Making Culture Visible: The "Gut Check" Exercise

Originally, I posted this on our internal forum. It seemed like a pretty good blog post after I wrote it up, so here we are! Want to see more like this on the blog? Let me know!


A few weeks ago, I participated in a “gut check” exercise at a Vistage meeting. The goal of the exercise is to visualize the collective values and emotions of a group. I’m impressed with the results and wondered what we’d come up with at Gaslight.

The culture we’re encouraging is important to us, so I wanted a way to “make ours visible.” Friday at lunch, we did that exercise. Here’s a recap of how it went and what we learned.

The Exercise

  • I handed out Post-Its and Sharpies.
  • I asked everyone to write down the feelings and values they each felt at Gaslight.
  • I asked everyone to put their post-its on the wall.
  • We grouped the post-its in to similar topics.

The Results

I’m impressed with where we stand. There are a few words on there that are larger than I’d like them to be, but that’s why this exercise is important.

Kevin pointed out that we focused on the negatives. We’ve struggled with with that for as long as we’ve been a company. I think it’s our engineering mindset. We’re almost trained to focus on what could happen.

I’ve pasted the actual word list below. Here’s a word cloud of the results:

The Discussion

Afterwards, we talked about the results. I also showed the result of the How’s it Going? survey I sent out to everyone.

Between the post-its and the surveys, it seems like we have a great baseline with which to work. Over the next year, I’d like to bring more focus to the way we interact with each other. We’re going to use our Friday lunches to work on the “softer skills.” Things like conflict resolution, leadership, personal growth, personal development, recognition and encouragement.

The group mentioned recognition a few times. One of the main takeaways was that we are all responsible for creating the environment we want. For example, if we want a culture of recognition, recognize and acknowledge things we each see. I’ve heard it as “Negatives go up, positives go down/around.”

So, we’re going to make a daily effort to recognize the work we see around us, starting with a goal of one a day.

Also, it gets harder and harder to get everyone in the same place at the same time. I’m sad that @superchris, @xero6, @pkananen and @st23am weren’t present. I invited them to participate remotely on our forum.


anxious anxious anxious autonomous challenged challenged challenged clubhouse feel collaboration collaborative collaborative comfortable comfortable comfortable community community camaraderie concentration on one project confidence confused connected content creative creative curious distracted easy going empowered encouraged engaged excited excited expertise freedom frustrated frustrated frustrated frustration fun fun grateful grateful grateful growth happy happy happy ideas concepts and initiatives move forward inspired learn new things learning learning like a cool kid markdown ninja moving fast not up to par opinionated optimistic overcrowded overloaded overwhelmed overwhelmed overwhelmed overwhelmed paranoid pitching in to help pleased productive productive productive proud proud relaxed relaxed reverent scared scared scattered social static stressed suspicious talkative teamwork thankful thankful things happen togetherness unsure unworthy value valued whole team

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