Category Archives: Work

How to Facilitate a Team Safety Check

Loot Crate Team Safety Check Cards

Note: This is the first post in a series of posts about the importance of safety for highly functioning collaborative work spaces. Future posts will include The Evolution of Team Safety Checks, How to Build up Safety at Any Level at an OrganizationHow to Collect Anonymous Qualitative Feedback and Efforts to Boost Safety LevelsLet’s get started with this one…

The Team Safety Check is the fastest way I know of to gather valuable insights about team safety levels. Teams familiar with the exercise get tangible results in less than 60 seconds! I’m not kidding. Easy to facilitate and low cost, it is both fun for the team members to participate in and creates awareness. That’s why use it – a lot.

Before I continue, I would like to mention I was heavily inspired by Steven M. Smith’s blog post “Safety Check”.

What is it?

  • An awareness exercise only.
  • quantitative measure to gauge feelings of safety amongst the team members.
  • An anonymous exercise where people feel safe to participate without being exposed.
  • A feedback loop for the agile coach, scrum master, manager or team lead to get valuable insights without using authoritative behavior.

What it’s NOT!

  • Not a facilitation to create insights about why (qualitative data) people do or do not feel safe within their team space.
  • Not a format to discuss and handle feedback from the participants.
  • Not a space where to resolve existing issues regarding team safety.

Facilitator’s Preparation – What’s Needed?

  • Team members as the participants
  • Team Safety Check Cards to collect a data set playfully
  • A Team Safety Tracker to monitor results over time

Step One – Setting the Stage

Regardless if this is the first time facilitating a Team Safety Check or if the routine has already been established, it’s important to set the stage properly. Precisely because this is an exercise to measure the levels of safety for every team member, it is VERY important that each team member trusts the facilitator and how they handle the exercise. The facilitator must be flawless in the execution to keep the integrity of anonymity alive. Though demonstrating how everyone’s trust is valued the participants will provide more accurate data in return.

First and Foremost, This is About Awareness
The facilitator must deliver two core messages to the participants:

  1. The Team Safety Check is an awareness exercise and only that. Nobody is obligated to make comments once the results are revealed.
  2. The exercise is done anonymously so that everyone’s feedback will be honest and genuine.

Step two – Setting up the Game

Every team member gets a set of cards. Each set of cards is numbered 1 through 5. The participants hold the cards up as if they are playing a card game – well, they are. The facilitator explains what each number represents according to the following criteria:

  • 5 – Everything is discussable without filtering.
  • 4 – Almost everything is discussable without filtering.
  • 3 – Most things are discussable without filtering.
  • 2 – Almost nothing is discussable without filtering.
  • 1 – Nothing is discussable without filtering.

Filtering refers to modification of the original ‘raw’ thought, idea or message before saying it in front of the one’s team members. The more comfortable people are with conveying their unfiltered thoughts, the safer they feel with the team space.

Once the facilitator confirms that everyone understands what each card represents, there is only one question to ask the team members:

“How Safe Do You Feel With the Team Space?”

The Team Space is the space team members create together. It’s the combination of the physical space and the psychological space.

Once clarity of the card values is confirmed and the question to answer is understood, it’s time to play.

Step Three – Playing the Team Safety Check

The participants choose the card they want to ‘play’ and slide it up-side-down toward the center of the table – remember the point is anonymity.  All played cards are briefly shuffled so nobody can trace a specific card to any one person. All cards played are then flipped over to reveal the numbers.

Results of Playing Team Safety Check

Step Four – Tracking the Results

The following data should be gathered and tracked over time.

  • Date
  • Team name
  • Histogram: Counts per value played
    • e.g. 3×5, 2×4, 1×3, 0x2, 0x1
  • Team average
    • e.g. (3×5+2×4+1×3+0x2+0x2)/6 cards played =
    • (15+8+3+0+0)/6 = 26/6 = 4.3
  • Caveats to the results
    • Any missing team members  (sick, vacation, etc.)
    • Any new team members joined the team

One of the simplest methods to track these values over time is through use of a basic spreadsheet. Additionally, it’s helpful to create a line graph to visualize progress over time. By showing the graph to the team members openness and transparency is fostered about what happens with the data. That is another small step to increase safety within the team space.

That’s it for the facilitation itself. Once the values have been revealed and results tracked the exercise is over. Quick and simple.

Interpreting the Results

The question will come up how to interpret the results. I’ll write up a separate post to extend on this question, but here are some quick insights what I have noticed.

Team Averages

  • If the team average is between 4.0 and 5.0 there is no need for any action – the team space leans towards being safe.
  • If the team average is in the 3’s or lower, the team space is not safe enough to be a highly effective team. The facilitator should initialize a qualitative measure exercise to understand what is going on. The results from that exercise provide insights into specific actions to take. (Separate post on that coming…)


Sometimes an outlier is revealed. Let’s say the team average is above 4.0, where most people played 5’s and 4’s, but one card with a low value was played, like a 1 or a 2. That means, while the team average is high and the team’s level of safety is healthy overall, one person is an outlier and does not feel safe with the team space. The team as a whole it not reaching their highest levels of performance.

This is a great opportunity to offer 1:1 time with the person who threw in the low value. But it should be at the discretion of that person. It’s important to offer a space to talk privately and when that person is ready for it – not to demand it. Especially not immediately. Should that person not feel safe with the facilitator, then offer time with an independent trustworthy person (e.g. independent agile coach or people operations representative). A trained and skilled coach should be able to handle these situations well.

