A startup in the Fintech space asked for help from Catalyst Thinking Partners to prepare for their future and the implementation of their product. Their journey had started nearly two years earlier and they were working well as a team of six spread across three countries, including a mix of business specialists and software developers. It was felt that at this stage it would be prudent to seek an outside view of them as a team, from a functional or people point of view.
Working with the start-up’s founder, we identified options that could best serve the team, such as facilitation of a workshop and through individual and team coaching. Each option and service could also be linked together in a cohesive manner.
The initial stage was observing, joining weekly team meetings as a guest. Consent had been sought from each attendee in advance and they were fully behind using a thinking partner to observe and comment on their interactions. Working together, we gained insights into the maturity of the relationships, the flow of communication and the balance of technical versus human challenges. We saw that project management and technical processes were functioning smoothly.
These learnings provided insight that informed stage 2, a virtual workshop to focus attention on the implicit connections and communications within the team; and leave to one side the task-based business activities. The main objectives were to discuss the purpose and meaning of the work, develop alignment in the team and improve understanding of each other. This experience would be quite different to their normal meetings and day to day work from home.
The first area of focus was to look at their ‘Identity as a Group’ by asking questions on, ‘who does your work serve?’, ‘what is the purpose of your work as individuals and as a team?’ Also, a specific question on ‘which key words define your values?’
The second area of focus was on ‘Relationships and Communications’. How were they communicating, and do they want to be hierarchical or flat in structure for the future? A main batch of time was given to discussing; ‘how did they want to ‘feel’ at work and what emotions did they want to avoid?’ It was crucial that the thinking partner be facilitative and that the leaders in the team behaved as role-models in these exercises to help develop the emotional culture that they wanted to create.
The workshop exercises with the company were completed in less than two hours, but they could have easily have taken more time. Succinct and useful information was generated and summarised in a report. Follow up actions on specified areas and services could then be considered for a future Part 3.
Working with their thinking partner helped the start-up team to gain:
Clarity – of the purpose, meaning and values for the team members. Taking time-out on this virtual workshop freed the team to think about why they were doing the work. The motivations and values in relation to their work were stated aloud, noted, and understood. In times of future challenge or hardship, they would now be able to lean on their shared values and provide some clearer direction to decision-making. Clarity was also gained on the feelings and emotions that were important to each of them. Individuals were encouraged to express how they wanted to feel in relation to their work. This required a high level of trust, openness, and humility. Understanding each person’s needs in this respect will help clarify communication and alignment in their business.
Confidence – time and space were given to each team member to gather their thoughts, to respond with their opinions and feelings. Everyone was encouraged, respected, and was heard. The leader gained further confidence in the team and direction of the work. Expressing emotion in relation to their work helped to generate the emotional culture they want to cultivate. Sharing the very real feelings led to more confidence within the team.
Commitment – the team had shown huge commitment to the start-up endeavour and to each other. This workshop provided a project retrospective and showed just how far they had progressed. It truly helped to solidify their foundations by helping them to develop, understand, and share the purpose and meaning of their work.
Subsequent feedback revealed that a real ‘moment’ had occurred amongst the team during the workshop. It was a first for them to talk as a unit about the meaning and purpose of their work. The participants generated all the content and outputs of the workshop – the team were genuinely ‘catalysed’ by the thinking partner process and they are now taking this released energy forward into their future.