Being able to self-reflect takes time, but mastering it is a skill that is worth learning.
Hendrik, the co-founder of APX portfolio company Sharpist, said it best when he said: every team needs therapy. As teams, companies, people, we are always on the move, running through to-do lists, replying to IM messages, attempting to answer all emails and on top of that, we have to do our jobs. That’s a lot. That’s more than we were prepared for at school.
In school, I learned Pythagoras theorem, I memorized amo amas amat, and that if you smoke in the locker room the headteacher will find out. But no one ever prepared me to self-reflect, to really understand my personality in the workplace and how to work as a team.
A team is essentially a dysfunctional family that comes together to make magic.
Or at least that’s how I look at it in within APX. I’m part of the Communications and Brand team (or circle as we call it here). Our circle is pretty unique, here’s our little family below:
And although we all share similar taste in music, McDonald’s orders and a huge affinity for Nerf Guns, I realized that maybe we aren’t always aware of how we act, talk and work within our team/circle and within the wider APX family. That’s why we had our own ‘Know Yourself’ workshop.
I want to use this article to give you the framework of how I set it up, and then provide you with reflections from the team, to hopefully encourage you all to do something similar. It is a great way to bond, and as Richard Branson said:
“A company’s employees are its greatest assets and your people are your product.”
The workshop was split into five sections, each of which I’ve explained briefly below:
- Katy’s waffle
- Self-awareness exercises
- Personality tests
- Sharing the learnings and understanding how we mesh together
- A circle of openness
This is essentially your introduction to the workshop. The reason I didn’t prepare this properly and left it as ‘waffle’ is that I wanted to leave it up to my brain and soul to talk. I have been thinking about this topic of self-awareness a great deal over the last months, we put our minds second, and to-do lists first.
Read up on the topic, understand why it’s important to you and your team. Then your introduction is really the why, what, and the how. My advice, let this come out organically. I won’t tell you what I said because it was unique to my team, but if you are struggling on how to set this up, just reach out to me on Twitter.
There are so many different exercises you can do to best self-reflect, from journalling to meditation, but I wanted something that was more workplace and team focused. That’s why we went through the following:
- Decluttering: This is where you take a blank piece of paper and you just write whatever is on your mind for five minutes. It really can be anything, no one will ever read it. Your brain is always on the go, so this exercise really gives everyone time to just regroup and focus themselves. After writing, ask people to circle how many different topics their brains ran through (in 5 minutes, mine went through 15).
- Freedom Diagram: I love this as an activity because it’s so simple yet so powerful in making sure you understand your impact, value, and purpose at work. Take three sheets of paper, on the first one write the word TALENT, on the second write the word FUN and on the last one write the word DEMAND. Then with each piece of paper, take 3–5 minutes to answer the following:
- Talent; what you happen to be good at
- Fun; what you wish you could do at work all the time
- Demand; what people in the world need and will pay for that you can do
- When you’re done, go round the room and let your team add on to your lists, you’ll be surprised how much you miss about yourself that your team sees.
- Apologizing: Self-reflection isn’t just about helping yourself grow to be a better human, it’s also about respecting the people around you. Of course, when there are tight deadlines or lots of to-dos, it’s easy to drop our polite guard and perhaps speak rudely or out of turn to colleagues and friends. We took some time to think about moments in the last weeks where we weren’t always the best human we could be. And then apologized to each other for instances where we acted out of turn.
- Two things: If I asked you all right now to tell me 10 things you hated about yourself, you’d give me 200! We find it easier to find flaws than we do to love ourselves. Loving yourself isn’t arrogant, it’s an act of kindness. This exercise is where you go round and say two things you are really proud of yourself for doing in the workplace.
Don’t deny it, we’re all Buzzfeed quiz addicts. “Tell us your favorite ice-cream and we’ll let you know which Kardashian you are.” (Kim, I’m always Kim.)
The only quiz I was made to do in school was the one about which job you’ll have when you grow up based on likes you had as a FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD. At 15, my primary goal was to understand what the best ratio between water and vodka was in my parent’s alcohol cupboard. After this life-changing test, where I got “You will be a librarian”, I never thought about personality tests ever again.
But then I found two that I loved, and two I never tried before. I should add as a caveat, that you don’t have to do all the personality tests out there, do the ones that fit your team, do one, do two, do three — just go with the flow. The interesting part is how you bring all the answers together after.
So, the two I loved where:
- 16 personalities — which after a series of questions you get a “description of who you are and why you do things the way you do”
- Chronotype Test — I only discovered this recently, but it’s a quiz to find out when your brain is best at doing things. For example, I work really well first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But some people might be killing their to-do list after lunch. We’re all different and it’s so important to understand that in order to work together as a team.
Then the two new ones were:
- The Color Code — that focuses a great deal more on the why you do what you do, which is relevant for understanding why your colleague does what they do
- The Big Five — one of the most common personality tests for teams globally, as the website explains: “The big five personality traits are the best accepted and most commonly used the model of personality in academic psychology.”
Before we went throughout findings to share with each other, the best thing for our minds to do was to get up and go for a walk to recharge and refuel to get back to one of the most important stages of the workshop — learnings.
Learnings and Understandings
Coming back from the walk, the goal was to go through the tests and have each person explain what they discovered about themselves. We then discussed how our personalities fit together, we are different but it’s because we are different that we work well together. This moment is for the individual’s self-awareness of themselves, plus the team to understand more about how to work alongside them.
I think this can be a really sensitive topic, so be sure that before you workshop you make sure everyone in the team is okay talking about their findings and share insights. Everyone should feel comfortable. Because our team/circle is so small (just five of us), it was easy to do this in a round, but for bigger teams (I once did this with 16 people), it’s easier to break into groups.
Circle of Openness
Finally, we ended with a circle of openness, where anything could be said. And that’s all I’ll say about that because what is said in the circle stays in the circle.
It’s all fine and well me telling you how amazing doing these kinds of workshops are for your team, but the real people you should hear it from are the team themselves:
Mel: Group sessions like this should be encouraged and promoted by any business among its employees because it has a comforting double-effect: 1. It gives each individual a clearer perspective on who they are, what they want and what they need, which makes them more productive and determined in their work. 2. It’s great team-bonding!
Yannick: The workshop was insanely helpful. It showed once again that we’re all human beings with different problems and different visions and it made me understand even better how my team-mates are operating. Everyone opening up about themselves was really interesting and also helpful. You are only as good as your team and if you know your team by heart you can operate even better.
Jasmin: Mental health is a very important topic, especially in the workplace, that sadly still often gets overlooked or is seen as taboo. This workshop has helped me to not only reflect on myself and my mental health but to also accept it and that it’s okay to not always be okay. Making myself vulnerable felt scary but also somewhat liberating. The workshop has brought our team even closer together than we already were, helping us to work more effectively in the future since we now understand each other better.
Felix: Communication is the most important part of a well functioning team. Through workshops like this, you get to know each other on a completely new level. Knowing each other not only from a work-perspective but also from a personal point of view helps to improve communication and boosts the team spirit. It increases the level of productivity by 120%. I am so lucky to have this team!