Written by Nina Etienne

Organisational change isn't simple – as new teams form from old teams, new bonds, new ways of working and new processes come to life. New stories are written. It's complex. 

Focusing on team-building and growing trust within organisations (especially those newly formed) is critical not only to team health and well-being but – as Patrick Lencioni argues in his book "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team" – to business success.

"Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped."

That's why, on a rather cold but sunny week in April, SumUp's newly formed Global Brand and Marketing organisation came together in Berlin to build the foundations of their new team.

With team members visiting from across the globe – representing the 37 markets in which SumUp operates – we made an important step in our journey of building our team dynamic, reflecting on what’s important to us as a team and on who we as individuals with a variety of experiences, languages, knowledge, skills and ideas.  

We discussed not just what we want to do (awesome brand and marketing that puts the merchants at the heart of our stories) but, critically, how we want to do it – what type of culture, values, mission and purpose we have as a unique group of individuals, how we'll break down silos, and our commitments to foster collaboration.

What's more, we had fun, we learned, we grew, we laughed, we sang, we created, we met our merchants, we shared stories, and we felt challenged and inspired. And it's just the beginning of our journey.

What did we learn?

Trust is the foundation

To build strong and collaborative relationships, team members need to be honest, candid and vulnerable with each other. But for this to take place, trust is required. Back to Lencioni - he argues that the number 1 dysfunction of a team is the absence of trust. In any re-organisation process, trust can be broken and needs to be rebuilt – hence we talked a lot about building trust during our event. We (anonymously) surveyed how much trust we had, then broke out into teams and agreed on actions to create trust as a global team that works across different time zones, languages and cultural contexts. 

Take time together to talk

Output and results are important, but they're an outcome – only possible if you have an effective team that is built on trust, that can engage in (healthy) conflict and discussion, that is committed, that is clear on (and feels) accountable to the end goal*. So we used our offsite to discuss these topics – such as how comfortable we all feel with conflict. We did this through various group and individual conversations, sharing our stories and learning from each other, building psychological safety. We agreed to focus on collective outcomes over personal goals and egos – that we're stronger as a group than any one person. 

Set a safe space for learning

Nobody knows everything. We used our offsite to learn from each other, with different leaders and team members showcasing their work and answering open questions on any topic via "speed dating” booths. 

Have fun beyond work topics

Telling someone "you can trust me" is important but, unfortunately, doesn't magically build trust – this has to be earned over time. Hence at our offsite, we organised moments where we could open up as humans, discuss non-work topics, be vulnerable and show who we are, and test whether singing in front of each other can help break down hierarchies and build trust! As such, our event included a boat adventure, impromptu karaoke, a rooftop BBQ (with members of the team DJing), Berlin walking tours, a wellness moment hosted by one of our wonderful merchants, yoga hosted by a team member, and intentionally scheduled "downtime". This was time for us to dis-engage from work, be ourselves and talk about who we are as individuals beyond any title or role profile. 

Make sure the content works for you

Our offsite was given a 4* rating in a post-event survey, with many comments about how the content felt right and relevant to our team's evolution stage. We believe that's because the team created the content for the team. An offsite committee comprising a mix of team members came together and "co-created" the agenda, incorporating input from the full organisation. The content was crafted accordingly, making every session feel relevant, necessary and engaging. 

As the lucky person who gets to be the leader of this wonderful group of talented, creative and kind individuals, my biggest reflection from the event is just how special and valuable that time was. I felt incredibly moved, grateful and inspired by the energy that everyone brought to the event – celebrating each other, clapping, cheering, and sharing joy, with contributions from nearly the full group. If we can already act like this as such a new team, then the possibilities of what we can achieve as a group are truly unlimited.  

*Taken from Patrick Lencioni's "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team"

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