That’s it for this post. I hope this makes sense. Let me know, if something wasn’t.

Finding your life purpose


Many people feel they live their lives without a purpose. I have coached those who feel they are wandering through life, with no direction or intention. Some people have always known what they wanted to do in life, and are intentionally living it every day – they have purpose. Some people discover their purpose later in life, after having lived a life of what they thought they SHOULD do, rather than what they CHOSE to do. Usually, some major life change forces them to re-evaluate and make changes so they can be happier.

If you asked people, “What do you think life purpose means,” you would get as many answers as people polled. That’s because it means different things to different people, and there are many factors that are taken into consideration when determining life purpose: values, culture, background, education, location, and so on.

The way I help clients find their life purpose is through an analysis of four components of their lives: Passion, Mission, Vocation and Profession. Here are brief definitions of each:

• Passion: Is that which you love. The thing that sets your soul on fire. Something you think about constantly, and when apart from it, you count the minutes until you are with it again. The object of your passion could be a person, a job, a place, a food, a pet or a combination of all. When you are passionate about something, you can’t stop talking about it, or trying to learn more about it.
• Mission: Is that which the world needs, and you are going to provide it for the world. Your mission, like your passion, drives you. But rather than coming from an internal place, a mission is usually doing something for someone other than yourself.
• Vocation: Something that you can be paid for, usually your job. Your vocation is what gets you up each day and sends you off to work so that you can support yourself and your family. Some people are more attached to their vocation than others.
• Profession: Is that which you are good at, and is closely aligned with vocation. You can call yourself a professional when you have reached a certain level of expertise in your job.

When these four components all intersect, you have arrived at your life purpose, for example:
“Life purpose is when you have found something for which you get paid, and which you have a high level of expertise in that fires you up and inspires you every day to improve. Not only does your life purpose provide comfort for yourself, it also does good for others.”

Here is a story about someone in search of her life purpose:

Vanessa is a 50 year old woman who is at a crossroads in her life. She has had a varied career in education, corporate management and was even a small business owner. Her 50th birthday found her in a reflective mood, wondering if she had wasted half her life. She didn’t feel excited about what she was doing, and was seriously thinking about making a career change, but was worried she may not find a job that paid as well as her current position.

Vanessa decided to hire a coach to help her with this life decision. Her coach quickly zeroed in on four major components of Vanessa’s life: her passion, mission, vocation and profession.

What was Vanessa passionate about? In all her jobs, the one common thread was helping people improve their lives. When she would hear about someone she had worked with whose life was improving, it was like a weight lifted from her shoulders and she was happy for the rest of the day.

Her coach then asked her about her mission. What did she want to do to enhance her world and the world around her? Vanessa was always interested in bringing quality education to those less fortunate. She felt very strongly that there were inequalities in the education system, but was always pulled to jobs that paid very well, and what she was thinking about just didn’t pay like that.

What was Vanessa’s vocation – what did she do for a living? Currently, Vanessa was a vice president with a for-profit educational services company. It was a great living, although the hours were long, the pressures high and she just didn’t feel fulfilled at the end of the day.

Finally, her coach asked her about her expertise – what was Vanessa highly qualified to do? With a Master’s degree in Business Management and Marketing, Vanessa felt she could meet or exceed the performance of most people in her industry.

Over the course of several coaching sessions, Vanessa and her coach arrived at her life purpose. Not surprisingly, it would require Vanessa to leave her current position and do something completely outside her comfort zone…Vanessa was going to start her own company! The idea started to take shape over the months Vanessa and her coach worked together. The new business would be I the education world, but would also include elements of the non-profit world and focus on delivering services to children in low-income families. Programs and services they would not have access to in their public schools. Through her connections that she built through years in the corporate world, Vanessa would raise the initial seed money to purchase the technology and hire a software developer to create the program she had in mind. Vanessa was so excited, that the ideas were flowing like lava and her enthusiasm was contagious. Soon, she had hired two interns from a local graduate school to help her with the millions of things she needed to do to get the company off the ground.

Vanessa was working harder than ever, but amazingly, she didn’t feel tired. She couldn’t wait to wake each morning and get started again. She had finally found her life’s purpose!

To find your life purpose, complete the following activity:

Step 1: Think about each of the following four questions, and answer them with some detail.
1. What is your passion? What is it that you love to do and want to learn more about?
2. What is your mission? What is it that you are interested in that the world needs?
3. What is your vocation? What do you do that you are paid for?
4. What is your profession? What do you do that you are very good at?

Step 2:
Look for any synergy between your passion, mission, vocation and profession. You may have to think about it for a bit – the answer may not be obvious at first. This is where regular coaching can really help.

Step 3:
The intersection of the four components is your life purpose.


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8 Core Company Values of HomeHero

I came across HomeHero‘s core company values recently.

  1. “Focus on long-term success.”
  2. “Fearlessly contribute new ideas.”
  3. “Have higher expectations for yourself than others do for you.”
  4. “Focus on building real value over perceived value.”
  5. “Challenge yourself to do the hard thing.”
  6. “Treat every problem as an opportunity.”
  7. “Promote and protect our brand.”
  8. “Default to transparency.”