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Company Traditions: Make a “Compass”

Like any community, there are various way to contribute and succeed at a company — some enjoy telling stories, others prefer to just cheer on.

Zach Klein
Jan 29, 2016 · 3 min read

My company has about 20 employees divided neatly into two teams. Generally, we’re all self-motivated and strive to know our responsibilities and tackle our to-do’s our own way. But, already at this size my co-workers and I have developed various rhythms of productivity. We use the office differently. Some of us start early, some end late. Some prefer to sit in chatty pods, other seek dimly lit corners of sensory deprivation. I observe that often we seem isolated from each other even though we’re sitting in rows and ever-connected via Slack.

I strive to help my team to find their own way to Flow, but I admit I’m needy about spending time with them in the office away from our desks. I often find myself thinking about how I’ve organized my life so I can live in an interesting city and go to a space filled with interesting people, and what a privilege it is to be surrounded by them.

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As a small way to stay connected, I started a tradition called Compass. Every Thursday afternoon, someone sends a Slack message linking to a blank Google Slides document. The idea is that over the next 24 hours, some of us will add a couple of slides and together we build a deck to update everyone on our work and our interests outside the office. Everyone is encouraged to contribute, but most importantly no one is required. That’s essential to sustaining it. Like any community, there are various way to contribute and succeed at a company — some enjoy telling stories, others prefer to just cheer on.

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Every Friday morning I go shopping for breakfast and promptly at 10am we kick off the presentation over bagels, lox, berries and coffee. We take turn emceeing; The first slide is always a random picture of a compass made by our community and the following slides constitute a variety show of letters we’ve received from parents, challenging support issues, invitations to join afterwork learning workshops hosted in the front of the office, and moments of celebration in our professional and personal lives.

Unlike some other things I’ve tried, like daily all-hands, this one has really stuck — and it energizes whereas most meetings often drain. We’ve been doing this for about 60 weeks with a few exceptions. I look forward to it every Friday: assembling a meal, laughing, telling stories, cheering each other on — together. Sometimes we invite visitors to join us during Compass, it’s a perfect moment to understand who we are.

I’m interested to see other teams try it and share stories of your attempts. Maybe there are certain slides you always include in your deck? Maybe you had a hard time getting someone to participate, but found a way to inspire them? I’d love to know.

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