A CDL away day – Space to say what’s ok

Our Delivery Lead, Sarah reflects on a recent team away day, and how she created a space to say what’s ok when we work together.

The CDL team is growing. In the last 4 months, Rachel and Neil have joined as Senior Content Designers. And me, I’m the new Delivery Lead.

In January, I was planning an agenda for our team away day. I was thinking about what we could work on together. I kept coming back to the idea of how our team had changed.

I went back to an article by Giles Turnbull that I had read several years ago. Giles writes about the joy and challenges of growing a new team in It’s ok to say what’s ok. One of the hardest things, he says, is to communicate the unofficial stuff about work.

Unofficial stuff. Work culture. How we do things together. What we all prefer, or do not prefer. I’ve always believed that if you can work on these things together, the actual work part of work is much easier.

So, that was the plan for our away day. How do we grow and build a culture that feels comfortable and inspiring for all of us?

We all have a user manual. That’s a great start. For the away day, I wanted to explore this more. I came up with 2 activities to help us say what’s ok.

Super powers

I wanted to encourage the team to think about what they know and appreciate about each other. And what skills they all bring to the team.

I wrote each person’s name on an individual piece of flipchart paper. And stuck the pieces of paper around the room. Then, I asked each person to write at least 3 super powers for each team member.

Once they’d finished writing, I asked them to take time to read all of the comments about their team mates. Then finally, read their own.

They highlighted practical things, like ‘pair writer extraordinaire’ or ‘good at explaining things’. They wrote about the qualities they valued, like being insightful, thoughtful and empathetic.

The outcome was a poster for each person, which listed all the things their team mates think are brilliant about them.

Not only is that a lovely thing to read, but it made us think about each other. How we can help each other. And how we fit together as a team.

Getting stuff done together

Next, I asked the team to talk about 3 things in small groups:

  1. how they like to work on Slack,
  2. what a successful meeting looks like,
  3. what a great day at work looks like.

After we’d talked in small groups, we then came together to discuss our answers. We looked for themes. We learned that we all like a clear agenda. That we all love a day where we work together to solve problems. We learned that no one quite agrees when you should @channel on Slack.

Most importantly, we started to open up a conversation about how we like to work. The discussion was the beginnings of a community agreement between us, about how we'll interact with each other when we are working together.

It’s not just deadlines and project plans

For me, a great day at work is one when I get to work with brilliant humans and help them do their best work. As the Delivery Lead, it’s my job to make sure the work gets done.

But that’s not just about setting deadlines and creating plans. It’s about how we work together, not just what we do. And part of that is creating a space to say what’s ok.

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