Inclusivity offsite: Self awareness and teamwork

By Jemma Davis | September 17, 2018

With every new joiner to a team, the team dynamic changes. In my experience, there are two types of joiner;

  1. Those who sit back and observe and plan their strategy, using what they’ve learned about people and processes in the business
  2. Those who hit the ground running, who already have an idea of what they want to implement and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Let’s call the first type the observer; while they may seem slower to nudge the needle and make changes, their decisions are informed, strategic, and considerate to others.

The second are pioneers, using their experience to make a difference quickly, to overcome barriers others may have faced for a while.

Although both have their merits, both can be perceived negatively by other team members, whilst neither being the wrong approach. Throughout my working life, I’ve heard (and have been guilty of saying), ‘They’ve been here a while, what have they done?’ or ‘They are like a bull in a china shop… reinventing the wheel’.

Regardless of the approach, I feel it’s important that managers are aware of friction between new starters and the rest of the team to ensure that team dynamics are not irreparably damaged, and that any negative thoughts about the unknown are eased as soon as possible.

Over the past four months, Group Security has expanded its leadership team.

Cue the first team building offsite (groan!)

During the planning of this session, I spent time listening to each of the leadership team. This wasn’t forced or structured, with some I went for a walk, or grabbed a coffee, and with others I spoke on the phone. What was apparent from these informal chats was that everyone was on the same page, with the same frustrations and blockers, but each was handling these on their own, and in their own way, unaware that everyone else was fighting the same battles as well. This made the planning very easy!

During these unplanned conversations, all told me about the elements of work that were impacting on their home life, and many had the same complaint. After speaking with HR, L&D and looking at our e-learning platform, I discovered a video that really got to me.

What would my card say?

This one made me think! I started to wonder what I’d write on my card and realised how many work/life concerns were already on the cards in the video.

Objective: become more aware of colleagues’ thoughts and feelings

While watching the video, the differing styles and personalities around the room started to show, some rolled their eyes and joked, while some got emotional. After watching, we each took it in turn to share what our card would say. The surprising element of the discussions was that everyone argued, positively, against each admission. For example, if someone said, ‘I feel guilty when I take time off for my kids’, no one in the room agreed that time off for kids had a detrimental impact on output.

Understanding the team

A few weeks ago, our Change Manager sent me a link to a blog ‘Understanding Your Team: Who’s Who in Your Hundred Acre Wood’. Reading this, I could recognise myself instantly, I’m Kanga, but was that how everyone sees me?

Objective: understand myself and how others perceive me

I took this blog and came up with the following exercise:

  1. Take a few minutes to read the character profiles in front of you
  2. Identify which character is most like you, write it down on a Post-it and don’t tell anyone, keep your Post-it safe, you’ll need it later
  3. Identify the profiles of the rest of the team
  4. Attach the Post-it to the sheet for that person
  5. Announce your character to the rest of the group and discuss.

I appreciate that psychometric evaluations exist already, but I wanted this session to be light-hearted and a team discussion. The first three team members were spot on, they had identified which Winnie-the-Pooh character was most like them, and the rest of the group agreed and nominated the same character. Excellent self-awareness! The remaining leadership team weren’t far off, but in some cases we were split, with two or three characters being voted for. This led into discussions around why the character had been selected for each person. All in all, no one was too surprised, and, in case you were wondering, I was voted as Kanga!

Putting people in boxes

Time to explore ‘putting people in boxes’, another nugget from my casual chats with the team. I’d had two very similar conversations, with two very different members of the team, and I wondered if they were both aware that they had the same thoughts and feelings, whilst being in very different ‘boxes’.

Objective: Awareness of shared concerns, regardless of differences

I discovered this video (see below) while scouring YouTube to find something that illustrated the point and I wondered if I have a box, I know that statistically I’d be placed in the ‘single mum’ box, or the ‘female’ box, but is that where I really belong? Did the rest of the team belong in the box we had subconsciously put them in? What were our common thoughts, feelings, and experiences?

The feedback loop

After discussing the above plans with the CISO, Dinis, he mentioned an exercise he’d done at an offsite, now this took me out of my comfort zone but let’s give it a go…

Objective: Understanding how others in the team view us, both positive and negative

Each took turns to receive feedback from their peers, sitting in a chair with their back to the room, the rest of the team gave feedback on;

  • The team is better with you because…
  • I wish you would…

I was dreading this section of the day, but in fact it was well received, and in the feedback review, it was noted as the best part of the session by the majority in attendance. And, what did I learn? That people thought more highly of me than I’d have thought and didn’t like it when I talked negatively about myself; in short, the team were very aware of why I behaved the way I did, my best kept secret!

Summoning the force

Now we were all very much more self-aware and aware of each other, it was time to cover teamwork.

Objective: Being part of a machine through teamwork

The next video took some digging. As I mentioned earlier, during my chats, many of the team were facing the same battle, but doing it alone. How could I display this to them all without breaking confidence? And then I found it, almost moments before we sat down, ‘Summoning the Force’. This was it, together we are a force, if we work as one.

During the video, the whole room erupted into chatter of what the video was getting to, and at the end, the realisation was apparent, we are stronger as a team!


Since the offsite, I’ve taken feedback from those who attended, and the consensus was: The session exceeded my expectations, was of benefit to me, and was thought provoking. And during the walk back to the office, many suggested content and themes for the next session.

If you’d like to understand more about yourself and your team, look at, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete and share the results with the rest of your team. By being more aware of your personality style, and others, we can work better together, summon the force and move forward as a team.

Jemma Davis, Acting Head of InfoSec

About us

Photobox Group is Europe’s leading digital consumer service for personalised products and gifts and parent of the Photobox, Moonpig, Hofmann and posterXXL brands.

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