am not motivated myself. Therefore, I cannot motivate my team to work on it.”
Teammate: “Ok. I understand. In that case you need to far better align with the chief product manager”
In this way, the leadership team was able to articulate their values and motivations. They explained them using a specific example that everyone was able to understand. Through this process, they were able to clear any false assumptions and develop a common ground of communication.
When the gameplay was completed, the team was presented with visualizations of individuals and team’s character skills based on the data gathered during the gaming process. It provided a concrete ground of their strengths, blind spots, and weaknesses, a useful resource to identify one’s points of improvement. The team had a round of discussion to wrap up the session. The discussion then moved onto key takeaways and how to improve their overall team interactions and dynamics.
And how did they feel afterwards? Here’s what they had to say.
I loved the WeQ experience and recommend it to all leadership teams who want to start a honest and open dialogue. WeQ has found an innovative and revolutionary way to give feedback based on scientific knowledge and learnings. The "gamified" element surprisingly brings up a lot of energy and fun. We enjoyed our honest and deep conversations. We learned a lot from the smart combination of data visualisation and face to face interaction. I am really impressed. It was great!
- CEO, Robert den Hollander
“A great tool in facilitating the start of a conversation about oneself's or other's strengths and areas or improvements! While we have provided feedback regularly between our colleagues, playing WeQ gave us the opportunity to provide feedback to each other as a team instead of on a one-to-one basis. The app also further provided insights into what makes our team OUR TEAM!”
- HR manager, Joyce Lim
“I was very surprise to observe how well the WeQ feedback gamification sparks a conversation within team. It’s genuinely a great team building gameplay that enables an entire team of 8 people to involve in a learning experience of joy, energy and true connections! As a leadership coach I have gathered a lots of insights about the people I work with in terms of their aspirations, motivations and even bottlenecks. It was extremely useful for growth of all participants”
- Maru Talavera. Conscious leadership Coach
Through a simple game and an afternoon of facilitation, Tripaneer has been able to completely shift the dynamics of its team and show them that being honest with each other is ok. They now know that if a problem were to arise in the future, they can open up about it rather than bottle it up, potentially saving the company from dealing with much bigger problems down the road.
Has an honest conversation with one of your team members ever changed the way you perceived your strengths or weaknesses? Comment below with your stories!