Getting to know your new team: Personal Maps

When I am requested by a client to start coaching a team, I always start with some one on one conversations with each team member. The first conversation will usually be a bit difficult, and not go into what you would really like to know about this person. These first conversations tend to be about fear for the unknown, and a lot of thirst to have detailes cleared out that usually aren't clear yet. By the second conversation people usually are more at ease, the situation gets less uncomfortable. That's when you can actually gather a lot of information by simply listening to what the other person is saying, how they're saying it and what strikes you as important. As a coach it's extremely important to know what's going on on the workfloor as well as what's on your team member's minds. Optimising your distance to people gets you to better results as mutual awareness and personal drivers get more clear.

The concept of optimizing your distance to people has been documented through various management practices, including Genchi Genbutsu and Management by Walking Around. Here I would like to show you an example of Personal Maps, a technique I used intensively when I started coaching the first team at a large client, where I was warned getting close to the team would not be a walk in the park.

In this example we see Laurence. Around Laurence I indicated the parts in her life I wanted more information on in order to get to know her better: home, education, work, hobbies, family, friends, goals, and values. During our conversations I asked a few questions about these elements in her life, or allowed the conversation to linger a bit longer on personal matters than it usually would in initial interviews.

Further down the road, this information allows me as a coach to put certain reactions towards situations and questions in a different perspective. Interesting information about commitment, times of extra stress (the children's exam period for example) can impact the behaviour and accomplishments at work. The understanding of where this is coming from helps me to guide them through the more difficult parts, grow understanding within the team to have some patience, and help everyone along in feeling as good as possible in the workplace. 

Because after all, we spend half of our day at work, it's nice to find some understanding there.

Personal Maps are part of the Management 3.0 management workouts.