Ok, that’s it, I’ll try it out! For several years I’ve been seeing colleagues and people on Twitter write weeknotes, and I’ve finally reached a point at which I feel like I should do it and I have sufficient motivation and courage to do it.
Something happened this week, which brought it home to me how journaling can help you.
Last Thursday evening, I was in a good mood and I couldn’t understand why. My week had been pretty standard, nothing special to see here. To give you some context, I generally finish work feeling mentally exhausted. I can’t even read a book about work, an article or even podcast in the evening. I find them just too triggering. (working from home clearly isn’t the panacea).
But not on Thursday. I went back to my laptop and read stuff about digital employee experiences.
What was going on? I couldn’t explain it, but I enjoyed it.
On Friday, I was too intrigued. I needed to understand what had created that positive feeling, and how I could make it happen again! So I wrote down what had happened that afternoon (I boiled my feelings down to the events of the afternoon, as I had a quasi-breakdown over Jira in the morning. There were tears. I think we’ve all been there).
In the afternoon, I had 6 meetings, all back-to-back with different sets of people. I don’t want to go into details about the meetings ( as it’s probably quite boring for you, and the not-so-boring bits are probably the ones I can’t write about publicly). Overall, I met with
- a team we previously had a strong disagreement with
- the product team to discuss a feature improvement
- another team and the leads to discuss the collaboration with a supplier
- a team with whom collaboration has been tense in the past
- our design lead
While I expected some of those meetings to be quite easy (my one-to-one and the product team chat), that wasn’t the case for all of them as you might imagine.
So what was it about the meetings that had made me feel so energised?
I could rule a couple of things out: It wasn’t about the specific people, as I saw a few people twice during the afternoon but always in a different configuration. No meeting resembled another one. I also hadn’t done anything special at lunch time, or had got particularly good news.
Once I had written down in more detail what the meetings were about, I could finally see what the common factor was: the level of trust was high. By that I don’t simply mean for me personally, but in general for the whole room. It’s rather difficult to describe and you might think this is quite subjective. I understand. However, I also noticed the absence of markers that have been quite common in our meetings:
- people stay quiet and later tell you they’ve been annoyed by something that was said in a meeting
- Tumbleweed moment when walking through a plan (nobody has anything to add, or just one person says that the plan sound good)
- People taking a sharp or accusatory tone
- Rehashing of things that had gone wrong in the past
- Blaming something we can’t change for our problems
None of these happened, but what did happen was that people:
- cracked jokes
- shared how they felt
- challenged what others were saying with empathy
- asked thought-through questions
- took responsibility over things that happened
- recognised that others did the best they could
This day was different.
I think what amazed me is how much this change affected me personally. Clearly the lack of trust and psychological safety in some of our meetings and collaborations has really been wearing me down. Despite most of my interactions with my colleagues being actually really positive, the few meetings that are more difficult (and some weeks there have been more than a few) clearly really affect me.
I don’t know whether that’s particularly the case for me. I suspect that most people will have somewhat similar reactions to me, though maybe stronger, maybe much more fleeting.
Next week, I’ll start tracking where I feel high or low levels of trust. I hope that’ll give me some indication as to where we can make things better.
Also, it was really clear that it is much easier and faster to get things done when we do trust each other and can challenge each other with empathy.
When trust isn’t there, I’m not sure why we bother trying to get things done. We should figure out how to work together first, even if it’s hard. If we don’t do it, the value we’ll be able to deliver will be negligible compared to the effort it’ll take to get something done, and the emotional strain of disagreements further down the line.