Personal maps – Management 3.0

Are you all professional at work? No chit chat, no small talk, not sharing private stuff? Well, you’re not the only one. In most projects and environments I’ve worked, there’s not much sharing of private stuff; and the most “coffee talk” I hear is about work-related topics. Then again, I do ask how was my colleague’s weekend, and if anything special happened?

Frankly, do you know your colleagues, your teammates?

Are they married, do they have children, where do they live? That are the obvious questions. People’s behavior at work is very much influenced by their emotional state, their emotional well-being. It might be good to know something more about your colleague – even if you’re not the chatty type of person. A colleague’s behavior might influence the teamwork; and as a colleague you should know in all cases what could be the cause. Connecting with colleagues on an emotional level, ‘team’ bonding, being able to talk about something relevant – besides the job is important.

Moreover, working remotely should not be a barrier for connecting with your colleagues.

So, how can I know something more about my colleague, my team member, even my manager? Even when they are not physically next to me?

Try personal maps.

Personal maps are a way to note down and to visualize some information about a person. You can create personal maps of your colleagues for your own reference – or in a more transparent way: have an exercise in which each person is creating his own personal map. A personal map is like a mind map with info about that person.

Management is 5 % instruction (what you do) and 95 % communication (what your team needs.)

In a group, you can do the exercise as following:

  • Explain the purpose and how to create a personal map
  • Allow a time-slot (not too long, not too short: 10 minutes is fine) – instruct to write clearly and briefly – and people might get as creative as they can in creating a personal map!
  • Put all the personal maps on the wall
  • Let each person take a personal map (but not his own!) (*) and introduce that person – continue till each personal map has been presented

(*) otherwise a person might talk forever about himself 🙂

Keep in mind that these personal maps are not a one-time exercise, these evolve as life continues! Iterate personals maps on regular times.

personal maps

Personal maps are an excellent tool to get to know remote team members. When working with a remote team, each person presents his own personal map – or … apply the same technique: collect all personal maps and each team member can present the personal map of a colleague! Be creative in organizing this.

Good teams don’t need physical closeness, they need mental closeness.

Personal maps example

Alternatively, as team member, as coach, as manager, you can create personal maps of your colleagues on a personal basis – in order to remember personal details.

Personal map example

Jurgen Appelo explaining personals maps (ACB 2016)

Why care?

Personal maps are a way to make emotional connections with your colleagues, your team members, your friends, your acquaintances. When you know something more about a person, and what’s important in his / her life – you can ask about it when relevant. You’ll see, that person will be surprised you were thinking about it – and he or she’ll appreciate (but may be not show that appreciation). Small talk is important. Humans are social beings: we crave connection.

Small talk is important. Humans are social beings: we crave connection. Get to know who your colleagues are.

I’ve used the exercise teams, also when new team members arrive. In workshops or training when you don’t know the people – it can be used as an ice-breaker. In retrospectives as a fun exercise in between. You’ll be surprised how little you know about people, and you’ll also be surprised to discover common interests! Go on and create some personal maps!


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