Personal Maps: Improving team collaboration

- Practices & Exercises

Hands-on Management 3.0 leadership workshops focus on tangible practices to help managers, team leaders, middle management, and C-level executives increase employee engagement and foster transformational change within their organizations.

by Louise Brace

How well do you know your work colleagues? Their hobbies, ambitions or personal background? Forming closer connections with your team members, leads to improved team collaboration. You’ll learn what fires their ambition and keeps them motivated. 

As a manager, you can sometimes feel disconnected with the pulse of your team. So how do you get closer? One way is to move out of your closed office, into the team environment. Or move your chair or desk closer to your colleagues. You could walk around and talk to your team members on a regular basis. Ask about them, rather than just discussing work topics. Asking the right questions, will give you an insight into what makes them tick.

Remote teams can’t move their desks closer

Our Management 3.0 team works completely remotely. Our eight-strong team is distributed across seven different countries, two continents. So there’s not a lot of chance for us to meet up in the real world and we can’t move our desks closer (although we can get closer to our screens – not quite the same)!

Our situation isn’t unique, with over 13 million flexible, home-based workers and the figure growing every year. Now more than ever, it’s essential to learn ways of bringing your team closer together.
And as we identified, even if you do work in the same office, day in, day out, how well do you really know your work colleagues?

Personal Maps connect teams

During the interview process for my new role, I was asked to create a personal map that sketched out a visual of my personal world, career skills, ambitions, values, goals and hobbies.

Each team member, was asked to create their map and at our first virtual coffee meeting, rather than present our own maps, we presented those of our colleagues. Then everyone got a chance to ask a question and probe a bit deeper.

This was my personal map in January 2015

Personal Maps improve team collaboration

What did I learn from the Personal Maps exercise?

I learnt that Sergey Kotlov loves board games, that Hannu is location independent, working from wherever takes his fancy; I also learnt that Jennifer Riggins has a Political Science degree and that Lisette Sutherland used to have pink hair. Yes, I learnt quite a lot about my work colleagues, colleagues that I will surely not see face-to-face very often. And the exercise took just 90 minutes. In 90 minutes, I felt closer to a team, that I had only just ‘virtually’ met.

We can sit next to a colleague for years and never actually know too much about them. We pick up signals from them: if they are happy, stressed or feeling motivated. But how well can we relate and react to those signals, if we don’t learn about the person who is sending them.

Conversation topics

Similarly, decent conversation topics, can be few and far between. Daily chit chat tends not to get past the weather, the project we’re working on, an annoying boss, or Kim Kardashian’s butt at last night’s award ceremony.
Through our Personal Maps exercise I learnt that I share values and ambitions with some of my team members, giving us mutual interests to converse on and personal projects we can help each other on, such as writing a book, or recommending a good Spanish wine (that’s my hobby 🙂

Map out your own ambition

Mapping out your personal and career ambitions is also a great way to take a step closer to the goals you are striving to achieve. Making them feel within reach. You can revisit them regularly, to check on your progress and reevaluate your goals, based on your current situation.
Find out more about Personal Maps on Management 3.0 and during a Workshop:

Search for Workshops


2 thoughts on "Personal Maps: Improving team collaboration"

  • Ashley Russell says:

    How did you have people create their mind maps remotely? Was there a collaborative tool that you used virtually or did everyone create theirs on pen and paper and share it with a colleague to present?

  • Louise Brace says:

    Hi Ashley,
    We all used different tools to create our maps. The one you see above I made in Snagit. Some team members used good old fashioned paper and pen, others used Powerpoint. There was no single specific tool used, whatever we had to hand!

Comments are closed.

Have you already read these?