Co-creation of an empathetic culture at Air New Zealand
by Jakub Jurkiewicz, Agile Coach
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.
Here's the feedback I received after running recent Emotional Culture Workshops across Air New Zealand. I hope it shows you how powerful a 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."
Stronger team culture
Empowered to support positive change across teams and leaders, recently we used the Emotional Culture Deck to focus on co-creation of empathetic team cultures at Air New Zealand.
Beyond individuals, teams, and leaders came the opportunity of larger culture change across a cohort of 60 people.
How do you allow people to look into the future and imagine how the culture could look like?
With this question in mind, the group decided to build the vision of the future they wanted to create together. The Emotional Culture Deck was instrumental during the session, leading to strong ideation and experiments that carried back out into the ‘live’ workplace.
Workshops began with individual reflection on emotions, then came together as groups. Some deep thoughts and experiences were shared, 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 were common.
"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."
- Air New Zealand team member
Team building with The Emotional Culture Deck
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 a 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.
The biggest learnings 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.
Download free PDF of The ECD
Check out the PDF of The Emotional Culture Deck before you invest in the cards or any of our courses that help you learn how to use the game
Enrol in our ECD Online Masterclass
Our ECD Online course will help you master the skills you need to run the same Emotional Culture workshops that Air New Zealand have run with their people.
Creating connected leaders
The Emotional Culture Deck is also being used for 1-on-1 sessions with leaders and managers. The deck enabled structured reflection on two key statements:
- Our success relies on our people feeling this…
- We absolutely don’t want our people to feel this…
Every leader then took away the Leadership Field Guide, a small canvas which comes with every Deck, to complete in their own time. This guide helps leaders reflect on their behaviours which support and hinder the emotional culture they want to create.
Smart organisations, especially those competing in global markets, know that empowering people to co-create their workplace culture is far more effective than exerting top-down control. The Emotional Culture Deck and supporting tools are designed to enable the conversations and reflection that help make this happen.