People should get closer to the work of others in order to better understand what is going on. They can do this by moving their feet, moving their desk, or moving their mike. Decreasing the distance between yourself and others helps to increase communication and creativity. A great exercise for a better understanding of people is to capture what you know about them in personal maps.
A personal map is basically the output of a mind mapping exercise. Mind mapping is a simple but powerful technique that allows anyone who can hold a pen to visualize the relationships between concepts. By creating a personal map of a colleague, you make an effort to better understand that person.
You might be surprised how much people appreciate a genuine interest in their backgrounds, their needs, and their desires. You might be surprised about the diversity in your team…Here’s how you can start right now:
- Grab a sheet of paper, and write the name of one of your team members. (If you’re unsure who to pick first, practice first with your own name…)
- Write the words home, education, work, hobbies, family, friends, goals, and values around the name, and connect those words with the name in the middle.
- Now, work toward the outer edge of the paper, writing words, names and concepts that you are able to recall about this person, and connect them to the words you had already written.
- Evaluate the mind map you have just created, and recognize where you have empty areas. Decide what would be the best approach to improving communication with this person and filling in the blank spots on your map.
- Do the same with other people. Think about how you can use different approaches with different people in order to enjoy optimal face-time with all of them.
If you’d like to start this exercise with your own team, you might want to add a few steps:
- Pair people, let them chose a colleague or randomly split the team (alphabetical for example).
- Let each run the above exercise with their ‘co-pilot’.
- In a team meeting, have each person give a personal map overview of the peer they were paired with.
- Talk about similarities and differences between people in the meeting.
- Try to work out a team map showing what the team finds their most important similarities and differences.
That last one can become a great starting point for (re)presenting the team in the broader organization. However it will become a shared achievement, the result of an exercise where people have shared themselves and created a better understanding of each team member and the team as a whole. And likely you’ll have some fun along the way…