What is the Unsteady Foundation Worksheet?
The unsteady foundation worksheet is a tool to help teams develop trust and psychological safety.
Ultimately, it’s often the problems that we don’t talk about that erode team performance over time. Just like a house built on a poor foundation, a team built without a proper and solid culture will overtime crumble.
Over time these “silent killers” cause attrition, under motivation and ultimately people who are unengaged and uninterested in contributing to your organization’s mission.
How do we use the Unsteady Foundation Worksheet?
The goal of this worksheet is to uncover the problems in your team’s cultural foundation. It does this through asking 4 focused questions that help people really think about what’s going on with the team today:
- What are you most worried about?
- What is everyone thinking but no one is saying?
- What is holding us back from achieving our goals?
- How could we discuss things more openly and honestly?
This worksheet is perfect for a team retreat, offsite strategic meeting or even a weekly or monthly standing meeting. The goal is to allow people an easy, frictionless way to identify sources of tension, cultural pain points and other hidden issues.
To use the Unsteady Foundation Worksheet with your team:
- Give each person a copy of this worksheet and explain to them the goal of this exercise and why it’s important to you. Make sure to be clear that the goal is for the team to identify hidden problems and to start solving them and that you want their honest input free of any retaliation or retribution.
- This exercise is best done silently. Give everyone 10 minutes to thoughtfully answer all four questions. If each participant is taking it seriously they should have several ideas or notes under each section.
- Ask someone brave to share their worksheet. Give this person free range to speak and resist the urge to override them or defend certain points they may have brought up. Give people a chance to respond and also see if others agree or disagree with the first person’s point of view.
- Go around the room and ask each person to share their worksheet while also allowing for conversation after each person.
- At the end of the sharing, identify the most common themes, issues or sources of tension that the team thinks are important.
- Once your theme’s are identified, give each person three votes and allow all of them to vote on their top 3 themes. You now have a prioritized list of issues to work on and can start to work on each one individually.
At the end of this activity you should have an excellent launching pad to start brainstorming potential solutions and having open and honest conversations. By asking the team to vote, you are also avoiding the problem of “boiling the issue” and creating a project plan by working systematically through each theme in order of importance.
Pro tips for facilitation
Often having the manager or leader of the group in the same room can backfire and cause people not to share fully. If you’re afraid this might be the case, we suggest you bring in an outside facilitator or have the worksheets be anonymous.
By definition, the unsteady foundation worksheet is uncomfortable for people. It’s asking them to step outside their comfort zone and take a small risk to bring up issues that no one wants to talk about. As a facilitator, you need to help disarm people of this feeling by setting a positive example for them. This can be done through pre-exercises, bringing some levity to the activity or even throwing out your own opinions first to get people started.
Remember the hardest part of any group discussion is the start. Try to find the person who is going to make other people feel comfortable in sharing and also gets the ball rolling.