Walking the timeline…

On Monday the co-founders of CambridgeSpace got together for the first time since we opened our doors as a co-working space for social and creative entrepreneurs. To say that October has been a challenge would be an understatement: we’ve had to shift from the simple world of strategy and planning to the crazy, confusing and relentless world of startup launch. We’ve all been doing all of the jobs all of the time — and finding that however much we do there’s always more, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming ourselves or each other for what hasn’t been done.

As experienced coaches, teachers and facilitators we should have seen this coming, but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20–20! That said, what we did do was very powerful so I thought I’d share in case it can help others in similar positions.

We used an approach I learned on the Academy Of Executive CoachingTeam Coaching Course and use regularly with Dotworks clients. I’ve called it ‘walking the timeline.’ It goes like this:

You lay a long strip of brown paper down the middle of the room to represent the timeline, with the mid-point signifying NOW. Everyone has post-its and writes significant events on these to stick to the timeline. These focus on internal elements of the project (the good and bad, for example people joining and leaving the team) but also include personal moments (babies, changing jobs) and things in the external world (BREXIT vote; US Election). The notes stretch back as far as the collective memory of the project and forward into your vision for the future. Then as a whole team you walk from the past to the future, discussing as you go. The approach allows everyone to understand each other’s perspective and to see the journey taken together.

What we experienced was really powerful. We’d entered the meeting somewhat demoralised and exhausted but when we stood back and looked at our timeline it was clear we weren’t recognising our successes.

Almost exactly a year ago our journey started with a glimmer of an idea. Just 12 months later we have a space up and running, a team of awesome Wizards volunteering their skills and time, members who like what they see enough to blog about us, a wonderful partner in Hundred Houses Society, an online community of over 100, a packed events programme, influential supporters in almost every corner of Cambridge and we’ve been accepted as Impact Hub Cambridge Candidate. All that in one year, with a team of five part-time founders — thank you all; I’m excited to think what we can achieve by Halloween 2017!

It’s easy to lose sight of your achievements, and that can be a double-whammy because when you do, you lose energy and drive, slowing everything down. Have a go at walking your timeline with your team — I bet you’ll benefit. I’d be happy to explain more if you’re interested — just message me. Or even better, pop into @CambridgeSpace for a chat!