The ENTIRE Daymaker team finally got together in-person for the first time ever at the end of January for full days of team bonding, visioning, and strategizing. Each of these activities translated into mutual vulnerability, cooperative play, and intimate storytelling.
Originally, the agenda for the week was largely centered on strategic goal setting for 2022, establishing team work norms and guiding principles, as well as a workshop series organized around internal Daymaker functions. However, once we began the conversation about core values and guiding principles, it quickly became apparent to all six members that collectively building a work culture that is safe, amenable, and productive for each of us — and those who will join us — requires dedicated time and attention.
With this awareness in front of us, we agreed to reorganize the agenda for the week. Once we identified our core values, we then proceeded to work norms by first asking ourselves: What has been true of the best teams we have worked on? What, on this list, is not present on our team? As we listed, explained, questioned, and debated, we began to notice critical gaps in our communication and systems. Consequently, we approached questions of trust.
In her book, Push Out, Monique Morris explains that safety cannot preexist within a space; safety cannot exist simply because someone says it does or because the people in the room have meaningful intentions. Safety must be co-constructed by each person in the space having a shared understanding of what it means to feel safe. Safety must be understood in relation to respect. Respect is cultural, contextual, interpersonal, and ideological.
As a team, we first had to establish a common ground on which we could see and hear each other. This effort towards creating a safe space for everyone was largely grounded in storytelling-based play activities in the morning, and spontaneous play breaks in the afternoon. We needed to share and exchange something in order to begin that aforementioned co-construction. We all had to be equally invested. Play involves sharing stories, laughter, and cooperation.
In an interview with Ibram Kendi, Brené Brown unequivocally states that “the greatest gift we can give to a child is the ability to have difficult conversations.” The only way we make this gift possible, as adults, is by regularly engaging in difficult conversations ourselves. Only then, can we be equipped to model and practice these dialogues responsibly for and with our children.
The list of topics that classify as “difficult” is both relative and diverse. However, if we are attuned and honest about the tensions that arise in our bodies, we know when a subject merits unpacking with radical candor. This type of personal and communal engagement necessitates practice. And, as a team, we practiced.
The next two days, we expressed and grappled with the challenges we faced as individuals, as teammates, as an organization in the fall of 2021. This type of candid sharing and direct address enabled us to see each other more fully. From here, we committed to responding to each of these gaps by documenting working norms to which we all agreed. Some of these norms include opening every internal meeting with a moment of play, being a metrics driven organization, and documenting every aspect of our operations. We also documented what success looks like for each norm.
Truthfully, we are eager to begin routinely applying these norms, holding each other accountable where necessary, and celebrating our successes as often as possible. As we move forward into our 2022 and prepare to execute our work norms and bring our vision for the year into fruition, we are striving toward a cultural shift in our work places, and this shift begins with healthier working relationships within our own company.