Building empathy into teams at Air New Zealand by Jakub Jurkiewicz
Written by Jakub Jurkiewicz, Agile Coach, Air New Zealand
In October 2018 we had a pleasure to host Jeremy Dean, from riders&elephants, at our Auckland Agile Coaching meetup. Jeremy gave us a taste of his Emotional Culture Deck, a set of cards that help with co-creation of emotional culture in teams and organisations. Since that moment I have become a big fan of the Deck and I’ve been using it almost every week in the last 3–4 months. There are multiple ways how to use the Deck, one of them being with teams, creating a space for them to discuss how they need to feel at work to be successful and how they don’t want to feel.
Before we move on to the details about the workshops and how the Deck can be used, here is feedback I received after running the workshops. I hope it shows you how powerful tool it can be.
"At our away day Jakub introduced some new ways of thinking about how we can improve our team behaviours to better support us all as individuals and move the dial on needs that we all share. This was done in a way that everyone felt at ease in contributing to. I think everyone came away from that day feeling better connected and more in tune with everyone else in the team. This has never happened to such a great degree before."
"I have never felt so close to my team mates. Suddenly we were able to have time to reflect on our emotions but also we could build empathy for each other. Can’t wait to see how it would impact our day to day interactions as a team."
How did we get there? Every workshop I’ve run so far was a bit different, their design depended on team’s needs, their expectations and the time we could spend together. However, most of the principles and activities were very similar.
We would start with individual reflection on the emotions we want to feel to be successful at work. After about 10 minutes, we would spend some time sharing our top 5 emotions. At this stage you can almost feel how the energy and empathy in the room go up. It is hard to explain what exactly happens but somehow people seem to be attentive and actively listening with the focus on empathy and understanding. Next stage was to reflect on the emotions we definitely don’t want to feel at work. First, individual work to choose top 5 emotions. Later, sharing with the whole group. It was important at this stage to recognise that it can be hard and uneasy to share these emotions. Good facilitation is needed here to build safe environment and make sure no one is forced to share more than they want to. Some really deep emotions, thoughts and experiences are shared in this phase, often not only about work but also about private life and how some of our home emotions are brought to work and vice versa. Long moments of silence, reflection and looks full of understanding are common in this part of the workshop.
Usually this is where I finish the first workshop. It takes about an hour, sometimes a bit more, depending on the team size and how much they want to share. At the end of the workshop we would agree to have a follow up workshop where we would move from the individual emotions to team’s emotional culture.
In the next posts I’ll share my other experiences with the Deck. Stay tuned!
Biggest learning from these workshops? I very often underestimate my teams. I tend to talk myself out of doing new things. I tell myself that my teams would not like it, they would not share their emotions, they would be bored and they would think that I was crazy. However, almost every time, and the workshops with ECD where the perfect example, I got surprised by the teams and together we can discover something new and exciting.
You may ask why I am sharing this with you? Well, I had a pleasure to be invited to the Emotional Culture Deck Certified Facilitator Programme. The aim of the Programme is to use the Deck, help teams build their emotional culture, make mistakes, achieve some wins and share my learnings. At the end of it, I hope to become a Certified Emotional Culture Deck Facilitator, or how Jeremy likes to call it, a Pro Elephant Rider.
Post written by Jakub Jurkiewicz
Jakub tries to change the world by applying Agile principles at work and drinking wine at home.